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We are getting a quartz counter top for our kitchen. That’s what I decided after reading generic comparisons of counter top materials.

Where did the counter top go????

Our original counter top was white solid surface – a totally bland and underwhelming material that stained easily and something that was never going to step foot in my kitchen again. Haha. 

Only foodcourt stalls use solid surface. Their contracts last for two years, and then they reno and change the counter tops again.

– so says the guy who came to measure our kitchen for the counter top

Note: Our solid surface counter top did last us for the last 7 years before we decide to change it.

KompacPlus vs Quartz

The first interior design sales person we met with showed us tiled samples of KompacPlus and Quartz which are apparently what is more popular for residential kitchen counter tops currently.

If you want a counter top that has a thin profile with a wood look and feel, go for KompacPlus; if you prefer the counter top to look like a thicker slab of stone – terrazzo or marble – go for Quartz.

It was an easy snap decision between the two for me. The KompacPlus sample felt textured, while the quartz felt smooth. When it comes to cleaning up, I prefer a smooth surface since I worry a textured surface will trap dirt and bacteria.

Note: To be frank, it was a snap decision and I didn’t research into KompacPlus. You can do so to make a more balanced decision. Here’s their website: http://www.kompacplus.com/

Otherwise come with me to shop for my quartz counter top and find out what’s available in the market!

iQuartz, Lian Hin or Caesarstone

When it comes to discussing what quartz to get, every interior sales person and contractor we spoke to straight away goes into the discussion of the available colours. The subject of brand did not come up at all.

However, blog and forum surfing threw up some fun pops of personal opinion from the forum collective such as,

Iquartz is at the bottom. Go for Lian hin Quartz at least for China Quartz.

Consigliere, 2014 comment on Hardware Zone

At that point I had not even heard of Lian Hin before. Most discussion online seem to cover iQuartz and Caesarstone (from Israel) like this forum on Renotalk and this comparison on Youtube:

iQuartz vs Caesarstone - Property Pinpoint Vlog Ep. 11 - YouTube

It also turned out that our ID’s default quartz supplier was Lian Hin and that was what she based her quote on. So I googled further and found this little nugget,

I also have my quartz counter top from Lian Hin. I believe my contractor did mention it is the material is from China but it’s as durable as those that claimed to be be made from Europe.

Reason being that at the end of the day how durable a item/material is depends on the user.

I was told that the China and Israeli quartz differences is in the certifications. E.g. Caesarstone has sent their products for lab
test to show their chemical composition does no pose a threat to humans but the China ones being cheaper does not have.

Hougangparkview.blogspot.com, June 2014 blog post

Caesarstone quartz surfaces meet stringent product emissions standards and have very little impact on indoor air quality. All Caesarstone quartz products are independently certified by the GREENGUARD Certification, which is part of UL Environment, a business unit of UL (Underwriters Laboratories), as low-emitting surfaces…

Caesarstone quartz surfaces are compliant with the International Health and Safety Foundation sanitary standard NSF51, ensuring that our working surfaces are safe for use in all food environments. Our non-porous surfaces inhibit the growth of mildew and bacteria, thus creating a hygienic surface.

Our environmental commitment, Caesarstone.sg

There are also other quartz brands like Silestone, Colourquartz in the market. Stone Amperor appears to sell a variety of brands that you can check out here. But we have a very short timeline for our kitchen reno, so we operated within our ID’s default supplier catalogs when choosing materials for the kitchen. That was how we chose the laminate for the kitchen cabinet.

Choosing a quartz pattern for my kitchen counter top

However, when it came to the kitchen counter top, the decision wasn’t so easy. The selection we were quoted for covered only terrazzo-looking quartz.

Quartz Catalog from Lian Hin. See the online catalog here.

This is probably what most homeowners end up working with because it’s the affordable basic range of quartz that I assume IDs and contractors quote for to meet the customers’ own budget expectations.

And while I do like terrazzo floors in retro style homes, retro was never the vibe we were going for. Mr P detests anything that looks old, vintage, retro, etc. :P And if I have to be honest, food prep on a speckled worktop didn’t appeal to me on a visceral level.

Lian Hin quartz in various tones of white. We didn’t like Jade White and Winter because they were kind of yellow. Frozen had specks that had a brownish tinge. We could possibly make do with Snow White, White Pearl or White Star but the fact that I couldn’t make up our mind showed that I didn’t like them too much either. :P

Our ID promptly dropped by with her marble quartz catalog the next day. We were only looking at white quartz, a design decision aligned with our ID.

Lian Hin Quartz Tiles with Marble Look. The bigger square tiles are very useful for seeing more of the grain.

But you know what, it was really hard to visualise how the marble will actually look like in the context of our kitchen! So the next day we decided impromptu to make a trip down to the Lian Hin showroom.

