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How to choose a kitchen worktop: all you need to know

From wood and porcelain to marble and quartz, pick the best surface for your kitchen with our practical guide

bushboard's laminate kitchen surfaces

One of the most crucial elements in the kitchen, worktops must not only look good but work hard, too. Choose from natural, contemporary and innovative materials, used alone or mixed and matched for extra style and performance.

Here, we take a closer look at six of the most popular materials – porcelain, stone, composite quartz, laminate, solid surface and wood – sharing expert tips on how to use it, why to use it and the best brands to know.


antibacterial and antiviral sapienstone pietra grey active porcelain
Antibacterial and antiviral, too: SapienStone’s

Large format porcelain slabs are durable, lightweight, non-porous, scratch-proof, stain-proof, antibacterial and even hot pans can be placed directly on the surface without scorching. Any material from concrete to metal to stone can be replicated, and colours remain stable over time.

‘Advances in digital printing can even produce “natural” variations from tile to tile, meaning it’s indistinguishable from the real thing,’ says Jo Oliver, director at Stone & Ceramic Warehouse. ‘This makes it possible to achieve the look you want at a lower cost and without the challenges and maintenance issues that come with materials such as marble and limestone.’

How to use

Ultra-large slabs up to 160 x 320cm mean fewer or no grout lines, which in turn gives a sleek, seamless look, while sheets are available from as little as 3mm thick, which taps into the trend for super-thin surfaces. Porcelain can also be used to clad the front of cabinetry, and due to its excellent durability, it works well as flooring, too.

Brands to know

Stone & Ceramic Warehouse stocks matt and silk slabs in a wide range of finishes. From £240 per m sq, stoneandceramicwarehouse.co.uk

Italian firm Florim has almost 60 years’ experience and offers natural stone, wood, cement and metal effects as well as plain colours. Price on application, florim.com

Developed with the University of Milan, SapienStone’s ‘Active Surfaces’ are antibacterial and antiviral, and pollutants including VOCs are neutralised. From £354 per linear m, sapienstone.com


antolini's dramatic stone kitchen work surfaces
Dramatic effects with ‘Explosion Blue’ natural stone in ‘Bookmatch’, by Antolini

Natural stone has a classic appeal that, like the material itself, will never fade. ‘A
key consideration is that each piece is unique, so can vary in appearance,’ says Hege Lundh, marketing director at Lundhs.

‘This is part of its beauty, but it’s important to make sure you’re happy with the exact slab.’ Ease of care will depend on the stone itself – granites and basalts are tough and hardwearing, while limestone and marble are less forgiving and will stain if they come into contact with acidic liquids.

Stone can be polished, honed, sandblasted, brushed or even flamed, which creates a weathered look.

lundhs real stone kitchen worktop and splashback
Lundhs Real Stone used as a kitchen worktop and splash back
Morten Rakke Photography
made a mano's vibrant yellow lava stone worktop
‘Cristalli’ lava stone in ‘C7’ by Made a Mano is used here to create a statement kitchen island
Made a Mano

How to use

Stone must be handled by an experienced installer. Weight and access can be an issue with big slabs, so make sure you plan ahead. Most stone is sealed before fitting and chopping boards should be used to protect knives as well as the surface itself.

Brands to know

Lundhs offers four varieties of 100 per cent natural Norwegian stone in silk matte and polished finishes. Each piece is delivered with a certificate of authenticity. From £680 per m sq, lundhsrealstone.com

Italian company Antolini supplies an impressive range of more than 1,300 of the finest stones, including marble, granite, onyx and travertine, as well as offering ‘Azerobact Plus’, an antibacterial treatment that prevents bacteria forming. Price on application, antolini.com

Finally, Made a Mano sources Italian lava stone from Mount Etna in Sicily. As well as natural stone, glazed options are available, which are fired at extreme temperatures so it can’t fade or chip. From £1,218 per m sq, madeamano.com

Composite quartz

kitchen island in 'loft' in 'pobleneu' by silestone
SileStone’s ’Loft’ in ’Pobleneu’ is inspired by concrete

Also known as engineered stone, composite quartz combines a high percentage of ground quartz crystals with recycled glass, resins, polymers and pigments to form a super-tough solid slab. It can be made to imitate natural stones such as granite and marble, and is available in speckled or flat colours as well as in a number of finishes including polished, antiqued and honed.

‘Quartz is exceptionally hardwearing, non-porous and resistant to cracks, scratches and stains, so does not require sealing,’ says Jon Stanley, VP of marketing at Caesarstone.

kitchen worktop in '4735 oxidian' by caesarstone
’4735 Oxidian’ by Caesarstone

How to use

Supplied in large slabs, quartz needs to be templated, cut and installed by a specialist fabricator. Worktops can be formed with decorative edges, deeper surfaces built using mitred joints, and kitchen islands can be wrapped with the material to create a monolithic look. Low maintenance, quartz works well as cladding and as flooring, too.

