When renovating his 6,500-square-foot Newton, NJ, home, Satish Bhayani knew he didn't want to have a plain black granite countertop to complement the cherrywood-colored cabinets that he picked out from a German Sie Matic catalogue. When he found Black Galaxy granite, a black-based material with golden specs that is quarried in India, he knew it was the perfect fit.

"When you look into it, it looks just like a galaxy," said Bhayani, pleased with his choice. He served as the general contractor for about 70% of the renovation, but his principal designer for the kitchen was Wayne Choka of Wickes Kitchen and Bath Showroom in Succasunna, NJ. Choka put Bhayani's idea for a tri-level island countertop, also inspired by the catalogue, into fruition.

"He was looking for a three-tier island, and we had to incorporate a sink area, seating area and a spot for a microwave all in one location," said Choka. Bhayani didn't want a microwave on the counter, so one granite slab was placed a level above the bar top in order to have enough space to store a microwave below.

The sink level was placed one step down from the bar top, about level with the countertop. For all the backsplash in the kitchen, the same stone was used in order to stay consistent. The black granite, with its polished finish, complemented the kitchen's modern appearance, which includes a Sub-Zero refrigerator and the hidden microwave.

"The color was so beautiful, and since the black is neutral, it matches all their appliances," said Binod Toshniwal of Ankur International, which supplied the stone. Over 150 square feet of granite was used for the countertops. Toshniwal's subsidiary company, Tosh Construction, Inc., installed the large slabs. According to Toshniwal, the size of the slabs presented the biggest challenge.

"We had such a huge counter, and we had to make a few big pieces without seams," he said. Four slabs in total were used to fit the three levels of the island as well as the countertop that runs along the wall. "We got big pieces, and wherever the seams were, we made them so neat that it doesn't look like they're there."

Choka found that the angled area around the stove was also a challenge. A backwards "L" formation made it necessary for the granite to wrap around the wall into an interlocking corner. Yet the pieces managed to fit in perfectly without a problem.

Another part of Bhayani's home renovation was less challenging but more time-consuming. Out of a total of seven bathrooms in the house, Bhayani renovated three of them using Indian stone. According to Toshniwal, over 1,000 square feet of granite tiles was used for this aspect of the project.

Shiva Gold, Indian Juparana and Summer Yellow, all quarried in India, were the colors chosen for each bathroom. Two of the bathrooms used 72- x 24-inch slabs for the vanity tops, while the other used a 36- x 24-inch slab. Each bathroom was done in a different color, as the 12- x 12-inch floor and wall tiles corresponded with the color of the vanity top. This included the master bathroom, which is completely finished in Indian granite.

One of the biggest challenges with the bathrooms was the need for handicap-accessibility. In order to cover such a large area, Indian granite tiles were used on the wall and ceiling. The goal was to make it look as traditional as possible, while incorporating a larger shower area and other elements more conducive to wheelchairs.

Beginning in late summer of 2001, the kitchen and bathroom renovations took about four months to complete. The renovation as a whole took over two and a half years to finish.

"It came out beautiful," said Bhayani. "Everyone thinks it's great. We are very happy with the overall quality, finish and durability of everything."

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Private Residence, Newton, NJ

Stone Supplier: Ankur International, Monmouth Junction, NJ
Stone Installer: Tosh Construction, South Brunswick, NJ
Designer: Wickes Kitchen and Bath Showroom, Succasunna, NJ