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benchtop choice materials

The Struggles with Colours and Materials!

Now materials and colour choices are things that many people struggle with, myself included.  Afraid of making the wrong choices and spending all that money on something you ultimately don’t ‘love’, when you had the chance to create something you did ‘love’…..hmmmmmm.

There are ways out there to assist you with these decisions, some more expensive than others.

Luckily many suppliers realise that these are big decisions for homeowners, and more and more businesses are providing services to help, including site visits, sample provision or large galleries of their work.

Whilst we as the main contractor provide assistance to our clients – in terms of providing information on materials, share our experience and provide practical advice, we are not interior designers or colour consultants. 

In other words, regarding material or colour choices, we will always bring to our clients attention our experience, or advice, in terms of practical or building related issues, but as far as aesthetics goes this area is a minefield of personal taste and preferences.

Here are some examples of how we used such services for our build, that our clients also have access to:

Cladding Colours – Showrooms & Test Pots

Our exterior cladding is coloursteel (reverse profile Brown Built 900) combined with timber.

The coloursteel choice was made first as our home’s Designer had built his new house with Flaxpod, and we really liked the colour.  Its not a common colour choice but is becoming increasingly popular.  It is quite dark but nowhere near as severe as black having a more brown tinge to it.  This in turn made our colour choice for our aluminium ‘clip ons’, for the exterior of our uPVC windows, a simple choice as we stuck to the same for consistency.   Now finding a timber colour to match was the next decision. 

We had now decided to go with cedar as opposed to heat treated pine due to supply issues at the time (which also decreased the build cost slightly).  The disadvantage was more maintenance, but as we are only cladding a third of our property in cedar, and it is single storey this is not a particularly onerous task. 

We did not want a dark coloured oil protector as the darker the oil stain the more heat the timber absorbs which can lead to warping and splitting over time.  However, due to the bold coloursteel colour we did not want anything too wishy washy either.   By visiting the timber supplier and their showroom we were able to bring along a sample of our coloursteel and put it alongside their displays of all their coloured oil protectors.  We chose 5 oil colours we thought would work well and were then supplied with 5 reasonable sized pieces of cedar along with 5 test pots of coloured oil protector.  We then prepared these samples and took them to site to see what they would look like in the environment & light it would end up in. 

Natural outdoor light is very different to viewing them indoors, and even outside they all had a very different appearance when facing the full sun as opposed to being in the shade.  Most of our timber will be north and west facing with a small but very visible amount facing east, so it was important to see it in different lights and shading.

Our painted cedar samples

If you can not visualise things on paper (like I can’t) these additional steps can be really important to provide the confidence to go ahead with a decision and keep the job moving. Hubby immediately removed two options – too dark or too gold (I agreed with the latter but let him remove the other as a sign of good faith!!!!!).  We then agreed one was two red and that left two. This was a hard call.  One option was richer but I saw a slight greeny tinge in the coloursteel (other eyes questioned this).  The other option was not as rich and in the bright sun it looked more washed out against the coloursteel.  So, it looks like first option wins, alongside suggestions one of us visit the optician! 😊

Joinery Colours – Large Samples To View & Colour Assistance

Although I know what look I want, I like to run some ideas past a colour consultant.  For the kitchen, I wanted a timber look but to mix it with neutral, so it wasn’t too much! 

Most joinery outfits have a huge display of materials, and increasingly a showroom or gallery.  The samples can be overwhelming, but a good designer will listen to your needs/wants and narrow the options to a more manageable choice.  I knew I wanted a timber look and previously a veneer would have been my ‘go to’ but there is a new melamine option out which looks surprisingly realistic and is much more cost effective.  Without being able to compare the samples and veneers I would not have considered this option.  The waterfall bar bench will remain oak veneer due to its foreground location and it was suggested to stain it a richer/darker colour to make it stand out and create a deliberate difference from the new oak melamine.

Kitchen choices on right, Laundry bench-top on left.

I also, wanted a natural stone look benchtop but something that we are all too aware of is that the photo in the brochure is often nothing like the sample you end up with. 

Our kitchen designer requested their suppliers bring in a slab.  A slab is much better than a small sample as even these samples vary across the slab, and they can also look darker than a larger area.  After viewing the large slab in Christchurch I had totally changed the colour, and went from what I thought was a grey with rusty brown in it (it just looked ‘brown’ to me), to a darker grey (more like a wet concrete colour). 

The right sample was a lot browner than the small sample I had been given and the brochure picture!

This in turn affected the choice of pantry and laundry benchtops.  Our colour consultant also suggested a cool splashback and injecting a bit of the timber look from our kitchen cabinets into our laundry.  A couple of the cupboards will now feature the same material to, 1) assist with continuity and, 2) to avoid the garage looking totally utilitarian and bland. 

Vanity Colours – Take Home Sample Comparisons

We had decided on our plumbing hardware some time ago but before ordering we had to confirm vanity material.

Our plumbing supplier had luckily provided me with samples of the materials, and I had access to the brochure and website gallery.  There were painted choices, melamine and timber veneer.

I wanted to keep the oak theme going through the house so the choice for me was between the melamine and the veneer.  Unfortunately, the melamine oak sample provided was nothing like the new oak melamine we are using in the kitchen, and the oak veneer sample matched it much better.

Vanity Material Samples

Most suppliers will provide samples if you request them.  It helps their sell and ensures a happier customer. 

Lastly, always consider what you want yourself, not what someone else is telling you you should have. We talk about resale and decorating for other tastes but who’s home is it? I remember a few years ago, one particular bathroom supplier telling me I had to have white cabinetry as it was timeless, its what everyone was doing these days, and I would be silly not to! That strong opinion, opposing my preferred choice, removed the excitement from my shopping trip! Its simply not their judgement. Customers want advice & guidance but not a ‘closed opinion’ unless customers specifically ask for it.

The options for advice and guidance are out there. If you need any assistance we can talk to the right people to help you. Having experienced it ourselves we know how hard it can seem, but rest assured it is not as daunting as you might think, and it can be quite enjoyable when you know you have that support!