Kitchen Design

Copper Kitchen Countertops: Practical or Magic?

June  3, 2016

There's no disputing that a flash of copper in your kitchen is warm and storied, no matter your personal style. Cook in a copper pan, and you're momentarily Julia Child buttering up a fillet of sole. Hang a vintage copper saucepan on the wall and, hold up, is this a Tuscan farmhouse or suburbia?

Backpedal to reality. I was recently in a New York restaurant (which one, I cannot remember for the life of me) that had a long copper bar that patrons were eating and drinking on. Not a pot on the wall, but a whole swath of rosy copper with a rich and dappled patina—for a countertop. "I did not know that you could do that!" I said to nobody in particular.

#coppercounter #copperwork #hardworkpaysoff #doityourselfappreciateitmore

A photo posted by Josh J. Guillory (@joshjamesdesigns) on

A very old copper counter, looking very distinguished if you ask me.

When I returned from awe, a wall of knee-jerk inhibitions slapped me in the face. A copper countertop would surely be prohibitively expensive, and impossible to keep pristine. Prices of course range, depending on where you live and who you're sourcing it from, but the hard reality is that a copper counter would probably run between $100 and $200/foot (unless you sourced it as scrap metal!). The payoff: Unending impact.

Regarding that inevitable patina and dinks in the relatively soft surface, I thought back to all the kitchen counters I've fallen in love with: worn butcher blocks, soapstone that's soft around the edges, marble with a few wine rings and scratches on them. Signs of life. Materials that will outlive a house. A copper counter, never polished, sure sounds beautiful.

A very new copper counter, ready to be buffed with a little lemon water (or ketchup).

But just as with a copper pot, a copper counter can be polished easily with a mild acid. Houzz recommends a little lemon and salt for getting any dark spots out, and just warm water and dish soap for the average clean up.

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I'm not installing a copper counter in my rental kitchen next weekend, nor am I sure I'd spring for it at a cost like that ever (though it's not as if the other great kitchen counter materials come cheap). But even dreaming about one, dotted with the smudgy fingerprints and spills of family and friends, is a fantasy I don't feel bad about indulging.

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Top Comment:
“I like the idea a lot, but if I were to use copper in a kitchen I designed, I would combine it with technology in say, a chilled bit of copper counter or a heated bit. So expensive, might as well go all the way and modernize its use. I wouldn't have a whole counter out of it...too much work. ”
— jean
Comment

And there's always a copper sink...

Copper countertops: Worth it or not? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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12 Comments

AntoniaJames June 14, 2016
Copper counters are ostentatious - not the kind of "statement" I care to make.<br /><br />As for copper sinks . . . we have a hammered copper sink in our master bath. I resisted it at first, but my husband really liked it, and his happiness matters a lot to me. We thought (correctly) that no matter the degree of patina, it would pick up the warm coppery tones in the breccia vanilla slab that surrounds it and breccia vanilla tiles on the shower walls nearby. We let it go full patina but wipe it down regularly (no more so than you would anyway, if you tend toward the tidy, which we do). I'm glad we installed that sink, as it is gorgeous in a quiet way, and perfect for this particular bathroom. <br />I would never, ever have one in my kitchen, however. There are so many acidic foods into which it would come into contact eery day, I cannot imagine it developing a consistently attractive patina. <br />Also, a large copper sink in the kitchen would be ostentatious - not a statement I care to make. ;o)
 
jean June 11, 2016
Thank you estelle! :) Knock that one off my wish list. lol
 
estelle June 11, 2016
We bought a second home not long ago and have a copper sink in the kitchen. I couldn't possibly hate it more. Its impossible to get it polished and pretty even with hours of elbow grease. And as soon as you start using the sink its much worse. I cannot wait to rip it out. Totally impractical.
 
jean June 11, 2016
I like the idea a lot, but if I were to use copper in a kitchen I designed, I would combine it with technology in say, a chilled bit of copper counter or a heated bit. So expensive, might as well go all the way and modernize its use. I wouldn't have a whole counter out of it...too much work.
 
jean June 11, 2016
Let me add that the copper sink rocks! :) Just love it.
 
Sara G. June 6, 2016
I had copper counters in my flower shop and it just looked better and better with all the spills. If you like a natural patina look--don't maintain it--it just gets more beautiful with age.
 
Smaug June 6, 2016
I had a friend who did bathroom remodels, had a whole operation for developing patina on copper pieces. However, oxidized copper around your food etc. is not so attractive a prospect.
 
Teenie K. June 5, 2016
The countertop pictured above (in the kitchen with green cabinets) is not copper. It's unlacquered brass.
 
creamtea June 3, 2016
Too much maintenance. We'll be redoing our kitchen sometime soon. Will opt for both beauty and practicality. Living spaces and their materials (at least the ones that are popular) require so much maintenance, this would be just one more thing to have to be on top of...
 
Smaug June 3, 2016
Really can't see any functional positives in this at all.
 
cv June 3, 2016
There used to be a sports bar on the SF Peninsula with a copper bar countertop. It was really nice to have a drink on it but apparently the maintenance became so tedious (the bartenders were spending a lot of sidework time cleaning it), the owners decided to remove it.<br /><br />Might be nice in a home kitchen, but you'd really need to budget a housekeeper or cleaning service to come in at least twice a week to tend to it. Once a week will not cut it. So before you install it, calculate the ongoing maintenance and decide if the total cost of ownership is worth it to you.<br /><br />Personally, I'd rather have a few copper pans or tea kettle instead. At least the copper in those has some actual function (copper conducts heat superbly) rather than acting solely as a design element.
 
Alex W. June 3, 2016
I think there's a big distinction between wear and damage that you briefly touch on here. So many memories are made around the preparation and consumption of home-cooked meals; I love the idea that the environment and tools of the kitchen could wear a record of and remind us of those moments as years go by.