While most of these lend themselves more to a modern kitchen or bath, it's certainly possible to take advantage of advances in materials science in a more traditional remodel as well. For example, I've seen several new Craftsman kitchens using pre-cast and cast-on-site concrete for countertops, and what looks industrial in a modern setting can look warm and complementary in a classic wooden kitchen. Further, now that dyes and inclusions can be added to concrete to give it a bit more character, it's a much more flexible product than it was when it first became popular as a countertop material several years ago.
Recycled glass and wood, blocks of pressed fibers, resins and other manufactured materials and even more arcane products are being repurposed as countertop, tile, flooring and more. Take a look at a few products and manufacturers I've discovered in the last few months:
tile / glass / stone
- Una Terra sells interesting, unique tiles made all over the world - from Italian specialty glass mosaics to American-made stone, they've got some really neat stuff (as well as high-resolution PDFs so you can see the tile up close, something I wish more vendors offered).
- Marazzi sells porcelain, glass, ceramic and metal-glaz tiles in a small range of basic shades and tones.
- Bisazza is the American vendor for a large Italian glass and porcelain mosaic tilemaker.
- Hakatai are my favorite American tilemakers & sellers. Based in Oregon, they produce hundreds of mosaic tiles in glass and other materials for pools, walls, counters, floors, murals and any other flat surface you can imagine. Well, almost.
- Sonoma Cast Stone sells concrete, kitchen and bath surrounds, tiles & pavers and other items and materials in a wide array of colors.
- Concrete Network is not a seller, but rather a sourcing site for folks looking for a concrete contractor. The website also includes a big gallery of photos of concrete in use - as countertops, fireplace surrounds, flooring, furniture, sinks and more.
- IceStone is made from recycled glass and concrete, and comes in a 24-standard color palette with an infinite number of custom options.
- Ebony & Co sell hardwood, antique / salvaged, old-growth pine and bespoke wooden parquetry floors in a huge range of woods and finishes. They are also one of the few wood floring vendors who sell specific grades to be used in conjunction with underfloor heating installations.
- Bamboo Hardwoods has sold sheets of pressed bamboo lumber for flooring, furniture and other products since 1995. They also have a line of custom bamboo cabinetry for kitchen & bath.
- Teragren sells bamboo flooring, panels designed for cabinetry and furniture, and veneers.
- Windfall Lumber sells "sustainably harvested wood products," including flooring, mouldings, countertops, decking and whole timbers.
- New York City's Habitus sells tile, stone, cement, Japanese stucco, porcelain and more, but what they are known for are their cork products: mosaic tiles, floor and wall panels, fabrics, and more. High resolution PDFs are available for download.
- Treefrog makes and sells exotic wood laminates in interesting patterns and textures
- Plyboo is a flexible plywood made from bamboo, and is often used for cabinetry and furnituremaking.
- Yemm & Hart makes decorative polyethylene sheeting and flooring made from recycled tires, just like the stuff that was under the monkey bars when you were a kid - but colorful, stronger, and it won't break up and track all over the place.
- Lumicor seems all over the news lately. The product is essentially a type of architectural resin which is strong enough to be used as structural material and interesting enough to be decorative. It can be cast thick or thin, and is sometimes used for countertop and tabletop material. It is often cast with various types of fibers embedded, and can be made in an enormous range of colors, textures and opacities. Their portfolio shows several dozen different uses - in homes, retail settings, office space and elsewhere.
- Paperstone is what it sounds like: a solid surface material, great for countertops, made from recycled paper that has been transformed under enormous pressure.
- Richlite is another popular product made from a paper fiber-based composite. It was originally distributed as a surface for commercial kitchens and baths in the 1950s, but is enjoying a resurgence as a domestic surface. It is also used for skateboard parks, of all things! It's generally considered a green alternative to Corian and manufactured granite, as it can very closely resemble those materials.
- Brooklyn's Bettencourt Green Building Supplies sells many of these items, including Richlite, Paperstone, Plyboo bamboo butcherblock, Durapalm coconut flooring, cork, Kirei board, wheatboard and lots more.
Additionally, Green Home Guide, which can usually be counted on for good and unbiased advice on building materials, has a guide to choosing countertop material; they also have a buyers' guide to green flooring materials, which should give you some general budget information.
Finally, don't discount the reliable standbys: Corian kitchen worktops are affordable, last forever, quick to fab and install, and look absolutely fantastic. Many contractors are happy to use something tried and true, rather than playing with new materials they've never encountered before. In the UK, we strongly recommend Unique Fabrications in Milton Keynes, who can take on any job, from complex industrial and commercial spaces to residential kitchens and baths.
cc-licensed image by sierravalleygirl