10 Popular Kitchen Benchtop Options, Compared!

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10 Popular Kitchen Benchtop Options, Compared!

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10 Popular Kitchen Benchtop Options, Compared!

Interiors

Lauren Li

Inside the recently retrofitted apartments inside the Wilam Ngarrang building, designed by Kennedy Nolan. Handles are recycled Venetian blinds by Studio Shields. Photo – Eve Wilson

Working with environmental consultants Finding Infinity and architects Kennedy Nolan, Tripple have created Australia’s ‘first energy-plus retrofit’ — an apartment building that generates more energy than the renters inside need, thanks to a 33kW rooftop solar system. Photo – Eve Wilson

A rich red colour palette brings a modern personality into the new kitchen. Photo – Eve Wilson

Birch plywood timber cabinetry with figured eucalyptus veneer from Plyco. Hardwax oil timber finish from Wittle Wax. ‘Cloud’ Decoply Benchtop from Plyco. Photo – Eve Wilson

The kitchen in this apartment was completely gutted and designed to be a new mid-century-inspired version complete with laminate benchtops, timber cabinetry, and bright yellow floors. Photo – Eve Wilson

Laminate

It appears that laminate is experiencing a renaissance!

First things first, what actually is laminate? Essentially, it’s coated paper. No, really! Laminate is a surface material made from paper, coated in a layer of plastic or other protective finish. The result is a versatile, hard-wearing and flexible substrate that can be used for various interior applications. In the case of benchtops, the laminate surface is adhered to a board such as particleboard or MDF.

The colours available are extensive and quite beautiful. Laminate can also be bent around soft curves — showing just how versatile this material is when used creatively. It’s widely available, easy for most cabinetmakers to install, and gives you maximum bang for your buck.

Laminates are available in a huge variety of colours and designs — including solid colours, wood grains and imitation stone. Remember, laminate is made from coated paper, so, when you’re looking at a woodgrain laminate, this is not real timber, but a surface that is printed/designed to look just like timber.

Laminates are hardwearing, budget-friendly, but not invincible. Avoid putting hot pots directly on laminate surfaces, and keep an eye on joins, especially near sinks. Not all laminates are created equal!

Brands include Laminex, Formica, Polytec and the lesser-known; Abet Laminati, Admira and Duropal.

Hanging shelf with integrated uplight designed by The Flaming Beacon and Layan, and manufactured by Rock Martin. Timber panels are American oak veneer by Allboard, with Osmocoat natural oil finish. All joinery custom designed by Layan. Photo – Eve Wilson. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Kitchen cabinetry from Ikea. Shelf by Neighbourhood Studio. Painting by Ton Gerrand. Small bowls by Penelope Duke Ceramics. Large bowls and planter by Benna co. Photo – Eve Wilson. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The custom, 3.8 metre-long, recycled hardwood bench made by builder Luke Walsh of Four Elements Carpentry makes this family’s weekends spent preserving produce and making pasta both fun and functional—perfect for a mini production line!  Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Customised timber joinery by Carpentry by Stu. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Timber

A timber benchtop is a classic choice that suits a wide variety of spaces. However, they can vary substantially in cost, depending on the type of timber, and construction of the benchtop.

A benchtop crafted from long pieces of high quality timber such as American Oak isn’t cheap. Benchtops like this don’t come ‘off the shelf’ either, they’re one-of-a-kind. You will need a cabinetmaker to create this, which involves hand selecting the timber pieces and glueing them together with minimal joins, before thicknessing and sanding down your benchtop to the perfect size and finish, and often staining or applying a coating to the benchtop to seal it.

A more affordable option is buying a ready-made timber benchtop from somewhere like Ikea or Kaboodle (via Bunnings). These timber benchtops are usually made from solid pieces of plantation timber, but typically patchworked together using quite short timber lengths, which means more joins on the surface of your benchtop. This is still a great option if you’re keen on a solid timber look, but you’re working to a budget.

A timber-look benchtop can also be achieved using timber grain laminate surface, as outlined above.

Keep in mind water can affect solid timber benchtops, which can be problematic around the sink area. Timber can also be affected by heat, and it will scratch over time. But don’t be too precious — it’s all part of the rustic charm and texture of real timber.

