KEEPING COUNTERS spotless and attractive has always been a problem. Wooden work tops can be unsanitary, tile is hard to clean, stainless steel seems institutional, Formica sometimes scratches. Beautiful marble, although coolly elegant (and perfect for pastry making), discolors and also needs periodic waxing. But granite, once considered only a poor relation to marble, has become the most handsome and viable alternative for counter tops.
When polished, the lustrous splendor of granite's natural veining can resemble marble. But granite is infinitely harder, a quality that makes slabs difficult and expensive to cut from mountainsides but ensures durability in the kitchen. Granite is also poreless, maintenance-free, virtually indestructible and available in many colors and patterns.
Shops throughout the city design and install granite counters; the cost for an average 100-square-foot kitchen can run $5,000 installed. Some customize the granite itself--Alexio Collections, for instance, inlays, sandblasts and hand-carves it. There are also yards where buyers can hand-pick slabs. Globe Marble in North Hollywood, which advertises itself as the world's largest marble distributor, stocks a dazzling array of granite, from the muted speckles of New England rock to the vibrant cobalt of rare Brazilian Blue.
Most yards design, cut, bevel and polish slabs to order, complete with ogees, back splashes and bull-nose rims. Some yards install, others recommend installers. Matching sinks, columns, floor tiles and furniture tops are also available.
Granite counters are sold at California Marble in Alhambra, American Marble and Onyx in Inglewood, Battaglia Marble in Harbor City, Globe Marble in North Hollywood, and at Western Marble Co., Alexio Collections and Casa del Onyx in Los Angeles.