A well-chosen worktop combines beauty and practicality, and can be the star feature of your new kitchen.
Worktops are among the hardest-working elements of the kitchen, and we need them to be able to take knocks, spills and pretty much anything we can throw at them.
As a key part of any design, the work surfaces are one of them most prominent features, so it’s important to choose something that looks great, and which complements your cabinetry and floor choice.
We now have a huge range of fantastic materials available, in hundreds of colours, patterns and finishes. Just like any significant design element, work surfaces are subject to trends – subtle changes in the aesthetic that often come about due to advances in technology. Classic materials such as stone or wood have enduring appeal but even these will be influenced by the latest fashion for chunky or slim worktops, rounded edges or something more angular.
So take time to find the one that ticks all the boxes for you.
Key looks - super slimline
Right now, it’s all about slimline work surfaces and crisp, modern lines. Worktops are getting thinner and thinner – we’ve gone beyond regarding 20mm as thin and many manufacturers now offer 15mm, 12mm and even 6mm thicknesses in some materials.
Ultra-slim profiles that appear to float above units (known as ‘shark nose’) are also gaining in popularity. The slender look is partly driven by the materials of the moment. Composites – made of quartz minerals and resin – are super tough and can handle being so slim. There’s also a growing demand for porcelain, which is durable, scratch resistant and available in super-skinny thicknesses down to a mere 6mm.
Key looks - combining materials
Mix and matching worktops is an effective way to get texture and interest into your kitchen design. You could have a deep stainless-steel worktop for the cooking area, a thick slab-style marble countertop on a feature island, and a sleek worktop for the surrounding units.
Combining materials can help stretch your budget a little further, too. If you fall in love with a premium material such as marble or hardwood, use a small amount as a focal point, perhaps on an island, installing something more affordable in the rest of the room.
Key looks - natural patterns
Wood and stone are the stalwarts of the kitchen surface but there are exciting trends to report here too, and it’s all about pattern. Bold veining in marble is a current favourite for islands and worktops, and this is matched by distinctive grain and texture in wood.
Whatever your style or taste, there’s a place for one or more of these worktop choices in your scheme.
Natural and hard wearing, stone is extremely versatile and can be used in either traditional or contemporary schemes
Warm and natural, wood complements a more traditional scheme, and is especially effective with painted timber kitchens
Man-made materials such as Corian and Dekton can be moulded into seamless sweeping curves or angles, and offer a world of colour choice.
Affordable and versatile, laminates have come a long way in recent years, and nowadays can mirror the look of natural materials, such as granite, wood and stone
Allows for ultra-slim profiles and creates a super-tough surface with fade-free colour
Other materials can be used to create a more individual look. Stainless steel, concrete, toughened glass and onyx can all be used to create stunning bespoke kitchens.
As a rule of thumb, neutrals – black, white, cream, brown and grey – are the most versatile and popular shades, but do be aware that watermarks, scratches and streaks will be more prominent on darker shades. Wooden tops such as English oak work with anything, much like oak flooring, contrasting with blues, greys and whites.
We advise choosing the floor first, which will dictate the colour of the worktops, then the palette of the units and walls.
Alder + Stone will always supply samples of worktops to look at in situ along with cupboard door samplers. When buying a natural material such as stone, we’ll endeavour to help you view a larger piece at the supplier, as colour can vary to the final product.
The right sink combination
Your choice of worktop will influence the sink options available to you. While an inset (drop-on) or sit-on sink (such as Belfast designs) will suit almost any worktop, under-mounted sinks are limited to completely solid designs such as stone, composite and porcelain. Although wood is solid, it’s not a natural partner with water and is not recommended for under-mounted sinks unless you are dedicated to keeping it well oiled.
You can have grooves carved into most solid materials to create an integrated drainer. The standard tends to be five straight grooves but you can also choose to have the outer ones curving outwards, fanning out or recessed lower than the rest of the worktop. If you’d prefer not to add draining grooves directly into your worktop, many sink models are available with separate coordinated draining.
Many surface materials are available in a wide range of shaped edges referred to as profiles. The classics are the flat edge, which is great for chunky modern designs. Slightly rounded at the top and bottom becomes ‘pencil round’, a more rounded shape is ‘bullnose’, while angular variations are called ‘chamfered edges’.
Your choice will come down to your personal preference and the style of your kitchen, but it’s worth considering a more rounded profile if you have young children. The ‘shark-nose’ profile – prominent at the top edge and sharply chamfered at the bottom – is popular as it gives the illusion of a super-slim worktop that floats above the cabinetry.
Templated to fit
Most worktops such as stone, composite and stainless steel require templating once your kitchen has been installed. This involves making a template of the cabinets to be covered, plus holes for sinks and hobs.
It can take a up to a week for your chosen material to be fabricated or cut to size and then fitted and, during this time, you’ll be provided with a temporary surface to see you through until final installation.
Worktops that can be installed straight away include laminate, wood and some ready-made products that can be cut, shaped and fitted on site.