The kitchen: it's the heart of the home, where meals are prepared and confidences shared. The right worktops can make a world of difference to a kitchen's look and feel, whether those worktops are laminate, quartz, granite, wood, glass, steel or composite. With so much choice at your disposal, however, just how do you decide?
In no particular order, you need to consider colour and shade, texture, durability, and cost. All will vary depending on your circumstances. If you're planning on staying in your home long-term, how important is durability to you? Stainless steel, for instance, offers great hygiene and durability, but has a tendency to scratch over time, even if you do what some advise and treat it with baby oil occasionally. If you're installing a kitchen in a house or apartment that you're planning to rent out, then practicality and cost may be the most important factors - in which case laminate is a sensible option.
You need to consider the overall style of your house too. If your home suits more traditional kitchen designs and is in a charming cottage in the Cotswolds, then wood or granite will preserve the ambience far better than glass or stainless steel. Granite or glass worktops, on the other hand, are probably not a good idea in a modern block of flats where walls are thin and sound-proofing non-existent - just imagine the resonance of a blender or bread maker on those worktops.
You also need to take into account the climate of the county where you live. If you live in an area of high humidity or a location prone to flooding, then wood is probably not the best choice.
Your choice of colour will also affect the worktop fabric you can choose. If you're going for a 1970s retro look in green and orange, then you need to choose a substance that comes in those colours - glass won't do, but one of the excellent acrylics will be perfect.
You need, too, to consider lighting when choosing your worktops. If your kitchen is short on natural light, maximize any available light by choosing glass, steel or other reflective worktops. In a sunny south-facing room, on the other hand, dark wood or granite won't be too overwhelming.
For day-to-day practicality, think about where the worktops are located, and the type of food preparation they'll be used for. Ideally, elbow height should be a few inches above the worktops - ideal for you to work on providing great family meals, haute cuisine, or at the very least, a frothy cappuccino for a friend who's just called by to admire your great new kitchen.