01 March 2010

Reader question: Is this a terrible, terrible mistake?

Help! We are updating our old kitchen by installing granite counter tops. We love Verde Butterfly, but on some other blogs I have read that this particular granite was '90s granite? I don't want to update to something that is already out of date!

Please pardon my leading headline and thank you for your question. The answer is yes, my bloggery brethren are correct. Updating to Verde Butterfly or any of its Brazilian kin is probably not the best idea.

This is what's called Verde Butterfly.

It's closely related to Verde Peacock.

And that old standby, Ubatuba.

Technically, all three of these stones are charnocktites. Charnocktite is a granite classification. All three of these stones (and a host of others) have a lot of hypersthene in them. Hypersthene is the mineral that gives them their metallic green color. The opaque, whitish blotches are feldspar. The distribution of the feldspar in the stone is what determines if a particular stone is going to be called Butterfly, Peacock, Labrador, Ubatuba or what ever else someone makes up.

There are no standards for granite's common names by the way. One yard's Peacock is another yard's Butterfly. For the most part that doesn't matter. However, I cannot stand not knowing what something is, so I pour over geology books and websites so I can say things like "Oh look! That's a charnocktite!" Indulge me.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with Brazilian charnocktites. They do their job and they don't cost an arm and a leg. And therein lies the rub. In order for a particular granite to be inexpensive, there has to be a lot of it around. I say if you're going to get a granite counter, get one that nobody else has. In order to get a granite counter that nobody else has, you have to spend more money. Behold the tyranny of supply and demand.

These Brazilian charnocktites have been cut into kitchen counters in the US for the last 20 years; and they were some of the earliest, widely available stones out there. 20 years ago they were exotic. They're not any more.

If you want to be on the leading edge, see if you can't get a finish other than a high gloss on your counters. Honed, brushed, leathered, flamed or any other specialty finishes transform granite's appearance, even pedestrian granites. You might want to look at Caesarstone or any of the other quartz composite brands too.

No matter what you end up with, please be sure you are going to an independent counter fabricator to have this done. Make sure too that you are looking at slabs of stone instead of samples when you're making this choice. Finally, be sure that you're picking the slabs that'll be used for your counters. All stone is a product of nature and no two examples of it are alike. Don't take any chances and good luck!


  1. I agree that this granite is outdated. I would look at some of the new recycled glass examples...most are quite pretty and environmentally friendly. OR a gray or black slate. The matte look of black slate is so chic!

  2. Thanks for your comment Melissa and welcome to K&RD. I'm with you, give me some interesting texture or an interesting new material any day.

  3. My daughter woke me up way to early morning, so I may be ornery. How can something that is a natural product and comes from the earth be outdated? Not popular right now, yes. I believe a person should use what they love then it becomes theirs and it will work in their own context; however, Paul's comment to change the finish is an excellent recommendation. Told you I was feeling ornery. If you aren't careful I'm going to paint my countertops with chalkboard paint.

  4. The only way I'd approve of such a thing is if you were to paint your Verde Butterfly, Peacock or Ubauba granite counters with chalkboard paint. Painting any other kind of granite would be de trop. Hey, I have an idea, let's ask Apartment Therapy!

  5. I have these counter tops in my 8-year-old home (a builder choice, clearly, before we purchased the house 5 yrs. ago).
    And while the Verde Butterfly (or Ubatuba -- not sure which it is) wouldn't have been my first choice, I've found that the layers of color in the green blend well with the carrara marble table top I had custom cut, as well as with the stainless steel, iron and ebonized finishes throughout the room.
    In addition, as the cabinetry and appliances in the space were pretty high-end, I don't think the granite dates the kitchen as much as the unfortunate glass brick window the builder installed over our sink!
    I agree with the reader who questions how a natural material could appear dated. Sure, given a choice I may have had the surface finished a little differently or the edges cut flat and extended a little further rather than rounded, but overall I wouldn't go to the extreme of ripping it all out at this point.
    But hey, even the classics, like carrara counter tops, can look dated and overdone when installed ad nauseum and photographed for every shelter mag out there.
    Good luck to the reader installing a counter top!