Lian Hin Showroom (website)

Address: 204 Woodlands Industrial Park E9, Singapore 757879

It was definitely the right decision. Look at the whole wall of quartz tiles for you to view and compare!

Quartz tiles with marble effect at Lian Hin showroom

It definitely helps you to envision how the quartz may look like from afar.

Near and far comparison of White Quartz from Lian Hin. White Star is most obviously speckled even from far. White Pearl presents a more solid white top compared to the other tiles.

If there’s one thing the showroom does not do so well, it is the lighting which tends to highlight some tiles and cast others in shadow.

Tile colour may be misleading due to the indoor lighting

And we ended up more attracted to their brightly-lit new product, which is this striking Porcelain counter top. Haha!

Lian Hin porcelain counter top. I liked the sketch-like effect of the darker grain to one side of the counter balanced with the white space on the other side, while Mr P liked only the softer colours around the sink.

But to be honest, this striking porcelain counter top and backsplash with a dynamic feel will probably work best in an open kitchen that forms part of the bigger living space than in our tight little galley kitchen. :P

The whole time we were there, we felt that the Lian Hin staff were really friendly and helpful. They told us we could pick what patterns we were interested in, and then they can bring us to another location in the building where we can view the full size product and decide which marble pattern we liked better from there. Based on the staff recommendation, I decided on their new product Collina and their popular product Foresta. Are you ready to go take a look with me? ;)

“Wah! The quartz is hauled out with a crane system!!” I gawked. Suitably impressed. Suaku I am but I was having fun. :P

Lian Hin marble look large quartz sheet. Collina on the left and Foresta on the right.

Collina has gentle grey streaks on a white base that is also slightly more grey-ish. Foresta has more contrasting brown-ish streaks on a white base that is more milky. Personally I preferred the softer feel of Collina.

Before we left, the staff also very generously provided us with smaller tile samples of Collina, Foresta and Blanco Marfill that we could bring home to see how it will look against the wood laminate on our cabinets.

And because I wanted to have another brand for comparison on this blog post, we decided to visit the Caesarstone showroom (for fun :p) after our very good experience at Lian Hin.

Caesarstone Showroom (website)

Address: 3 Temasek Boulevard #03-357, Suntec City Mall Tower 3, S(038983)

The Caesarstone showroom cleverly presented their quartz sheets in a long format so it’s easy to see how they will look like as the counter top in your kitchen.

Quartz Display at Caesarstone showroom. There’s something about their panels, maybe it’s the small range and a specific colour palette. Maybe it’s the lighting. But I just felt very comfortable looking at them, especially at the wall of white panels slowly transitioning into beige on the other side. And I don’t even like beige and browns. Hah!

The selection of marble patterned quartz at Caesarstone is limited to just two, unlike the full wall of panels at Lian Hin. But Caesarstone also offers concrete patterned quartz which we did not see at Lian Hin. (Not sure if we were too focused on the marble slabs there and missed it, lol)

Caesarstone quartz – marble and concrete effect

In any case, what grabbed our attention at Caesarstone was the specific Quartz panel called Intense White.

Caesarstone Intense White Quartz

Both of us liked it straight away. And suddenly, it just displaced all the marble panels we saw before. Ooops!

It stood out amidst a wall of four white panels. Very quiet and calm in its simplicity.

And you know.

She’s the one.

:P

Caesarstone also kindly provided us with sample tiles that we may take home to compare against the laminate on our kitchen cabinet. So let’s take a look and compare, shall we?

What the sample quartz tiles looked like on-site in our kitchen

So at the end of the day, we narrowed out selection down to thee. Collina marble effect quartz from Lian Hin and Intense White and Fresh Concrete from Caesarstone. I guess you  could call Fresh Concrete a wild card. :P

Quartz tiles against sink and cabinet laminate in the shadow. Caesarstone Fresh Concrete, Lian Hin Collina and Caesarstone Intense White in that order.

Quartz tiles at night with single ceiling light source. Caesarstone Intense White, Caesarstone Fresh Concrete and Lian Hin Collina  in that order. Collina looks kind of dull here.

Quartz sample tiles against backsplash at around 4pm in the afternoon. Caesarstone Fresh Concrete, Lian Hin Collina and Caesarstone Intense White  in that order. Intense White is whitest against the white tile.

My kitchen is a small, not very well lit galley kitchen. It gets some indirect sunlight in the day and there is only one single ceiling light source in the night. Hence the preference for a light, bright counter top.

Given that’s the case, the marble tile we chose does tend to look dull in comparison since it’s base white colour is an off-white closer to the Caesarstone Fresh Concrete tile than the Caesarstone Intense White tile.

Caesarstone Intense White is something we are seriously considering still because it is going to cost more than the more affordable Lian Hin range that we were quoted for.

