Beyond Stainless Steel: Living Metal Countertops

Metal countertops? What is this, a professional-grade restaurant kitchen? Should it also have heavy-duty hoses and industrial appliances?

Was that your first reaction? You’re far from alone in that line of thought. The idea of metal countertops often evokes visions of yards of stainless steel punctuated by professional chef’s knives and oversized cooktops. But living metals like copper, zinc, and pewter are also popular countertop options, and for several good reasons.

Kitchen by Designs to Live With
Kitchen by Fradkin Fine Construction, Inc.

These warm-toned metals often have antibacterial qualities, develop a patina over time, can be custom shaped (with optional integrated sinks) and detailed (think hammering or stamping) due to malleability, will not rust or stain, and are fairly easy to clean and maintain.

Kitchen by Kemp Hall Studio
Kitchen by Darlene Somrak, CKD of Somrak Kitchens, Inc.

The downsides: the aforementioned patina often makes these counters look “broken in” even when they’re new (so not a good choice for the perfectionists among us); the soft metals dent, scratch, and can warp when exposed to heat (ditto); they’re expensive; and some, especially pewter, contain lead, so be cautious.

Kitchen by Palm Design Group

To summarize the pros and cons: if you love a living finish that will change over time, will embrace the signs of wear and tear, want an unusual and eye-catching countertop, and can afford the expense, metal countertops may very well be the right choice for you. If you truly love them but are worried about the pattern of wear, opt for a hammered or professionally patinated finish.

Kitchen & Family Room by John Kraemer & Sons
Kitchen by Kleppinger Design

Though it’s largely a traditional material, living metal countertops are appropriate in kitchens of every style.

Kitchen by Jennifer Weiss Architecture
Kitchen by HSH Interiors
Photo credit: Tricia Shay Photography

Given unlimited funds, would you choose metal countertops?