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How To Buy Kitchen Worktops

When it comes to designing your kitchen, choosing a worktop is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Not only does it have to look good, it has to endure heavy use. So before you buy, consider whether you’d be prepared to put in some effort to maintain its look, or would rather have something more durable. Then think about aesthetics.
‘Your choice largely depends on the style of your kitchen,’ says Lizzie Beesley, conceptual designer at Second Nature Kitchens. ‘If you want to create impact with your units, you may want a toned-down work surface, but if you have neutral doors, the worktop material can make a real statement.’
Work surfaces such as stone and stainless steel need to be templated by the manufacturer to fit your kitchen exactly, with cut-outs for the sink and hob, and this will affect your budget.
But it may well be worth it. ‘The right choice is a good investment and can turn a modest kitchen into something special,’ says Annette White of Chiltern Marble. So which surface is right for you? Read on to find out.
KITCHEN WORKTOP TRENDS
‘The polarisation in the thickness of worktops is still a major direction – there’s no middle ground, worktops need to be either deep or shallow,’ says Anjum Ahmed, product and marketing director at Magnet. ‘The slim worktop sector is dominated by glass and compact laminate, while thicker worktops tend to appear in oaks and dark timber or specialist materials.’
There is a huge trend for mixing materials,’ says Max de Winter, project designer at Poggenpohl. ‘It’s not unusual to find two, three or even four different surfaces in one kitchen. As kitchen and living areas are now more integrated, one material throughout the space would feel too overpowering. Instead, use a warm wood on a breakfast bar for example, stainless steel in a prep area and coloured glass as a highlight.’
Edging, be it glass, timber or coloured acrylic, is a top trend. ‘For a very modern look, style up a standard laminate with a contrasting edge in wood or stainless steel,’ suggests Jude Keenan, kitchen planner at John Lewis. ‘This is possible on both square and curved-edge tops.’
‘A big trend at the moment is a 50mm worktop with a 30 degree bevelled edge,’ says Boffi’s Steven Salt. ‘This can be in any material, and the tapered edge means the surface appears to be floating above the units, giving the ultimate minimalist look.’
The profile (ie the edge) of the work surface can also make a difference to the overall feel. The rounded edges of the Eighties and Nineties are a thing of the past, and the latest surfaces have a completely square edge, a pencil round (where the edge is just slightly rounded) or a chamfer where just a tiny bit of the corner is shaved off.
LAMINATE WORKTOPS
Modern laminate worktops are a world away from the Nineties surfaces that tried (and more often than not failed) to imitate their natural counterparts.
‘Laminates have moved on so much, even in the last three years,’ says Simon Wilde, head of marketing at Formica. ‘New textures, finishes and printing techniques have given them added dimension and depth.’
Choose from hundreds of colours and finishes, including realistic wood grains, polished and matt stones, sparkling faux granites, concrete, high-shine surfaces and bright, solid colours. Laminate is now also available in thicknesses of up to 60mm.
PROS: Low maintenance and low cost. Laminate is one of the cheapest ways to get the look on a budget, and can be a fraction of the price of the real McCoy. If you’re handy with your power tools, you can cut and fit it yourself.
CONS: Some laminates can get scorched and scratched if not cared for properly, and laminate surfaces can have conspicuous seams. They’re non-repairable if damaged.
WOODEN WORKTOPS
Hardwood worktops such as oak, cherry, maple, walnut, teak and mahogany are the best way to bring a warm, rich quality to a kitchen.
‘Costs vary depending on the wood you choose,’ says Lizzie Beesley. ‘A simple oak surface will cost a lot less than exotic, on-trend zebrano, wenge or walnut.’
Finger-staved wood tops, where little planks are glued together, are a less pricey way to get the look. Remember to buy from a sustainable source.
‘We’re even using wood reclaimed from mountain chalets,’ says Steven Salt, showroom manager at Boffi. ‘These surfaces have a chunky, rustic look, which provides an amazing contrast in an otherwise clean-lined, modern kitchen.’
Wipe wood after food prep, mop up any spills straight away to prevent staining and avoid abrasive cleaning products.
PROS: With inherent natural antibacterial properties, wood is a hygienic option. Relatively simple to install and repair, it can be sanded down to remove blemishes. It can also …