It seems we’ve come full circle, from not liking terrazzo-like quartz to considering marble-like quartz, back to terrazzo-like quartz with the Caesarstone Intense White.

I put the samples I have together to compare. If we were to keep to our original budget, than the White Pearl from Lian Hin may be the closest match to Intense White. Closest but not exactly the same.

White quartz – Caesarstone vs Lian Hin. Caesarstone Intense White on the left; Lian Hin on the right.

Which one will we choose in the end? Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Quartz counter top review! ;)

What are your experiences with  your own counter top??
Share with me in the comments below!

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Another kibble brand for our dog’s dry food rotation – Nutram!

Donna can spell! LOL!!

It’s boring eating the same food all the time. Here at weliveinaflat, we believe in switching things up by rotating brands and rotating proteins! We saw an increase in Canadian dog food brands in the market in 2017. So I’m happy to check out a new dry food brand that launched early 2018. Let’s take a look at Nutram’s Total Grain-free food! This food has a 5 star rating on Dog Food Advisor.

Disclosure:  Nutram products shared in this post kindly provided by Polygen Asia for Donna to try. They’ve also recently brought in freeze-dried and dehydrated PURE Pet Food from the UK. You can find out more from their Facebook or Instagram.

Nutram’s total grain-free food is suitable for all stages, which means it can be eaten by dogs of any age. One thing that differentiates Nutram grain-free dry food from some other brands is, Nutram also has food specifically for small and toy dogs in the same grain-free food range. See the full range here.

Nutram Total Grain-Free Dry Food for Dogs – Above Average Protein BUT Without the Usual High Calorie Count!

For the purpose of this review, I received the Trout and Salmon Meal Recipe, Lamb and Lentils Recipe and also the Chicken and Turkey recipe.

When reviewing the foods’ caloric and nutritional content, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Nutram food offers a range of 33%-40% protein (dry matter basis) while still keeping the calories at below 400 kcal per cup! 

I say surprised because other well-regarded dog dry food brands that offer the same 30%-40% protein range usually have corresponding higher calories count at above 400 calories per cup. To put things into context, *performance dry food at 400 kcal per cup or more is recommended for active working dogs!

Now do you see the problem? Donna is a pet dog and not an active working dog. This means, it’s a lot easier for her to put on weight when eating some of the well-regarded brands that I may have bought for her . I used to feed Donna a brand that went as high as above 500 kcal a cup!! (Not anymore :P)

Nutram Total Grain-Free Chicken & Turkey Recipe. More about this food and the full ingredient list here.

Nutram Total Grain-Free Trout & Salmon Meal Recipe. More about this food and the full ingredient list here.

Nutram Total Grain-Free Lamb & Lentils Recipe. More about this food and the full ingredient list here.

Natural, Holistic recipes with Optimum Combinations of Ingredients

Each of the food I receive are suitable for dogs with specific protein allergies. The trout and salmon recipe is a fish-only recipe. The chicken and turkey recipe is a poultry-only recipe. And the lamb and lentils recipe also has no added poultry or fish protein. This makes it easy for pet parents to chose the protein your dog needs without worrying that the fish recipe contains poultry inside for example.

But at the same time, Nutram recipes can include a variety of ingredients with healthful benefits. According to Nutram, each recipe is enhanced with ‘a perfect pairing of ingredients that complement one another’s benefits… (and) work better together to support your pet’s total well-being.’

Examples of such pairing include the following:

Personally, I do like the variety these 19 optimum combinations give to Nutram’s ingredient lists. Since I do believe variety is important in any a well-balanced diet. From what I observe, each of the Nutram food Donna receives has 2 such pairing in each recipe. For example, her trout and salmon food has Optimum Combinations for Natural Detox and Immunity Boost.

Of course, this does not stop me from adding my own additions to Donna’s breakfast and dinner! ;)

Yogurt and salmon oil are some staples added to Donna’s dry food bowl. More about yogurt and probiotics for dog here.

Concluding Thoughts on Nutram Total Grain-Free Dry Food for Dogs

In general, Nutram appears to be a good quality dog dry food with protein levels comparable to other quality brands, BUT with less kcal per cup. That is a plus and definitely makes the food a brand I would consider to include when planning to include fish, poultry and lamb in Donna’s food rotation.

The variety in the ingredients list will certainly help to make her overall food rotation more interesting and varied. I think it helps to give an added boost to the existing nutrient profiles she enjoys from other brands.

It would be interesting to see if Nutram will launch other proteins in future in addition to fish, poultry and lamb. But right now the quality of food is good enough to add to an existing food rotation for me.

Donna seems to think so too ;)

nom nom nom

Sources
* Dog kcal requirement information from Dog Food Logic.

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