Porter’s Paints Volcanic Ash features on the cabinetry, with brass hardware, and engineered stone benchtops that bounce light around the room. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming

‘I used a standard off-the-shelf kitchen from Kaboodle for the main kitchen, but by painting the doors and adding a thin slimline trim, it helped elevate the project to look custom and bespoke,’ says Jono of the cabinetry. Photo – Jacqui Turk. Styling – Jono Fleming

&Tradition Setago Table Lamp. Kitchen painted Dulux Tranquil Retreat. Photo – Eve Wilson. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The light engineered stone benchtops allow the eye to focus on the scenes through the windows. Photo – Eve Wilson. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Engineered Stone

Since I started writing this story the landscape has changed around using engineered stone. So unless you’ve been living under a rock (pun intended) then you may have heard that there are some big problems around the fabrication of engineered stone. Engineered stone is a composite slab of stone that in generally made from around 90 per cent crushed quartz, bonded together using polymer resin.

There have been concerns about the health impacts of respirable crystalline silica dust, especially for workers who cut, grind, or polish these surfaces, leading to the call to ban this product or at the least, the need for low-silica alternatives.

Engineered stone has been used widely as a less porous and cost effective alternative to natural stone, but with its potential ban, there will be a huge gap in the market. Times are changing. Watch this space!

Bottom vase by Memor. Photo– Jack Lovel. Stylist – Amy Collins-Walker

Terrazzo used in this kitchen is Palladio Moro by Santa Margherita and imported from Italy by Adelaide Marble Specialists. Laminex cabinetry in Impressions Black 460. Photo– Jack Lovel. Stylist – Amy Collins-Walker

Kitchen joinery in Dulux Kimberley Tree. Ceramic mugs by Bridget Bodenham, Ghost Wares, Arcadia Scott, Peta Armstrong, Kate Bowman, Susan Simonini, and Katia Carletti. Resin bowl by Dinosaur Designs. Terrazzo stone countertops in Anglesea from De Fazio Tiles & Stone. Wall paint colour in Dulux Beige Royal Quarter. Victorian ash flooring. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Kitchen joinery in Dulux Kimberley Tree. Terrazzo stone countertops in Anglesea from De Fazio Tiles & Stone. Wall paint colour in Dulux Beige Royal Quarter. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Soft terrazzo benchtops in this kitchen pair beautifully with the light timber ceiling and floors. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The subtle pattern provides just the right amount of texture and interest in the calm space. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Terrazzo

Authentic terrazzo is made from marble chips and/or other stone pieces, suspended in a cement base. Available in countless colours and styles, this surface has been enjoying huge popularity in recent years.

If you’re wondering how terrazzo wears over time, grab some pizza in one of the traditional restaurants along Lygon Street in Melbourne. The flooring that was laid in the 60s is still there – and looking great!

I love this nostalgic feeling that terrazzo has. There are some gorgeous colours to choose from with peaches and creams to earthy greys and warm terracottas. The speckled pattern makes terrazzo easy to live with — it hides the crumbs!

A terrazzo slab can be used as a benchtop but as hardwearing as it is, it is not totally indestructible. Terrazzo needs to be sealed with a penetrating sealer, much like natural stone. Some of the same issues with silica dust that are affecting engineered stone may also apply to terrazzo — although strictly speaking, ‘real’ terrazzo should be made from cement, not resin.

The tiled benchtops in this kitchen perfectly match Dulux Dollar on kitchen cabinetry. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli and Sarah Hendriks

Ceramics by Stephanie Phillips from Pepite. Dulux Dollar on kitchen cabinetry. Dulux Shire on staircase. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli and Sarah Hendriks

Kitchen island, splashback, and benchtop in DTILE tiles in Pigeon from Mondopiero; cabinetry designed by Studio Doherty; Scala horizontal sink mixer from Sussex Taps; bowls from Mud Australia; other ceramics by Vanessa Lucas from Craft Victoria. Design – Studio Doherty. Photo – Anson Smart. Styling – Sarah Weston

Island, splashback, and benchtop in DTILE tiles in Pigeon from Mondopiero; cabinetry designed by Studio Doherty; Scala horizontal sink mixer from Sussex Taps; bowls from Mud Australia; other ceramics by Vanessa Lucas from Craft Victoria; ceiling in silver top ash shiplap cladding. Design – Studio Doherty. Photo – Anson Smart. Styling – Sarah Weston

Tiles

Who else is here for the tiled benchtop comeback?