  6. There's nothing wrong with that family of stones, but the question was whether or not Verde Butterfly is dated. Unfortunately, it is. It can still be made to look great and a lot of the installations I see do. However, if the goal is to look like something other than a builder special, I would go in another direction.

    Combining it with Carrera sounds fantastic and I'll bet it looks great. There is enough black in those charnocktites to make them nicely compatible. I'd love to see how you combined those stones.

  7. I guess my question to the reader is why it matters that the black shiny granite is dated. That would indicate to me they are interested to a higher degree in the resale value of their choice over personal preference. In an of itself, and placed in a "builders look" kitchen, it could definitely be dated looking (think honey oak cabinets with cathedral door panels ---aaarrrgh. Makes me want to barf!)On the other hand, with the right combination of styles and finishes, I believe any granite color could still "shine." Speaking of shining --glossy is more dated I think than what the color is.

    I think we need more clues here. What is it about the granite they're looking at that they like? Why does granite suit them over a manufactured stone with similar characteristics? If it's movement in the pattern, those "charnocktites" seem to have an overall pattern so that movement isn't a dominating factor in making the choice. If it's the look that is appealing, I'd certainly go toward a manufactured stone because it is denser and made consistently --which is why it comes with a warranty.

    These days "resale value" is iffy no matter what you choose. I say, if you are going to remodel your dream kitchen, get what makes you happy.

  8. Maybe it's just me, but I don't really see the draw in a black shiny counter top. Maybe it's because it reminds me of all that black high gloss "lacquered" furniture from the 80s or maybe it's because I am just so in love with white marble (and I love to make pastries).

    I do very much agree with the advice from Pam though, "get what makes you happy". No point in renoing for the sake of what someone else will like 10 years or more down the road; styles will have changed by then anyways.

  9. Pam: I couldn't have said it better myself. Get what you want and stop asking if something's dated if you've already made up your mind. I agree, I could have used more information.

    Nim: I'm with you on the marble. Nothing else comes close.

    Raina: Damn you! Said with love of course, but damn you.

  10. well, you and your readers are spot on (as usual). it's the finish, not the stone, that will make the kitchen look dated. while working for my old firm, we did a kitchen about 15 years ago (totally 90's) with honed ubabtuba counters over white shaker style cabinets, and beadboard walls; i recently saw a picture of it and thought it still looked great.

    and much as i love marble counters now, whaddyawanna bet in 20 years they seems dated too because there is something else in vogue?

  11. Impossible Christian, suggesting that there's something wrong with marble is heresy.

  12. The design world is becoming like the fashion world. One minute it's in and the next minute...

    I agree with everyone - get what you like; it's your home, but if you are concerned about the latest and greatest (and the resale hinges on it), then yes, these colors with the glossy finishes might not be your best choice.

    Sharon, you made me laugh. :)

  13. Yeah, seems to me that design is all about making it yours, so what better way than to simply get what you like?

    A well designed, happy space will be perceived as genuine, much more quickly than trying to keep up with the Joneses.

  14. Amen Kelly and amen Becky. I hope one of the big lessons of the housing bubble is that you should make your house look like you, not the next buyer.

  15. I have a different take:
    1. Isn't there anywhere closer than Brazil or Italy to get a stone counter top?
    2. Exactly how often will your life be disrupted to reseal the stone?
    3. Gloss finishes may be unfashionable, but, I say as I struggle to get the grime off my textured black laminate, at least you know when they are clean.
    4. No, I don't get the marble thing. It will dissolved on contact with acid, unless you keep it sealed. How is that a sensible finish to use in a kitchen? I bet that there is only one way that most people find out that they need to renew the sealant!
    5. Maybe it's different in your larger market, but over here, nearly all kitchens are made of the same stuff ('white board') and have a 10-year lifespan. It seems a shame to use a lasting but non-renewable resource like stone for a mere 10 years.

  16. Chookie: I love having you check in here from time to time. A non-North American perspective is always welcome.

    1. Unfortunately, no. Blame globalization. Importers get to externalize all their costs and domestic operations can't compete. This is somehow a good thing, just ask the G8.

    2. Resealing stone is a snap and most granites never really need it, despite what you hear. When water doesn't bead, it's time to seal. That takes about 15 minutes for a huge counter.

