People always gather in the kitchen.
Family and friends pull up a chair to sip coffee or wine together. Children stir chocolate into batter for cookies. Secrets are shared. Laughter bubbles up. Favorite family recipes are passed down to the next generation.
As the setting for these important moments, your kitchen deserves to be beautiful, welcoming and functional. You should feel joy and calm when you enter this room.
When you picture your dream kitchen, is it a bright white and airy space with gleaming marble countertops? Or a warm and welcoming farmhouse style with natural soapstone or wood counters? Or maybe a dynamic black and white with quartz counters that make a stunning impression.
The design options are nearly limitless.
Countertops are a signature piece in your kitchen aesthetic. They add color, texture, and important functionality to your space.
We’ll help you make the right choice for your perfect kitchen design.
Considering Design, Durability, and Maintenance
The most important considerations when choosing the material for your kitchen counters are the style statement you want to make, and functionality you want in terms of both durability and maintenance requirements.
Making a Design Statement
Kitchen countertops come in every imaginable color and pattern. The size and shape of your countertop material also has an important impact on your kitchen design. Thicker slabs create a luxurious aesthetic, while a combination of materials can add depth and contrast.
Another important design consideration is choosing a backsplash that will compliment your counters – whether you choose a tile backsplash or use the same countertop material as a backsplash. You could even take the countertop material all the way up to the ceiling for an eye-catching design statement. If you have a kitchen island, consider whether you want the same material for both.
Is Durability Important?
If you love to cook or have children in your home, you may want to consider that marble can etch and take on stains from acids like wine or tomato sauce, and soapstone will scratch over time. These delicate materials may be better for a show kitchen that won’t get much use. More durable options include granite and quartzite.
How Much Maintenance is Necessary?
Some countertop materials require maintenance to keep them looking their best. It’s worth knowing whether scratches can be buffed out, or if it is necessary to seal the counters periodically.
Kitchen Countertop Materials 101
There are many different options for materials used in kitchen countertops, and each has different design options, durability, and maintenance needs.
Appreciated for its natural beauty, many high-end kitchens use marble for its elegant and stunning aesthetic. Marble comes in many different colors and patterns, some of which can be quite rare. Calacatta Gold marble is one of the most prestigious stones in the world, and is only quarried from a single mine in the mountains of Italy. It is prized for its white background and dramatic veins in golden tones. Carrera marble is also from Italy, and is more abundantly available.
Marble is a delicate stone, as mentioned above, which is important to consider based on how you expect to use your kitchen. Marble countertops likely won’t continue to look pristine as they age, however many people prize the patina they acquire over time.
Not to be confused with quartz (see below), quartzite is a natural stone that is formed when sand is heated and compressed within the earth. Quartzite is characterized by streaks and striations that are similar to marble. More durable than marble, it resists scratching and is not sensitive to acid. It’s also UV-resistant so it’s great for indoor and outdoor use without fading.
Quartz countertops are not the same as quartzite (above), nor the mineral quartz (like rose quartz or amethyst). Quartz countertops are engineered from loose quartz combined with resin and polymers. This allows them to come in almost any color – from natural finishes similar to natural stone to more colorful statement finishes.
Quartz is non-porous so it doesn’t stain easily, and is scratch-resistant. However, it doesn’t hold up well to heat, so hot pans shouldn’t be placed on its surface.
No longer the early 2000’s builder-grade granite, today’s granite countertops can be found in beautiful, flowing patterns and and a variety of mottling. When honed instead of polished, the colors are softer and richer. As one of the hardest stones, granite resists scratches and staining, and is well-known for holding up well to heat from hot pans.
The softest stone in this list, soapstone is easily scratched or nicked. These small imperfections can easily be buffed out with mineral oil or sandpaper, and over time create a beautiful patina. Soapstone is a talc-based stone that can range from gray to charcoal in color with little to no veining.
This unexpected material creates a unique, industrial look and can appear as one continuous surface by filling in the seams. It is highly customizable in thickness, color and texture, and when sealed is resistant to staining and heat.
A favorite in farmhouse kitchens, wood lends a beautiful warmth and richness to a space. Most often selected for bar counters or islands, wood or butcher block (which is thicker and has tighter grains than natural wood) may be mixed with other counter materials for visual contrast. Wood counters may be scratched or scorched, but can be easily refinished.
Copper and stainless steel are less common in home kitchens, but make a stunning visual presentation and come with some impressive functionality as well. Stainless steel is often used in commercial kitchens for it’s sanitary surface and resiliency, but this metal also offers an elegant and tailored look. It’s best for an accent piece, though, as too much could make a space feel cold and sterile. On the other end of the spectrum, copper adds a complex warmth and character that has been prized in kitchens for centuries. Its striking appearance will change over time as the metal develops its own unique patina, and it is easy to clean and eco-friendly.
Stone Countertop Finish Options
Stone countertops can be given different surface textures and appearance based on how they are finished. These three are the most common finishes – and what you’ll want to know about each:
- Polished: A high-gloss finish that brings out the richness of the stone’s natural color.
- Honed or Matte: A sanded, satin-smooth finish that gives a more soft and subtle color. This finish also makes the stone less resistant to water and staining.
- Leathered: A textured, organic finish created with sanding, acid wash, or diamond-tipped brushes. This distinctive look gives you the same subtle coloring as a honed finish, while also hiding scratches or blemishes quite well.
Our Favorite Kitchen Countertop Materials
We asked our interior design associate Chloë Rideout about her favorite kitchen countertop materials, and here’s what she had to say:
“I love leathered or honed granites. People may think of granite as the speckled polished surfaces that were popular in the early 2000’s, but a honed or leathered finish dulls the surface and makes it look more natural. It’s a fresh and distinctive look for this beautiful stone.
One granite that I’ve loved using this way is Jet Mist. It’s a gorgeous soft black with gray or green veining that looks a bit like soapstone. We used it for a large island at our French Flair in Winchester project, and it sets such a stunning, subtle tone for the whole space.”
Choosing the Right Countertop Material for Your Kitchen
If you’re starting to feel like there are too many options and considerations – and just for your kitchen countertops! – rest easy. It’s our job (our favorite part!) to walk you through the many options and guide you to what will work best for your design and your life.
Reach out and connect with one of our interior designers to discuss your project. We’d love to help!