Mahogany & Onyx Kitchen Countertops
(Click any photo for a close-up view)
(Click any photo for a close-up view)
Though I do not normally build wooden kitchen countertops, the opportunity to participate in this highly unique project was far too exciting and challenging to pass up. The client was in the midst of renovating their large kitchen, and as part of this work, installing some wood and stone countertops. While stone countertops are commonplace in most high-end kitchens, the selected stone in this case was without equal. As can be seen in the photos above, the kitchen island was topped with large slabs of light-colored onyx (a type of marble). Placed on a set of clear acrylic risers (hidden by matching onyx side-skirts), the entire island surface is illuminated from within by lighting elements placed between the risers. The net result, especially in low-light situations, is an unbelievable ethereal glow to the stone countertop. To complement this stunning kitchen island, wooden countertops were planned for the surrounding kitchen cabinets, followed by a full set of matching illuminated onyx backsplash panels along those wooden counters.
Unfortunately, the first attempt by another woodworking contractor at installing some quality wood countertops did not go well. Walnut lumber was used, but the wood selection and joinery were below average, the installation was crude, and the finish (critical for wooden counters in a working kitchen) was unacceptable. After I was approached to help remedy this problem, we started to look for another wood species that might better tie in with the coloring in the onyx stone, and found that the mahogany species was a much better tonal match. After a prolonged search, I located some figured mahogany lumber with a ribbon-stripe character, and the final results seen in the photos above should speak for themselves. The darker orange-brown veining in the onyx ties in perfectly with the finished color of the mahogany.
Contributing to the complexity of the final installation was the long, curved countertop which goes on the cabinets mounted to the curved kitchen wall. A pattern was carefully cut and fitted to that area, then precisely measured to create a pattern for a CNC woodworking machine. The computer-controlled machine replicated the shape of the countertop pattern in the solid mahogany lumber and also created the precise holes for the under-mount sinks and the stainless steel faucets. The sink cabinets themselves had to be reinforced to help the wood countertops bear the weight of the massive cast-iron under-mount sinks. I installed the sinks and faucets myself to prevent damage to the counters and to insure a quality installation. Licensed plumbers then made all the water line and drain connections.
Once the mahogany countertops were in place, the stone company finished installing the illuminated onyx backsplashes, which run from the counters up to the bottom of the upper cabinets. After this was complete, I built and installed a complete set of matching mahogany under-cabinet lighting panels, which provide both task lighting in the kitchen as well as ambient/mood lighting on the beautifully figured ribbon-stripe mahogany counters.
The mahogany kitchen countertops were the start of a "figured mahogany" trend with this client, for whom multiple projects have been completed that incorporate mahogany lumber and other materials such as stone/glass. Check out the Mahogany & Onyx Fireplace Mantel and the Mahogany & Curly Maple Dining Buffet for other projects which follow this stunning mahogany theme. For other kitchen cabinet projects, please visit the Kitchens & Bathrooms page. To see other contemporary styled projects, please visit the Contemporary page.
Like stone countertops, the fabrication and installation of wooden countertops is neither simple nor inexpensive. In the case of this project, the completed cost for the countertops, which includes the removal of the previous walnut counters, purchase of the ribbon-stripe mahogany lumber, fabrication, finishing, countertop installation, and sink/faucet installation, was approximately $5500. Under-cabinet lighting panels to illuminate the new mahogany counters were an additional $700.
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