In a time when the looming threat of climate change is a hot topic, more and more concerned individuals are looking for ways to live more environmentally-friendly lifestyles. For many, the easiest way to act upon their concerns is to leverage their buying power and seek out certified eco-friendly products. When it comes to home renovations, the often large amounts of materials required poses a great opportunity to utilize environmentally-friendly materials and sustainable remodeling practices. In response to the growing demand, a variety of eco-friendly products such as composite countertops and green kitchen cabinets have popped up on the market, offering a number of options that are suitable for a range of style preferences and construction needs.
One such product is composite paper countertops, sold by brands such as Richlite, PaperStone, and Trespa. Originally developed for use in classroom science labs and skateboard parks, composite paper materials have risen in popularity. Paper might seem like the most unlikely material to use for such heavy duty applications, but the quality of engineering that goes into making composite paper materials creates a durable product. Each brand has its own unique blend of eco-friendly materials that are used for a number of applications both inside and outside of the home. In general, post-consumer recycled paper and other fibers are mixed with natural pigments and petroleum-free, formaldehyde-free resins. This mixture is then compressed and baked at very high temperatures in order to create a solid, long-lasting product. This makes it an attractive option for household countertop use.
In addition to being environmentally friendly, composite paper countertops boast a durability that makes it harder than wood countertops, yet lighter than stone. These countertops handle heat quite well, so placing hot pots and pans on the surface should be of no concern. Composite paper countertops are also engineered to be non-porous, which, like its stainless steel counterparts, allows it to be impervious to water and food stains. Its non-porous construction also means that it wont harbor bacteria, making it a hygienic option. Installation is easy, and at $45-$75 per square foot, its affordability is comparable to granite countertops.
Though paper countertops are made of recycled materials, they cannot be recycled because they’re mixed with plastic resin. However, they can be recut for other purposes if necessary. Paper countertops also require a sealant to ensure that they remain non-porous; without a sealant they can develop unattractive stains. Like many other unconventional countertop materials, abrasive cleaners can pose a threat to the integrity of the surface, so stick to simple soap and water or other natural cleansers. Aesthetically, composite paper materials are available mainly in medium and dark tones, so your design choices may be limited. Paper countertops also tend to darken over time, so this must be taken into consideration if you require the color of your countertop to remain precise.
Composite paper countertops tend to be quite plain and are offered only in a few medium to dark tones, so styling options tend to be more limited than other materials. As far as kitchen design styles go, paper countertops would be most attractive in contemporary, industrial, and eclectic design styles that tend to focus less on specific detailing. You can create classic contrasts with darker paper countertops and white Shaker cabinets like in the above photo, or create a more dramatic effect by pairing with darker Shaker-style cabinets such as our Pepper Shaker kitchen cabinets and using warm lighting accents to bring the entire design together.
For a contemporary look, simple flat-paneled and Shaker-style cabinetry are an attractive choice for pairing with paper countertops. However, if you’re interested in a more eclectic look, a wider range of cabinet styles are available to you. The above kitchen features a Paperstone composite countertop in Cabernet red, paired with raised-panel oak cabinetry. You can create a similar look using classic Country Oak kitchen cabinets, or for a more dramatic aesthetic, play on the dark brown glazing of Kingston kitchen cabinets.