Brands to know

SileStone by Cosentino is made in more than 100 colours, from natural shades to vibrant, contemporary hues, while the cool new ‘Loft’ series is inspired by concrete. From £400 per sq m, silestone.co.uk

Caesarstone offers 49 colours, plus a range of outdoor surfaces for gardens, kitchens and BBQ areas. A new white collection is due soon. From £410 per sq m, caesarstone.co.uk


the unit kitchen by design by garcia cumini for cesar in fenix ntm jaipur red
The ‘Unit’ kitchen by Design by Garcia Cumini for Cesar uses Fenix’s ‘NTM’ in ‘Jaipur Red’ to striking effect

An affordable option, laminate is a dense surface formed using compressed layers of paper and resin bonded to a chipboard core.

‘Designs have really evolved, and there is now a huge selection of contemporary plain, patterned and realistic finishes such as wood, concrete and stone that give the appearance of the material without the maintenance issues,’ says Caroline Elliott, Head of Product UK Worktops for Wilsonart UK.

Edges are post-formed, meaning there are no seams where dirt can accumulate. Easy to clean, laminate is also resistant to impact, heat and scratches.

How to use

Laminate worktops are easier to move and cut than most other materials and can be fitted as part of a regular kitchen installation, saving on time and cost. Most brands offer matching upstands and splashbacks to create a sense of cohesion.

bushboard's laminate kitchen surfaces

Brands to know

Formica has been producing laminate for over 100years. Its range spans hundreds of colours and effects including new abstract patterns, plaster-look and ultra-matte finishes. From £190 for a complete worktop, formica.com

A contemporary option, Fenix offers soft touch, anti-fingerprint and metallic-effect surfaces with very low light reflectivity. Price on application, fenixforinteriors.com

Bushboard’s range boasts added antibacterial protection that destroys 99.9 per cent of bacteria within 24 hours. Price on application, bushboard.co.uk

Solid surface

corian solid surface for kitchen worktops
Corian’s ‘Concrete’ range, shown here in ‘Neutral’

Solid surface is a composite material made from minerals, acrylic polymer and natural pigments that are formed into a smooth, tactile product.

Worktops are non-porous, ultra-hygienic, impenetrable to mould and available in a virtually limitless range of colours, including solid hues, natural stone designs and even translucent shades that can be backlit to create a soft glow.

Stain- and scratch-resistant, small marks can be polished out with an abrasive cleaner, and although heat-resistent, trivets are recommended with hot pans.

How to use

This versatile material can be formed to include curved edges, integrated sinks and splash backs and joined to create a visually seamless expanse. It must be fitted by specialist installers and, like timber, it can also be sawn, routed, drilled, sanded and engraved, and used as wall-cladding as well as on horizontal surfaces.

Brands to know

Corian comes in 65 colours suitable for kitchens, many available with veining and graining, while the ‘Corian Charging Surface’ has a charging unit integrated in the worktop. From £410 per sq m, corian.uk

HI-MACS is made using new-generation technology that creates denser, even more durable surfaces and is available in 111 colours and finishes. From £300 per linear m, himacs.eu


naked kitchens’ ‘cley’ design featuring the ‘oak end grain’ worktop
Naked Kitchens’ ‘Cley’ design featuring the ‘Oak End Grain’ worktop
Naked Kitchens

Warm, tactile and naturally antibacterial, a sustainably sourced wood worktop adds timeless character to a kitchen and will gain a pleasing patina as it ages and its natural colour deepens.

Wood is also kinder on crockery and creates gentler acoustics than harder materials. Choose from a huge range of species including oak, walnut, iroko, maple, ash, sapele and cherry, to name but a few.

the home of noma chef rené redzepi features a bespoke garde hvalsøe kitchen in dinesens heartoak teamed with dinesens heartoak plank floors
The home of Noma chef René Redzepi features a bespoke Garde Hvalsøe kitchen in Dinesen’s ‘HeartOak’ teamed with Dinesen’s ‘HeartOak’ plank floors

How to use

Wood is easy to install but will benefit from an experienced fitter for a good result. Surfaces should be oiled regularly but will resist staining as long as spills are wiped immediately, and scratches and stains can be sanded out. Timber is best avoided in very wet areas such as directly around a sink.

Brands to know

Naked Kitchens’ ‘SuperStave’ worktops feature continuous planks that run the entire length of the surface to show off grain. A unique nano coating treatment adds extra protection. From £500 per linear m, nakedkitchens.com

Dinesen offers a range of handsome timbers suitable for worksurfaces including Douglas fir, ‘HeartOak’, ash and pine. From £65 per m sq, dinesen.com

Ikea’s range of complete wood veneer worktops are all ready to take away. From £120, ikea.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration April 2021

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