Countertops get creative - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Real Estate

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Posted: Saturday, June 14, 2014 4:44 pm

The concrete countertops in Eleanor Zuckerman’s San Francisco kitchen are hand-crafted works of art.

Custom-designed by Fu-Tun Cheng of the Berkeley, Calif.,-based Cheng Concrete, they feature colors like brick, flowing lines and pictures of nautilus shells.

“With concrete there is a lot of room for creativity, to say nothing of color,” says Zuckerman, a retired psychologist. “It gives you flexibility.”

Homeowners looking to spice up their kitchens can install a variety of countertops that go beyond the traditional laminate and tile. Today’s options include concrete and butcher-block-style wood, and a range of custom-designed colors and shapes. IceStone countertops use recycled glass from broken bottles.

“So many different materials are used in countertops these days,” says Tony Izzo, Curtis Lumber’s corporate kitchen and bath manager in Albany, N.Y. Until about 25 years ago, he says, roughly 90 percent of countertops in U.S. homes were laminate, and the rest tile.

Then DuPont’s Corian hit the market, followed by granite and quartz, which are current favorites, he says. Today, just half of countertops are laminate, Izzo says.

The burgeoning interest in alternative countertops is the natural extension of that trend. And they are becoming more affordable.

“Slowly, over the years, the market has really grown,” says Mike Heidebrink, president of Cheng Concrete. When the company opened in 2002, it catered mostly to well-heeled dot-commers willing to spend more to bring an artisan’s touch to their kitchens.

Today, Heidebrink says, Cheng also serves a growing number of skilled do-it-yourselfers who want to shape, mold and install countertops themselves. They can choose the color and lines of their countertops, he says. Once installed and sealed, he says, concrete countertops are as durable as limestone and marble.

“They can have that for $10 a square foot,” he says.

Nils Wessell in Brooklyn, N.Y., says the do-it-yourself movement is also fueling his businesses, in a different way.

“This DIY interest in cooking leads to people wanting a suitable surface to chop up meat on,” says Wessell, whose company, Brooklyn Butcher Blocks, makes wooden countertops with enough thickness and durability to be used as cutting boards. Clients include barbeque restaurants as well as home cooks.

While Wessell says his handmade countertops are more expensive than factory-made ones, he can make “a sizeable countertop for about a grand,” he says.

Of course, no countertop is perfect. Concrete can stain, so it must be sealed properly. Wooden countertops take a beating from knives, although Wessell says they can be easily maintained with semi-regular sanding.

Soapstone, popular for its natural look, has its quirks as well, Izzo says: It weathers over time. “Consumers generally have to accept that idea and know that they want a living finish like that,” he says.

For more information online, visit www.concreteexchange.com, www.icestoneusa.com or www.brooklynbutcherblocks.com.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Keystone Montessori

[David Jolkovski/AFN]
Teacher Pily Pantoja helps Sarah Wang, 4, with the addition snake game at Keystone Montessori on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014.

Keystone Montessori has come a long way since its founding in 1995. Back then it was operated out of the founder’s home before eventually moving on to rent rooms from Horizon Presbyterian Church. It was only in 2000 that they had gained a strong enough enrollment to move into the facility where they currently reside on Liberty Lane, just off Desert Foothills Parkway and across from the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA.

The school services students as young as 18 years old, as part of their toddler program, and as old as ninth-graders. The current enrollment is around 320 students, who all have access to Spanish, music and arts programs in addition to the full Montessori curriculum.

“We provide an authentic Montessori education which focuses on the independence and whole development of the child, including academic as well as social and emotional growth,” said head of school Cindy Maschoff. “We want our students to become independent citizens of the world.”

The school will be taking the time to present the concept of Montessori education to the public Jan. 29 and 30. At the presentations the school will provide a clear understanding of what Montessori education looks like at each level of education. Those wanting to attend should plan on going to both meetings, with the Jan. 29 meeting going from 6-7 p.m. and the Jan. 30 meeting from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The meetings require attendees to RSVP, which can be done by emailing laura@keystonemontessori.com.

For more information, visit keystonemontessori.com.

• Compiled by James Gingerich.

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