    3. Stone is easier to clean than laminate. It can withstand a good scrub with no ill-effects.

    4. Marble doesn't dissolve on contact with acid unless you're in the habit of sloshing around hydrochloric acid. Acidic foods will etch the surface if they're left in place for too long though. Marble ages in reaction to its environment, that's the basis of its appeal. One of my life's great pleasures was having a kitchen in a rental in Italy a year-and-a-half ago. It had 120-year-old marble counters that had never been sealed. They had a patina-d surface on them that I still drool over. No one would ever mistake them for being pristine, but they have a charm all their own. I always tell people that an appreciation for marble is a personality type. You can either handle it or you can't. Marble will not change its mercurial nature no matter how much you seal it.

    5. Cabinetry in the US and Canada was much like what you describe it's like in Australia. Over the last 20 years or so, some of it's become a lot more like furniture and most of it carried a lifetime warranty. Though no one really uses them for a life time, they would be fine if someone decided to do so.

    As a result in that increase in quality, there's been a significant increase in price so there's a bit of a backlash under way in the form of Ikea and similar, low-cost cabinets.

  17. I have to say this is the the best blog for an honest discussion. I have to say I love marble. Some granites can and do look dated. However, if one loves a particular granite and they are not too worried about resale, then install what you love.
    Paula Grace ~

  18. Thank you Paula, what a kind thing to say. We do have fun around here. And honestly, I don't think I could do this without the conversations that unfold in these comments.

  19. Paul, now I've thought about it I can imagine that freight from Brazil to the US would probably not cost a vast amount because of the volume of traffic.

    Those unsealed 120yo marble counters sound lovely to me; it's that white shiny spot-free marble I don't like. Fortunately, the price doesn't like me either -- it's very, very expensive here and is used by the kind of people who don't have to cook dinner or clean the kitchen themselves.

    Are the better kitchen cabinets like the ones by Greentea used on the Kim's Kitchen Remodel blog? Loved the solid construction. And here am I in Australia's largest city, and AFAICT there is not a single manufacturer of solid wood cabinets in town :-(

  20. Of course it's a mistake. You wouldn't put on your best outfit from high school twenty years later and ask, "How do I look?" You look dated darling. The bottom line is trends come and go. Make your self happy in the present tense. Nothing stays in fashion for ever, except maybe marble. And if you wait long enough, your fashion statement in clothes and counters may come back in vogue.

  21. Great point. As if to prove it, everybody who kept her Farah Flip from about 1979 is hip again at long last.

  22. Chookie: Wow that is some set of cabinetry Kim used. Wow. I surprised to hear that even in Sydney you can't find wooden cabinetry. Another effect of globalization is that farmed hardwoods from North America are being shipped to China to be turned into cabinetry. These wooden cabinets (produced in factories the conditions of which make me shudder to think about) are then exported back to the US and Canada and sold at lower prices than the stuff produced here. It's appalling, frankly but I'm surprised that no one's figured out how to divert that supply chain south to you guys. It seems there'd be a ready market for it.

  23. We are in the process of installing a new kitchen in my own home. I am doing all the work myself - framing, plumbing, drywall...everything....I'm stuck on the counters however. Since I am doing them myself - I am limited to my materials....(I think).

    Have you any suggestions?

    I've been considering tile...(becuase I know how to do that).

    Here is a low-quality rendering of my kitchen design.

    Also - the entire kitchen (appliances and all) is recycled from another home where we put in a new kitchen. I am even recycling drywall - the cut-offs that normally would have been thrown away from a new house build. I just have a few more seams to mud-over.

    So far, my new kitchen has cost me about $700. :)

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. Does anyone know if my brand new honed uba tuba should look "brushed" as in scratchy? I knew it would be a smooth matte finish but didn't expect all the "scrathynes".

    And is there any way to get rid of them??

  26. Honing granite should not leave a scratchy appearance. Brushed granite finishes do have a scratchy appearance. I'd get some clarification from your fabricator. Did you see a sample of honed granite before you signed off on your order?

  27. My brand new honed uba tuba kitchen island looks scratchy and filmy. I didn't notice this when viewing the slab itself. Is there anything I can do to remedy this?? By the way it has a color enhancer on it and has been sealed.


Talk to me!