Home renovations made simple
A great kitchen is like a great meal – it relies on what you put into it. And one of the most important elements to put in any kitchen is the countertop, that crucial surface that needs to work super hard and still look amazing. The good news is that kitchen countertop ideas abound, from no-fuss manufactured stone and dreamy marble to rustic butcher block and more. Here’s the low-down on inspired kitchen countertop design ideas to suit your budget, lifestyle and add value to your home.
This natural beauty is a kitchen counter design showstopper (that gorgeous veining, the touch-me texture), but if perfection is on your radar this natural stone may not be for you. Marble is porous, which means acidic liquids, such as coffee and lemon juice, can dull the surface, and it stains easily (translation: that red wine circle is there to stay). It’s also soft so it’s easily scratched. Basically, this is a kitchen countertop design that will show all it’s been through. If you love that patina look and still want to go for it, know that marble isn’t just expensive ($40 to $200 per square foot), but it also requires regular sealing about once a year. Also note that professionals need to fabricate and professionally install marble, which can significantly increase the overall cost.
Marble countertop cost: $40-$200 per square foot.
Terrazzo is both nostalgic with its retro vibe (it was the flooring material of choice for many grade schools in the ‘70s and ‘80s) and contemporary, thanks to the colour-flecked design that imparts its signature look. It’s a composite material of natural stone or marble that’s been crushed into chips and mixed with colour pigments for that dappled look.
As a countertop idea, it’s a good one. At $50 to $100 per square foot, it’s more accessible than marble, and has the added benefit of being heat-resistant, easy to clean, durable, eco-friendly and available in a range of colours and patterns. The only considerations: it can be difficult to install (it cracks easily) so must be done by professionals, and requires regular sealing.
Terrazzo countertop cost: $50-$100 per square foot.
Quartz is extremely popular for kitchen counter design, thanks to its practicality, range of colours and overall crowd-pleasing appeal (read: this countertop design is fab for resale value). Quartz looks like solid stone but it’s actually an engineered product containing pulverized rock and resin. It offers durable kitchen countertop design and is pretty much impossible to stain. It’s also non-porous so it is easy to keep bacteria-free.
One thing to note: quartz is susceptible to very hot temperatures so put a trivet under that hot pot. Quartz kitchen counter design isn’t cheap ($40-$100 per square foot) and this material must be installed by professionals.
Quartz countertop cost: $40-$100 per square foot.
Need to know: quartz is man-made while quartzite is natural. If you’re considering quartzite for your countertop design, know that this stone offers a stain-resistant surface that will retain its colour forever. Quartzite is also scratch-resistant, performs well with heat and, unlike marble, can stand up to acidic substances like lemon juice and vinegar – great in a busy kitchen. It requires professional installation and sealing once a year, but otherwise is easy to maintain, very durable and less expensive than other natural stones, starting as low as $40 per square foot.
Quartzite countertop cost: $40-$100+ per square foot.
Granite is usually at the top of many kitchen counter design wish lists. What resonates now, in particular, is its sustainability. Quarried granite requires minimal finishing so there’s no complicated processing with toxic chemicals. As well as being durable, granite offers a range of unexpected colours. Yes, there’s classic white and grey, but the adventurous out there might opt for bolder options, such as red, blue or green.
Another granite countertop design perk is the possibility of no-seam installation. Granite comes in 10-foot slabs so if your kitchen counter is under 10-feet, it offers that coveted seamless finish. Granite needs to be professionally installed and it’s an investment (on average $70-$80 per square foot). Maintenance-wise, it requires sealing every year.
Granite countertop cost: $70-$80 per square foot.
When it comes to kitchen counter design, porcelain is a crowd-pleaser. It’s non-porous and stain-resistant (no sealing required). It’s also heat-resistant and won’t fade when exposed to sunlight (great if you have skylights or lots of windows in your kitchen).
This highly durable material’s difference is its thickness – or rather, thinness. Porcelain’s lightweight, thinner profile is available in extra-large slabs for more installation options – professional fabrication and installation is a must, which can drive up the cost. It can also be finished with a seamless or mitred edge – something thicker materials aren’t especially suited to.
Porcelain is a natural product (it’s made from clay-based materials) and can be recycled. Its thinness means it can crack under blunt force, but everyday slicing and dicing is fine. Prices range from $55 to $120 per square foot.
Porcelain countertop cost: $55-$120 per square foot.
