Choosing the Right Countertops and Kitchen Surfaces

We break down each of the main countertop choices for you. Counter intelligence made simple.

countertops baking on marble

Shop for countertops, and the options can seem overwhelming. But if you really boil it down, there are just a handful of materials—granite, marble, quartzite and quartz.

Since the magic happens on these surfaces, you need to figure out what’s best for you (and your home). Consider your overall kitchen design but also your needs and habits. Are you one of those who does your food prep directly on the countertops, for instance? Does everyone gather around the island when you entertain, red wine glass in hand? Do you bake often?

Here are the basics:

Types of Countertops


Widely found through stone specialists, home centers and kitchen showrooms, granite countertops come in a wide array of colors—from deep emeralds and variegated browns to light-flecked blacks and salmon-toned pinks. It’s great for the sous chef who cuts directly on the surface and those who move hot plates from stove to counter. In terms of design, however, it doesn’t offer many light-colored options.


Softer than granite and with far fewer color options, marble makes an excellent surface for frequent bakers and those who make pasta from scratch because marble stays cold. Marble also scars easily (the grain can be lifted by a squeeze of lemon juice), but the natural stone, which is more expensive than others, can be resurfaced by a professional to restore it to its original unmarred state.


A synthetic, nonporous material made in a factory from stone chips, resins and pigment, quartz shrugs off stains and never has to be sealed. This material works well in a kitchen that multitasks since it can withstand almost anything—including up to 300 degrees of direct heat. While its durability might be a draw for some, others who long for the look of natural stone might not love quartz’s uniform patterns—though companies have gotten pretty good at mimicking Mother Nature’s spread of color and unique sparkle.


Similar to granite, this quarried stone is hardy and durable—good for cooks who make their surfaces work—but comes in the variegated patterns of marble, an alluring combination for kitchen remodels. It still requires some care in terms of protecting it against wine, citrus, coffee and other would-be stains so it may not be the best option for the perennial entertainer, unless, of course, you’re willing to keep up the maintenance of re-sealing your countertops.

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