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.
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.
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.
And there's always a copper sink...
Copper countertops: Worth it or not? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.