Soapstone brings old look to new kitchens

MONTANA LIVING — New kitchens are getting old. Very old.

In renovating their kitchens or  building new ones, more Montanans are turning to soapstone, a 2.2-billion-year-old stone with chlorite veining and other materials that make it an attractive addition to any kitchen.

“Soapstone is very popular right  now,” says Ron Pihl, owner of Cornerstone Masonry in Pray, Montana. Pihl sells and installs Tulikivi sinks and countertops made of soapstone from Finland.

A mason for 24 years, Pihl began using soapstone in his fireplaces in 1991. When he kept noticing how much of the stone was going into peoples’ homes whose fireplaces he was working on, he decided to begin his own company selling the material.

Tulikivi soapstone for kitchens from Montana soapstone creator Ron Pihl, Montana Living

Cornerstone’s soapstone comes planed and squared, so there’s less waste when installing it, Pihl says. Soapstone comes in variations of light green and dark grey, and is the heaviest, most dense stone in the world. It won’t stain, but it can scratch, so it must be treated periodically with mineral oil. It’s easy to sand out any scratches, Pihl says, but most people don’t, opting instead to just continue to oil it and allow the stone to develop its own patina over time.
“It’s just a nice, old look,” Pihl said.

Soapstone doesn’t have the high gloss of granite, so it’s perfect for people who want countertops or sinks that are a bit more subtle. While soapstone is easy to work with, it has its own  maintenance requirements.

Tulikivi soapstone countertops for kitchens from Montana soapstone creator Ron Pihl, Montana Living

Tulikivi soapstone countertops for kitchens from Montana soapstone creator Ron Pihl, Montana Living

“If you can’t handle nicks, dings or scratches, I wouldn’t recommend you buying it,” Pihl says. But if you want a stone countertop that fits any Montana-style home, Pihl says soapstone is awesome. “It looks like it’s been there 100 years, right off the bat,” he said.

On the Web: www.warmstone.com

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