Charleston has a plethora of antique and historic items on display every day. Oh, the stories some of those old buildings and pieces could tell if they could talk. But in a city with a chronicle dating back nearly 350 years, it’s possible your kitchen countertops have histories that eclipse even that.
Touching the items on display in the Vitoria International warehouse, you can almost hear the whispers of millennia gone by. Owned by husband-and-wife team Adriene Araujo and Fabio Venturini, Vitoria International provides a large selection of beautiful natural stone, some millions of years old, for use as kitchen and bath countertops. The Brazilian natives landed in Charleston in 2006 and saw the opportunity to cater to the discerning tastes of homeowners who appreciate quality and the natural beauty of the Lowcountry.
Natural stone surfaces are one of the most valuable additions you can make to your home. The company imports the finest stone from Brazil, India, Spain, Italy and Turkey. The selection includes granite, quartzite, marble, limestone and travertine in various colors, patterns and textures.
“Because it’s created by nature,” says Araujo, “natural stone is always going to have imperfections in its coloring and style and will even change a bit over time. There’s no such thing as a perfect piece. That’s what is so unique about natural stone: No two countertops are going to look alike.”
As an added benefit, the products are eco-friendly. Natural stone comes straight from Mother Nature and does not incorporate pollutants such as solvents, resins and other harsh toxins.
For people who want a little less maintenance and a little more customization in their countertops, Araujo has good news. To celebrate 10 years in business, Vitoria recently expanded its product line to include engineered stone. They have partnered with TELTOS Quartz to become the only provider in South Carolina of this high quality, man-made product, which comes with a 15-year warranty.
Quartz countertops are manmade stone countertops formed by combining 90 percent ground quartz (a natural hard mineral) with up to 10 percent resins, polymers and pigments. This forms a very hard granitelike surface that is (unlike natural stone) non-porous and stain and crack resistant. Because it’s manufactured using the ultimate combination of nature and technology, the appearance—which depends on how the quartz is ground: coarsely ground quartz produces a flecked appearance, while finely ground quartz produces a smooth look—will be more uniform than natural stone, without imperfections. “We are seeing a high demand for an alternative product like engineered stone. Customers love the color and feel of marble, but hesitate to install it in their homes because of the care it requires. Because it’s a porous material, it can more easily scratch and stain. With the TELTOS quartz, however, you get the look of marble, a glossy sheen and a wide range of colors without all the upkeep,” says Araujo.
Vitoria International sells large stone slabs to fabricators who cut and install them in homes. The company’s North Charleston warehouse, however, is open to consumers, designers and architects to browse and select their stone. In fact, the company encourages customers to bring in cabinet samples to their warehouse so they can match stone to them. While some international trend watchers are predicting the rise of dramatic colors and geometric shapes in tomorrow’s kitchen designs, that’s not necessarily applicable to Lowcountry homeowners. “Most people in the Charleston area want natural, softer colors to blend in with our marsh environment,” says Araujo.
Regardless of tastes, needs or wants, Vitoria International is poised for growth with a new location opening in Savannah, Georgia, this summer. But this couple has no intention of living anywhere but Charleston. “I love being able to go to Brazil while sourcing our materials. But Charleston is now home. Both my kids were born here, and this area will always be a very special place for my family,” concludes Araujo.
Kira Perdue is a freelance writer based in Mount Pleasant.