7. Solid Surface
The name may sound generic, but solid surface kitchen counter design is anything but. This synthetic material is designed to mimic the coveted look of natural stone, without the quartz or marble price tag – solid surface starts around $20 per square foot, not including the costs for fabricating and installation.
Savings aside, the real draw here is the variety, with over a hundred patterns and colours available (everything from fiery tomato reds to zingy banana yellows). It is susceptible to scratches, although minor ones can be lightly sanded away.
Solid surface countertop cost: $20-$85+ per square foot.
8. Metal Countertops
Stainless steel is the first metal that comes to mind for kitchen counter design. On top of just exuding a really cool chef vibe, it is antibacterial, stain-resistant and a cinch to clean. Other metals, such as copper, zinc, and brass are becoming increasingly popular (see creative director Jenna Lyons viral kitchen design for inspo), but require more maintenance as they will oxidize, which means they’ll build up a patina. Professional installation is recommended but to keep them looking perfect, regular polishing is required – an ongoing cleaning commitment.
Whichever metal you might choose, they all scratch so keep cutting boards on hand or happily embrace the etches. Metal countertop pricing averages around $150 per square, with zinc as high as $200.
Metal countertop cost: $150-$200 per square foot.
Soapstone isn’t as common a material for kitchen counter ideas, but it should be. Firstly, it has this really compelling aesthetic appeal – it has a warmth that feels both organic and elegant at once. It’s environmentally friendly (no nasty chemicals used in manufacturing and recyclable), non-porous, easy to clean and stain- and heat-resistant.
Because it’s a natural stone, colours are limited to shades of grey, black and blue (but they’re all beautiful) and the stone’s soft nature means it can get scratched (light sanding can remove these). Oil can leave dark spots, so an initial overall mineral oil treatment is recommended to darken the whole counter. The cost ranges from $70 to $120 per square foot, not including the cost to professionally fabricate and install.
Soapstone countertop cost: $70-$120 per square foot.
Wood countertop design can be hard to resist. It has a charming, almost friendly, look and finished appeal – more like a piece of furniture than a kitchen surface. And you don’t have to go all the way – consider mixing in a section of wood block, among other countertop materials, as a designated cutting board/prep station for the serious home cook.
Wood countertops are constructed in three ways:
- Edge Grain: Boards are placed sideways and glued together; Edge grain is ideal for large surfaces, like islands.
- End Grain: Blocks of wood are glued together in a grid pattern; End grain works particularly well at prep areas as it’s great for cutting on.
- Face Grain:Boards are laid flat and glued together); Face grain is better for less-busy spots, like a bar top.
Wood is easy to install (professional installation is recommended), sustainable, durable and can be recycled, but do note it will expand and contract slightly (like hardwood floors do). Unfinished wood requires monthly oiling (factory-finished ones however, need no maintenance) and options and prices (from $20 to $70 per square foot) abound.
Wood countertop cost: $20-$70 per square foot.
This once maligned countertop design material is having a design moment. No longer seen as retro, laminate is made modern with chic patterns (some mimic marble) and improved finishes on edging – no more laminate peeling away at the seams of the countertop’s edges as was common in the past.
Laminate countertops are super affordable (starting as low as $10 per square foot), easy to install (we recommend leaving it to a pro) and come in countless colours and patterns. It can also be mixed with more expensive countertop design materials for a layered look. While it can chip or peel up and might not pack the resale value that stone does, it is a viable, easy option that’s popping up in more and more homes, even designer ones.
Laminate countertop cost: $10-$40 per square foot.
Read also: Budget kitchen renovation trends
Concrete, one of the more trendy countertop ideas, channels a cool, contemporary look. It’s not something you see in every kitchen and its impressive presence comes at a cost (up to $150 per square foot). Concrete is durable (it is, after all, used to make sidewalks) but it can crack and will show scratches and stains. It is also extremely heavy so needs to be professionally installed and sealed at installation. On the aesthetic side, it can be fitted to any size and exudes a high-end, almost-bespoke designer look.
Concrete countertop cost: $70-$150 per square foot
Kitchen counters are more than just form and function. Sure, they could be great for resale value, but they should also reflect your style, whether with Old-World marble patina, hyper contemporary stainless steel or earthy, elegant soapstone. Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Happiness is a small house with a big kitchen.” He could have added, “with great countertop design.”
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This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.