Be careful what you wish for, so the saying goes. And I’m starting to realise why! I have always loved a good home renovation project. So, when we purchased an Edwardian house 18 months ago, I can honestly say I looked forward to all the necessary repairs and redecorations. So, the kitchen, utility room and cloakroom were first on my mammoth to-do-list. In addition, I have always thought of myself as someone who knows what she wants. But I also relish a challenge and interiors are my thing. After all, I’ve worked as an editor on a variety of interiors and lifestyle national glossies. In fact, if I hadn’t been a journalist, I would have probably become an interior designer.
Yet, choosing my kitchen worktops has been far from easy, for a variety of reasons. The first is the sheer embarrassment of choice. There are so many different options available, all with their own pros and cons regarding form and function.
The second is the pressure! Kitchen worktops can make or break an overall design scheme – so never underestimate the impact your selection will have. Because they sit on a horizontal plane (just like your floor), they are highly prominent. So worktops should really be one of the first things you think about – never an afterthought.
Lastly, there is the sordid topic of coin. We must all bow down to the realities of budget. What you really, really want might not be what you can really, really afford. Small wonder, then, that so many people (me included) change their minds, so often. But help is at hand. I’ve done the hard work, so you don’t have to. Behold my expert guide on choosing the right kitchen worktops for your dream home.
When it comes to kitchen worktops, your heart and your head might want two different things. And your wallet might concur with neither. Sadly, it’s not all about the aesthetics. So, start by being realistic about what you can afford. The most popular kitchen options out there are granite, quartz, marble, laminate and wood. To say that the price points vary is the epitome of understatement. So you need to be realistic about how far your pennies will stretch.
But cost is not the only key criterion. In fact, some materials are way more needy than others. How much TLC are you prepared to lavish on your worktop? You need to make sure that the surface you choose will suit your lifestyle, as well as your budget. Can you face regular oiling? Constant cleaning and wiping? Stressing about stains? Will maintaining a high-gloss finish take the shine off your new space? You must be absolutely honest with yourself before you take the plunge.
Mad about marble
I love marble. Adore it. In fact, I always promised myself that it would take centre stage in the kitchen of my forever home. But – damn you, reality – it wasn’t to be. For me, marble is synonymous with elegance and luxury. It’s visually stunning (just feast your eyes on this Cararra marble worktop from Barbara Genda). It suits both traditional and contemporary design schemes. And it’s bang on trend. What’s not to like?
Quite a lot, as it turns out. Firstly, the good stuff is eye-wateringly expensive. And therefore out of our budget with such a major home renovation to consider. And then there’s the upkeep. Marble is high-maintenance. It’s vulnerable to staining and scratching, so probably not the best choice for keen cooks or a busy open-plan kitchen.
For love of laminate
In the past, laminate has had a bit of a bad rap. Yes, it’s cost-effective, versatile and hardwearing. But the problem is, it’s always looked like laminate. Which isn’t terribly lovely. The good news is that these days, laminate is a bit of a chameleon. Advances in technology mean that it can be made to look like other, more expensive materials. I’ve chosen a Prima Formica laminated worktop for my kitchen. It’s budget-friendly, low maintenance – but looks like marble. Thanks to My Old Country House for the inspiration!
The greatness of granite
Granite kitchen worktops are perennially popular – with good reason. They are strong, stylish and durable. Because it’s a natural stone, granite incorporates unique veining and colours. As an added bonus, the cold surface is perfect for keen pastry cooks (yet it’s very heat resistant)!
Here come the cons. Granite is heavy, expensive and vulnerable to certain types of stains, such as wine and acids. Plus it usually needs to be protected by a special sealant.
Keen for quartz
Quartz is a man-made alternative to granite. It resembles natural stone, but offers great colour consistency and durability. Like granite, it’s heavy and expensive – but it’s also hard-wearing, easy to clean, and available in a wide range of colours. If you’ve a weakness for pastels, you’ll love this Topus Concrete shade from quartz specialist Caesarstone.
Best of the rest
Other popular kitchen worktop options include Corian, stainless steel and wood. Never heard of Corian? It’s another man-made composite, which blends natural minerals with resin to create durable, non-porous surfaces that are easy to clean and maintain. Corian is perfect for fans of curves and fluid shapes. It’s super hygienic too, as it incorporates a seamless finish with no joins or gaps for dirt and bacteria to lurk in.
If you’re a fan of industrial-style kitchens, stainless steel is probably the de facto choice for your kitchen worktops. It’s strong yet light, waterproof, heat-resistant and easy to clean. The downside? It can look a little cold and clinical when used in large areas. One solution is to mix and match. Consider using stainless steel on your island perhaps, and installing stone or laminate elsewhere.
Now, if you like your kitchen to feel warm and welcoming, nothing beats solid wood. It oozes character, and develops a unique patina with use. However, it will need regular oiling (too much of a chore for many), and it can scorch and scratch.