We demand a lot from our kitchen worktops. It's at the heart of the action, where we unpack the weekly shop, chop and prep meals and often have spills. Therefore it's essential to get the right material for the job.
While cabinetry is often the main style element when considering kitchen decor, never underestimate the impact the worktop choice will have on the overall scheme. At eye level our kitchen worktops are highly prominent, so it’s important to give the appearance due consideration. Plus look at how hard it works as surface, to sustain the everyday wear and tear of kitchen life. It's crucial to get the right balance between looking great and catering to your kitchens needs, for longevity.
Be inspired by our tips and kitchen worktop ideas to create the ideal space to serve your home in style, for years to come.
Where do I start with kitchen worktops?
Where to start? 'As with a lot of components in the kitchen, I recommend starting off by spending some time thinking about how the worktops will be used by you and your household' advises expert says Hayley Simmons, head of merchandising at Magnet. 'Will they need to be highly functioning or more decorative? Are you a keen cook or a regular entertainer? Other practical concerns include cost and maintenance, as both can differ greatly across worktop materials.'
'A very important consideration in your kitchen is ‘touch,’' Hayley explains. 'Long after you’ve grown used to your kitchen’s style and colour, you will still appreciate the feel of a good quality worktop. For example, granite is a cool, hard, gloss surface, in contrast to wood or Corian which have a slightly warmer feel.'
Hayley goes on to say: 'I always recommend visiting a showroom to browse worktops, rather than ordering via a brochure or online, as they will have tangible samples so you can see and touch the surfaces yourself to find out what you prefer.'
Kitchen worktop ideas
1. Rethink classic styles
As trends change so should our thinking of what is right for what look. Wood is no longer just for traditional or country kitchens. New modern finishes mean materials can offer different personalities in different environments. 'Don’t be afraid to rip up the rule book when it comes to worktop styles. Wood doesn’t always equal traditional country kitchen and compact styles aren’t just for ultra-modern homes' says Hayley.
'You can use worktops within your design to create interesting contrast between styles and trends by choosing the unexpected. Think wooden style worktops on modern, grey, handleless designs as seen (above). Or glistening white surfaces atop country-inspired pale blue units.'
2. Unite different surfaces with the same worktop
Create a cohesive look by working with one worktop across all surfaces. The use of the same worktop along countertops, breakfast bars and islands can help to unite each individual space. This works in a small kitchen to keep the look concise but it also works in a larger space to prevent the different areas from feeling adrift from one another. Matching the worktop colour to the kitchen cabinets, as this smart kitchen above has done, helps to make them feel more integrated as a look.
3. Invest in solid wood for a timeless look
Wooden worktops are the ideal way to add natural warmth to a kitchen space. Due to the variety of grains and shades there are many different variations on this classic look, making it a versatile choice. Solid timber worktops, such as oak, are popular and some can now be bought pre-oiled meaning they will last a lot longer and require less maintenance in the short term. However be prepared to put the work in long term to keep a wooden worktop looking its best. The maintenance includes re-oiling and sanding. It's advised to keep the surfaces as dry as possible, which in a kitchen can be tricky, and use specialist cleaning products. Consider wood for areas of the kitchen where you are less likely to spill, so avoid the sink area.
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4. Go granite for a bespoke finish
Granite is one of the most durable materials, second only to diamond. Granite worktops are therefore on the premium end of the scale resistant to heat, scratches, water and staining. These hearty qualities make granite work surfaces easy to maintain and clean. Due to granite being a natural material each piece is one of a kind, and will feature its own unique patterns – making the look totally bespoke.
Granite comes in a variety of colours and styles and is likely to add value to your home and kitchen. Pair a black granite with dark wooden cabinets and bar-style glass floating shelves to add an extra touch of elegance.
5. Choose compact worktops for a modern finish
This next generation style of worktop is are very on-trend at the moment. But what exactly is a compact worktop? Magnet's Hayley is on hand to explain. 'Compact worktops are the new, unique alternative to natural stone. These cutting-edge worktops are as thin as 12.5mm and provide great design flexibility as they can be double-sided to create features such as waterfall breakfast bars or statement splashback features. They are slim, sleek and add a stylish edge to the kitchen space.'
6. Discover the hidden quality of Quartz
Create a sophisticated and serene finish without the added expense. Quartz worktops have very similar qualities to that of granite. However, they are non-porous, meaning they are more hygienic than granite and equally scratch resistant, so are a perfect choice for busy kitchens.
Wren’s most popular worktop material is quartz. 'Quartz is an investment in style and substance. Made from one of nature's strongest minerals - quartz - mixed with resin, this advanced engineering process combines the natural beauty of stone with all the benefits of technology,' explains Darren Watts, Showroom and Design Director at Wren Kitchens.
'This means you can enjoy the look and feel of real stone in a wide variety of colours and patterns that are more consistent in tone than any raw organic material.' Quartz is a fantastic option for those wanting to achieve a more natural look for a traditional kitchen or ultra-modern kitchen, and it’s very affordable too.
