04 Mar 2015

Your guide to kitchen worktops

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Worktops are the crucial accessory of the kitchen. Much like combining the wrong coloured handbag or shoes with an outfit may ruin the ensemble, mismatch your worktop and cabinets and the kitchen could loose its style. Here, Kevin Buchanan – Design Director of independent kitchen designer and retailer, Kitchen International – offers guidance to discover what worktop will work best in your new kitchen.

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Kevin begins: “When I began designing kitchens over 20 years ago the choice and material for worktops was very limited. Now the quality and choice is huge and each one caters for its function. For example, a food prep area requires a different worktop to that of a breakfast bar.

“The newest materials available today are engineered stones such as Dekton and Silestone, which are not only hard wearing but also sleek, stylish and come in a myriad of colours and patterns.”

First of all, consider what the worktop will be used for. Its function determines the type of worksurfaces suitable. Bear in mind that it is usually worth combining at least two, if not three, varieties of worksurface within the same kitchen. Most importantly a worktop should be durable, but durability does not mean compromising on style or colour. Remember also that, after the floor, the worktop gets the hardest use in a kitchen.

Kevin continues: “In the past, choices between natural or man-made materials came in at opposite ends of the pricing spectrum. Now, with the advance in worktop technology, there are composite options that are just as hard wearing as stone, available in varying colours and patterns with a consistent look. A quality worktop will enhance an affordable kitchen, while cheaper options may risk aesthetics. Ensure your worktop is resistant to scratches, staining and heat and is preferably non porous. Always touch, see and feel the worktop to ensure it is what you want. If possible, talk to an experienced kitchen designer and installer to template and fit your worktop.”

Next, ensure your worktop is easily cleaned. It is a large visual area in the kitchen and – where time is often at a premium – easy maintenance is key. Rarely will just one worktop satisfy a large kitchen design, so zoning is important and also helps budget stretch further. Choose a hard wearing material beside sinks and in food preperation areas, and opt for acrylics, laminates or wood elsewhere. Glass works well at breakfast bars and dining areas.

What worktop, where?
Granite

is the most popular and strongest of natural stone choices but is declining in popularity as the quality and choice of composites overtakes. Granite is low-maintenance, although wine and citric spills must be mopped up immediately. It will require sealing but is water resistant.

Corian

and other solid surfaces with a high acrylic content can be thermoformed into almost any shape, allowing for sinks that are integrated with a stylish, seamless finish. This material is hygienic, easy to care for and comes in a variety of thickness and colours, so can be easily coordinated with kitchen cabinets. It is ideal as one complete worktop as well as hob splashbacks.

Composite

is an ideal choice if you want consistency, stain resistance and anti-bacterial qualities. Currently on-trend, it is a practical and beautiful choice that can be used anywhere – including next to hobs and around the sink. However, it can come with a higher price tag. Dramatic colours such as dark grey and blue look fabulous in modern and contemporary kitchens, while more traditional designs call for neutrals, such as cream. It is easy to clean, very tough and more durable than many natural stones – perfect for kitchens that want uniformity across one or several rooms.

Laminate

is now manufactured in a high pressure environment making it far more durable than in the past. It is convenient and easy to fit – no need to template – and is good value for money. It can also be manufactured to match the cabinetry for a monochrome or uniform look. However, it is not resistant to heat or steam, nor can it be used as a cutting surface.

Ceramic

is a relatively new option, but as it can be formed in very thin layers it is growing in popularity for those who want super-thin surfaces that wrap around cabinetry. It is highly scratch-resistant and can also be used to clad doors, providing flowing continuity to an island or bank of cabinets.

Hardwood

has a softer look and is perfect for dining areas, islands and breakfast bars. Hardwood can be incorporated into a contemporary scheme using glass or stainless steel to add a warm feel. A downside of wood is that it can be easily stained or scratched and requires more maintenance.

Glass

gives a modern, contemporary look and bounces light around the room, making the kitchen seem larger. It is best suited for focal-point breakfast bars or as a feature worktop in small kitchens to increase the feeling of space. To add extra light and style it can be lit from below to create an atmospheric focus.

Stainless Steel

creates an industrial look, which is much favoured by professional cooks and chefs. Avoid using throughout the kitchen as it can give a harsh, cold look. It is easy to clean and has no joints for dirt to accumulate.

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