A few weeks ago I started a blog series on countertop materials and talked about marble and its pros and cons. Today, it’s time for another favorite – the butcher block. The butcher block, or butcher’s block, is a type of material engineered out of strips of wood laminated (glued) together to form large slabs. A popular trend in kitchen design, butcher blocks have been around for centuries and were used as a chopping surface in meat processing plants and most butcher shops.
There is something very beautiful about butcher block countertops. They feel warm and rustic, and are a great way to tone down the formality of more precious stones, like marble or granite when combined. This gorgeous kitchen below designed by Rita Konig is the perfect example. I tried to cover the island top and see if I like the kitchen just as much without it. The answer is no. The all-white walls and cabinets with the marble countertops look beautiful but slightly cold. How much better it is all warmed up with that vintage block?
As a countertop material, butcher blocks are also durable and easy to clean. Any superficial scratches can be sanded out. To protect them from water damage, butcher blocks should be frequently treated with non-toxic, food-grade oils and if properly cared for, they will develop a charming patina.
Butcher blocks have a country vibe to them, a relaxed feel that appeals to many. They look beautiful by themselves but they also mix well with other stones like bluestone, soapstone, even marble and granite. My favorite look is a marble or soapstone counter with a butcher block accent on the island. That way you get the best of both worlds – a note of elegance and a touch of country charm.
Mark D. Sikes
Mark D. Sikes
Tom Samet & Frances Schultz
There are three main types of butcher blocks, based on the side of the grain used in the manufacturing process. I found this graphic at Swain Customs and it shows exactly how different sides of the grain can be used. End grain blocks are made by gluing together wood squares that form a checkerboard like surface. They are the most durable, and the most expensive.
Edge and face blocks are obtained by gluing together planks on their edge and face grain respectively and as result have a striped appearance. They cost less but they are also easier to scratch so one must take that into account. Despite this, I love the planked striped look, so the face and edge blocks are my favorite.
There is another way to bring natural wood and with that warmth and texture into our kitchens. If the space/design doesn’t allow for an island, one can always find a farmhouse table with beautiful grain that can makeshift. I love these kitchens bellow by Serena Crawford, Steven Gambrel and Cristopher Spitzmiller – they’ve done just that. The added advantage is that tables instead of islands are visually lighter and can be moved around easily.
One last thing about wood countertops – they can be made out of almost any type of wood but the most popular in the States are Sugar Maple, Walnut and Teak, although Cherry is also often used. Bamboo is becoming a favorite in green-design due to the fact that bamboo grass has a short harvest life so it’s very eco-friendly. That’s about it on butcher blocks, if you have something to add, feel free to comment below 🙂
Have a great weekend!