7. Choose a practical worktop for ease of installation
Corian is highly durable and can be shaped without joints, making it the ideal material for kitchens with a unique layouts or lots of corners. Corian designs are proving popular for the modern kitchen as homeowners strive to create clean, continuous finish with worktops incorporating a fully-moulded sink and drainer.
On a practical note David from Wren adds, 'One of the main advantages of this manmade material is that it can be pieced together in your home. So it’s suitable for sleek top floor city flats with narrow access. You can also create a feature of it by shining light through.'
'For those techy fans, a nifty wireless charger can be added underneath the worktop – no wires, no fuss, just pop your phone on the worktop and it magically charges.'
8. Emulate the look with cost-effective laminate
Laminate worktops offer a low-cost alternative to that of expensive natural materials. Much like laminate flooring, laminate worktops offer a versatile choice that realistically mimics materials such as wood, marble and granite for a fraction of the cost.
Nowadays laminates come in a variety of different patterns and colours, including natural finishes that mimic more expensive finishes. One such natural material that has proven a popular choice in laminate is concrete, as homeowners strive to add contemporary industrial touches to the decor. However genuine concrete worktops are not necessarily accessible for every home, therefore a laminate that mimics the look is a great solution.
9. Mix and match materials
Mixing materials is not only highly practical, given some (such as wood) are not always best suited to surrounding the sink, it can also help to enhance the look. As a new lifestyle trend for 'zoning' emerges, it's worth considering how different materials can be used to signify worktops for different purposes.
Worktops in stone materials may signal food prep and cooking, while countertops in wood may demonstrate the storage and dining aspects within the kitchen space. If you are a keen baker, include a small expanse of marble worktop. It may be prohibitively expensive or impractical to use everywhere, but it's a great surface for rolling out pastry.
10. Match your worktops to your shelving
Make the whole look feel coordinated by matching materials. Shelving is a much-needed storage solution in the kitchen, housing everything from pots and pans to culinary cookbooks. In order to keep the look well balanced choosing the same material for worktops to that of open shelving is winning design element.
11. Run the look up into a splashback
Incorporating the worktop into the upstand is growing increasingly popular, to create a uniformed look. This streamlined approach to kitchen design creates a seamless look that doesn't distract the eye, so it's a great option when space is premium. Laminate or Corian worktops work best to provide this seamless look, as both are more mouldable.
12. Match with a colour scheme
To make your worktops seamlessly fit into your chosen kitchen scheme work with a blended colour palette throughout. This smart kitchen is a fine example – all in white to produce a perfectly matched colour scheme. From the light stone floors to the light worktops and brilliant white cabinetry this kitchen is a heavenly vision. Limed wooden beams help to add a rustic touch to this Scandi-inspired kitchen.
13. Highlight with white
Welcome white worktops, in any material, to highlight the more decorative design choices within the space. This dreamy kitchen design features subtle off-white cabinetry in the main, with punchy design accents provided by a navy kitchen island and an aged-brass cooker hood. The use of white worktop allows these colourful additions to take prominence within the scheme. Choose a white worktop material that is simple, so perhaps avoid veined marble and composite surfaces with too many flecks.
14.Work with steel worktops
Stainless steel kitchen worktops are commonly associated with professional kitchens, thanks to the robust nature of the surface. Steel worktops are robust, durable and easy to clean which is what makes them ideal for a demanding kitchen. In addition to the practical elements steel worktops are aesthetically pleasing too – ideal for creating an industrial-style kitchen decor.
15. Look to the floor for inspiration
Matching your worktop with the choice of flooring, whether through material or colour, can help to ground the look.
Should kitchen worktops match the floors?
There are never rules of exactly what you should choose, because it's a matter of personal taste. While matching colour palettes suit some, to others it's too much.
If you do like a uniformed look you may match a lighter wood option for the worktop to compliment a darker wooden floor choice. You may decide to match in colour, with a white marble countertop and a white vinyl floor. As long as the materials best suit the use, anything goes in terms of mixing and matching.
'As well as being the practical everyday surface you cook and prep on worktops also offer a way to inject personality and colour into your kitchen ‘ advises Ben Burbidge at Kitchen Makers. Ben encourages homeowners to ‘ensure this element is not an afterthought, it’s as important as every other element in your design.’
Which worktops require maintenance?
'One practical consideration is aftercare and how they will age' explains Ben at Kitchen Makers. 'Wooden worktops are elegant but require regular maintenance compared to laminate. Marble is beautiful but is more susceptible to spills, whilst zinc or copper will weather and change with wear creating a beautiful patina.'
If budgets are tight, try mixing and matching your worktops. Place panels of more expensive stone in harder working areas such as by the cooker or sink and wood or laminate everywhere. Combining worktops is on trend, too, so your kitchen will look very up-to-date.
Kitchen worktops are a big investment so don't rush the decision process. Visit showrooms and get hands on, to gain a feel for each of the listed materials to see which best suits your needs.
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Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.
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