Homeowners these days are overflowing with kitchen countertop ideas, and that’s because the palette of options is broader than ever. The types of materials available to build kitchen countertops are constantly being added to and evolving, and the conscientious ways we are using them to define spaces are changing with the times too. The kitchen countertop is a design tone-setter, combining with backsplashes, cabinets, and flooring to create a cohesive identity.
There is a lot you can do with a kitchen countertop — perhaps beyond the scope of one blog post — but let’s take you through some basics and current trends so you can conceptualize for your next remodel.
Popular kitchen countertop materials
What are kitchen countertops made from? Anymore, the answer is just about anything and everything, running the gamut from totally natural to entirely manmade. Your choice of kitchen countertop material can either greatly limit (not always a bad thing) or expand the overall vibe and style your kitchen will have.
Popular natural materials
Although some homeowners favoring a farmhouse/rustic look still turn to wood (aka “butcher block”), natural stone is far more prevalent and versatile — and in most cases more easily maintained.
Perhaps the most coveted variety of natural stone countertop, granite slab is desirable because of its unique looks, durability, and relative seamlessness. Granite countertops can also be purchased in smaller slabs fitted together (modular granite) or in tile form, although these are often seen as compromises that diminish the benefits discussed above.
In terms of sheer aesthetics, marble is the belle of the ball. But while striking and luxuriously beautiful, marble countertops are fragile compared to other types of natural stone. Their softness makes them more susceptible to scratches, and their porousness makes stains a serious threat unless sealed.
Soapstone, a type of metamorphic rock containing a high concentration of talc, has been used in architecture for centuries. It is not as soft as marble, but not as hard as granite. Colors range from white to various shades of gray, and it is easy to clean and naturally stain-resistant.
Slate countertops are the more practical foil to marble, with much better wear characteristics at a lower price point. However, it lacks the smoothness and color options of some of the other types of natural stone.
Popular manmade materials
Engineered quartz, which consists of crushed stone bonded and reinforced by resins, has become the preeminent engineered countertop material. It very convincingly mimics the characteristics of natural stone, including patterns and veining, and is more than capable of standing up to the abuses of a busy kitchen. Kitchen countertop ideas are truly limitless with this material.
Solid surface has taken a backseat to engineered quartz in recent years, but is still a respectable mid-tier option. This manmade material is formed from acrylics and polyester bound together with resins, sometimes with a bit of natural stone dust sprinkled in for character. It’s more affordable than quartz and also hugely versatile in style, but not as rugged and will scorch and scratch (so use cutting boards and insulate from hot pots and pans).
Laminate countertops have a reputation as the “cheap” option, but technology has come a ways since their heyday to create a better-looking and better-performing product. It’s easy to install and available in a ton of colors and patterns. However, there is a reason it is economical — that thin plastic laminate layer can peel and burn if you’re not careful, exposing the underlying particle board.
Concrete and stainless steel
Concrete and stainless steel countertops have been in vogue lately, especially in industrial designs.
Concrete can be poured into any form, and color and texture treatments can lend these countertops a greater variety of looks and finishes than you’d initially think. It is among the heaviest of kitchen countertop materials and can be a bear to install, so it is best left to professional craftsmen.
Stainless steel, while typically thought of in the context of commercial settings, has become more common in the home.
Kitchen countertop trends
Now that we’ve touched on some of the more popular materials, let’s get an idea of kitchen countertop trends.
Mixing materials and finishes
Switching up surfaces and materials has become a trend in modern kitchens, adding both contrast and functionality — for example, a section of butcher block on an otherwise natural stone or engineered quartz countertop.
Homeowners as a whole are becoming more environmentally conscious, which has led to the development of countertop materials derived from recycled content (e.g. glass, aluminum, even paper composite) or from more sustainable sources. Some of these are not widely available yet but keep an eye out for them in the future.
Shaping and edges
We are living on the edge of kitchen countertop design — as of late quite literally. Flush countertops trim away the excess (evened up with the underlying cabinetry) for a sleek look, while waterfall countertops make the edge the focal point, with extended outcroppings of countertop material creating additional legroom and storage space along the lengths of peninsulas and islands.
What’s your kitchen countertop idea?
Do you have a better idea of what you’re looking for in a kitchen countertop yet? If you’re still having trouble, it might help to think of your overall vision for the space and how you’re using it — if you’re a dedicated home chef, it may make the most sense to have a stainless steel countertop; if you’re more interested in entertaining and wowing guests, a marble countertop may be worth the expense.
If you’re still stumped, schedule a consultation with the experienced craftsmen at Ayars Complete Home Improvements and we’ll happily figure it out together.