Soapstone is a very misunderstood countertop material, so I thought it would be fun to do an interview with someone who has Soapstone countertops in their own home.
I have been reading Rachele's lovely blog, The Conscious Kitchen, for awhile now. Rachele lives in Portland, Oregon and has had her Soapstone countertops for just over a year now. We did not do the fabrication and installation of these countertops, we had nothing to do with her kitchen. I'm just a reader of her blog.
So without further ado, here is my interview with Rachele from The Conscious Kitchen...
Rachele: Shadley's Soapstone, headquartered in Sun River, OR.
My stone source was Dorado Soapstone. My slabs were officially procured through the Denver warehouse, however, my lot of slabs was intercepted at port in Northern California and then brought straight to Oregon.
I highly recommend both Shadley and Dorado! Both were very experienced and knowledgeable, not to mention patient and helpful.
Rachele: Yes, it's actually a pretty good story! I was going through some photos sent by Dorado which showed me everything that was in stock at the moment. None of the slabs "spoke" to me so I called up Dorado to see when their next shipments were arriving. I happened to get the president on the phone, and he personally emailed me pictures he had taken of some slabs that were still on the ship. I opened the attachments and immediately fired off an email to both Dorado and Shadley's telling them that I had to have that stone!
After the fabricator templated my island, we went together to lay the template on the slab (which was sitting in my driveway) and found the exact right spot. We were limited somewhat by the slab itself, of course, but I was really happy with the result.
I also felt like the veining could be a different mineral/inclusion and I wanted to be SURE it wouldn't stain. It was July and very hot outside. With Shadley's permission, I took a bottle of balsamic vinegar and poured about a cup right on the veining. I came back an hour later to wipe it off and of course, no stain! I then gave Shadley the go-ahead to cut the slab as we had identified with the template.
Steph: The prep sink in the island, was it custom made by your fabricator? How do you feel about the size of it? Too big? Too small? Just right?Rachele: The prep sink is not stone -- it's a Blanco Silgranit sink, installed undermount with a very slight negative reveal. The size is perhaps a couple inches too small in width. I can easily use it for all of my functions (for example, it's just right for rinsing off a chicken or spinning my salad greens), but I would like it to feel a bit bigger. A very minor nit. I would not want to actually upgrade to the larger Silgranit.
Rachele: I LOVE the single basin. I do not use a dish rack and I don't need another basin for washing produce (that is done in the island), so I have no obvious need to split up my main sink. I can put my widest pots, or even sheet pans, in the sink to soak. With the off-center drain, I can have lots of dirty dishes accumulate in my sink yet still have free and clear access to the drain and disposer. (I would like to load my dishes promptly in the dishwasher, and not have dirty dishes in the sink, but that's just not my reality!)
Rachele: We use it all the time. It is SO worth the money! My husband likes it for his tea. I warm up my baby's milk bottles in bowls of hot water. I get a bit of hot water on a cloth for cleaning up sticky spots in a flash. We use the hot water to make oatmeal quickly in the morning. Those are the main uses in our house.
Rachele: Yes, that is a soap dispenser. We use it, however, I'm not happy with it. I had soap dispensers in previous houses (I think they were Grohe dispensers) that worked great. I have three soap dispensers in my kitchen now -- two Blanco and one Kohler -- and I only like one of the three (one of the Blancos). The other two seem to stick a lot. In fact, the two Blancos are identical except for color, and one sticks but the other works great. Soap dispensers can be expensive and I can't bring myself to spend the money to try out some other ones (it's always harder to bring yourself to spend yet more money at the end of a remodel!).
Rachele: At first every two weeks, and now every two months. I would like to do it every month, but life is busy. I keep an oil rag in a sealed ziploc baggie next to my oil can. My understanding is that when my stone is several years old, and has oxidized more, then I won't "need" to oil it at all. I quote "need" because soapstone does not need to be oiled -- it's just a cosmetic preference.
Rachele: I do not know, but I suspect that I was emptying a stock pot into the prep sink in a rather clumsy fashion, and hitting the sink rim with the edge of a stockpot. I have never noticed a chip as it has happened.
Rachele: If 1 is not at all, and 10 is the worst, I would rate it as a 3. Neither of them occur very frequently. We've had about 3 scratches in the year we've had the stone, and all were easily oiled out. We have water spots weekly, but I have noticed as the stone ages, they are gradually less pronounced. (Or, maybe I am just getting used to them.)
Rachele: Despite the drama of the veining, that I do love, I feel overall that it's a very humble, unassuming, low maintenance, healthy, functional stone. I just love that. I guess I can't pick one single attribute. :)
Rachele: I'm not too keen on the fact that I had to have it shipped via boat from Brazil. I focused on local sources for my kitchen where I could, but I just really wanted soapstone. There are domestic soapstone options also, but those were 20%-3% more and thus, out of my budget.
Rachele: Most of the time, I just use my instant hot water with a microfiber rag. Sometimes I hit with a homemade cleaner of simply diluted vinegar, because that is what Shadley recommended to me. If I get raw meat on the counter, or anything else that gives heebie jeebies, then I will use a stronger cleaner, but that is pretty rare.
Rachele: We HAD to have two cooktops -- a gas griddle and an induction top. With the size of our kitchen, and wanting to buy just one venthood, they had to be installed side by side. The griddle is a very commercial industrial aesthetic. The cooktop is sleek, Euro, minimal. Quite a design challenge! It was impossible to make the griddle sleeker, so instead I chose to add some heft to the induction top with the "apron front" of soapstone. I had wanted to fabricate a steel countertop with the exact same edge profile as the griddle, but that was surprisingly very expensive. So I got the idea for the soapstone apron while driving around one day, and I called up Shadley immediately to propose the idea. They were game to try it. It required a lot of communication and coordination between my cabinetry installers and Shadley.
Rachele: Yes, I do like it. You don't really have many other options with soapstone -- unlike some other stones, the bullnose or other rounded edges actually chip more in soapstone. But, as you can tell from my kitchen, I have a very square aesthetic, so the square edge is my first choice.
Rachele: No, because I don't think it's a universal stone. I do have some friends and clients who I am sure, would love it. I will get it again in a heartbeat. But, it's certainly not for everyone.
Also check out Rachele's post A Year in Review where she talks about all the aspects of her new kitchen, not just the Soapstone.
*All photos from The Conscious Kitchen..