Countertops are more than just work surfaces. They should also be elegant features that tie your kitchen and bathroom designs together.
If you’re interested in upgrading your kitchen or bathroom countertops, make sure you choose materials that match your budget—just keep in mind that the best countertops are as sturdy and long-lasting as they are beautiful. Here are the top countertop upgrades that homeowners should consider this year.
This material is one of the most reliable and beautiful countertop upgrades you can buy. While most people may associate quartz with watches or decorative crystals, the shiny, multicolored, semitranslucent stone is what makes quartz countertops so decorative. (Pro Tip: don’t confuse quartz with quartzite, which is a completely different type of countertop made from naturally strong quartzite stone.)
However, there’s more to quartz than just quartz—meaning that this material is actually an engineered or composite stone. Quartz countertops are made from a mixture of many different materials and can contain crushed silica, glass, or even granite powder.
As beautiful as natural quartz looks, it’s unsuitable for kitchen or bathroom countertops in its raw form. It’s far too fragile and would be exorbitantly expensive, adding up to a big risk and an even bigger waste of money. Another substance, known as a binder, is what makes quartz countertops so durable and long-lasting. Plastic or cement-based binders seal crushed pieces of real quartz stone and other ingredients into countertop slabs, preserving their beauty and optimizing their strength.
Once it’s mixed with other ingredients and formed into slabs, quartz becomes one of the most reliable materials you can buy. It’s resistant to heat, cold, and stains and is unlikely to show nicks and scratches. So, while you should always use cutting boards and trivets to protect your countertops, quartz may look just as pristine in several decades as it does when installed. And because they’re highly sought-after, quartz countertops are excellent options for those about to list their homes for sale.
The key word here is simple granite. Earthy, rocky tones are far more popular in contemporary homes, so look for varieties of granite countertops in gray, tan, and white. If you can find some with a simple, subdued texture, your kitchen and bathrooms will look even more stylish.
Granite is formed when quartz, mica, and other minerals are compressed and heated under the weight of the earth’s crust. Because of its composition, granite is incredibly strong, easily enduring the load of large appliances and fixtures without cracking. However, while granite is resilient, it also has its weaknesses. Harsh chemicals from foods like lemon juice and cleaning products like bleach can stain granite, destroying its natural beauty.
For these reasons, it’s essential to have granite sealed with a protective, nonporous solution after installation. You’ll also have to keep up with occasional resealing as well. The chemical sealant that protects granite countertops fades over time, so enlist the help of an expert to determine a proper maintenance schedule based on your needs. If you preserve and treat your granite countertops well, they will be a wise long-term investment.
Marble is one of the most beloved materials in human history—renowned for its intricacy, alluring textural notes, and often jewel-like luminescence. Marble has been mined and utilized for millennia, so it may seem like the obvious choice for any homeowner in search of the most beautiful countertop material.
However, design tastes have changed, leading to a general preference for neutral marble these days. Skip green, blue, and pink marble, and instead look for a variety like Crema Marfil marble from Spain, which is an elegant, sandy, off-white color. Another excellent option, Carrara Silver marble, is a steely gray variety of the ultrapopular White Carrara marble that has recently taken the design world by storm. If you want to try an adventurous variety, consider Rainforest Brown marble, which almost resembles petrified wood. It’s a surprising choice for certain, but it’s eye-catching and sure to lend unique texture to a dull kitchen or bathroom.
Marble, like granite, is weight resistant and strong, but it weakens under harsh chemicals, especially acids. Acids can leak through the protective sealant on marble and start deteriorating the stone itself, showing chalky stains known as etching. If you’ve ever seen marble countertops in a bar or restaurant with permanent water rings, that’s etching at work. Keep marble clean, and use a protective surface when handling red wine, nail polish remover, or other damaging chemicals. Also, be sure to have your countertops resealed regularly.
Do you want to mix things up and install an unexpected material? Sleek and dramatic, slate is an excellent choice for your new countertops. This wonderful stone is practically ready for installation the minute it’s quarried; it’s that ideal for home countertops. However, most slate purveyors surface-grind the slabs so they have a modern, matte appearance and smoother feel.
Slate tends to appear dark blue-gray or nearly black, often resembling sleek metal, but many varieties contain notes of white, red, or even green. For these reasons, slate is an excellent addition to a kitchen or bathroom in need of fresh, modern color. It’s bold and eye-catching but not the best option for soft, romantic design schemes. Also, be advised that its heavy, dark coloring can make a small room look even more crowded.
But should you invest in slate, you’ll take home a naturally nonporous and stain-resistant material. Easy to clean and sure to last, this is one of the best countertop options for your money. Best of all, slate is a more affordable material than others on this list—without appearing as low-cost as laminate and ceramic tile countertops often do.
Other trends to know about
Kitchen and bathroom designs have become more material-forward in recent years, so high-quality countertops are far more important to your design scheme than any fixtures or decor you place on them. Let the materials speak for themselves, and these rooms will impress.
However, powder rooms and guest baths allow you to be more adventurous. This is where wild wallpaper patterns, unique mirrors, and surprising metal fixture choices combine for playful, statement-making rooms. Just be sure that all your eclectic design elements are centered on your countertops. For stylish results, refer to the subtle color notes in the material you choose to inspire a powder room or guest bath’s overall color palette.
As for edge designs, intricate styles like beveled, bullnose, and ogee have fallen out of popularity. Straight or eased countertop edges have a clean, simple look that lets fine materials speak for themselves—so that’s definitely the way to go when you finalize your countertop order.
Investing in your countertops offers excellent returns if you choose materials that are as durable as they are attractive. So if you want the best return on your investment, stick to this list of stylish countertop upgrades.