I love tiled benches because they add interest and texture  — and there are so many gorgeous options to choose from. The type of tile you choose and the size of your benchtop will largely dictate how much this option will cost.

Remember, not all grout is created equally. You need an epoxy grout because it is impervious, so nothing can be absorbed.

Concrete island bench by Steve Drain at Crete FX. Dining table and chairs from Jardan. Tiles on exhaust fan from Porcelain Bear. Artwork on by Castle via Jumbled. Artwork on bench top by Annie Everingham. Eco Brass tapware from Astra Walker. American oak stools from Didier. Photo – Louise Wellington . Styling – Jono Fleming

Concrete island bench by Steve Drain at Crete FX. Tiles on exhaust fan from Porcelain Bear. Artwork by Castle via Jumbled. Eco Brass tapware from Astra Walker. American oak stools from Didier. Photo – Louise Wellington . Styling – Jono Fleming

The custom concrete island bench made by Concrete Bespoke was craned into the home. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Oak veneer sliding doors by Loughlin Furniture. Zellij tiles from Earp Brothers. Concrete Bespoke island bench. Photo – Alisha Gore for The Design Files. Styling – Tess Thyregod

Concrete

Concrete benchtops feel solid and permanent.

Traditionally concrete benchtops can be formed and poured onsite. This means you get one shot! It can be risky, but now you can find concrete benches made off-site in molds and then flipped — this gives it a smoother finish as conditions are controlled.

Concrete by nature is porous so it needs to be sealed with protective coatings. These need to be maintained every few years if you want your benchtop to be ‘perfect’. But I’m guessing if you want to use concrete, you’re leaning into those imprefections of this industrial and strong material.

Porcelain kitchen bench. Interior Design: Chelsea Hing. Photo – Sean Fennessy. Styling – Beck Simon.

Porcelain

Porcelain panels are a relatively new benchtop surface. It’s made by compressing stone (minerals extracted from nature) at extremely high pressure. This means that it has no weak points and it’s non porous.

Scratches? Nope, not gonna happen. Stains? Don’t even think about it. And, large panel sizes mean that joins are kept to a minimum.

It has taken a while for the fabricators to become well versed in handling it as porcelain can’t be cut like stone. This means that it can be expensive to install.

It comes in solid colours, and a white porcelain benchtop stays white — it’s hard to stain.  Porcelain panels that look like natural stone are so real you’ll be doing double takes. The only giveaway? The veining doesn’t run right through the slab, because it’s a digital image printed on the surface.

Some brands to look out for are; Artedomus, Dekton and Neolith.

Central quartz island bench. Photo – Dianna Snape

Central quartz island bench. Japanese tiles by INAX. Photo – Dianna Snape

Richly veined stone is the perfect accompaniment to deep green kitchen cabinets. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Carrara marble benchtops. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli and Sarah Hendriks

Natural stone

Mother nature simply cannot be beat. There is something absolutely irresistible about running your hands across a slab of stone that comes from the earth. There is a stone to suit every taste; from the pure white of Greece’s Thasos marble to the intensity of the spider-web like veins of New York marble. Not to mention the variety available – there’s something for everyone, from pink granite, green onyx, soft travertine or classic Carrara marble.

Some stone varieties need a little extra TLC, like the soft and porous ones (marble and travertine), while others are like the rock stars of the stone world (granite and quartzite), tough and wont let stains crash their party.

The kitchen features solid American oak cabinetry and floors are also hardwood American oak sealed with Rubio Monocoat. Stools by Grazia&coSteel bench top made from handcrafted 8mm thick rolled steel. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Stainless steel benchtop. Painting by Valda Rubio. Brass vase by legend Anna Varandorff / ACV Studio. Blue vase by Iittala. Soap Club on the sink. Two ceramic vessels by Simone Karras. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli.

Stainless steel also features on the kitchen island benchtop. Photo – Amelia Stanwix. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli.

Stainless Steel

If you’re in it for the long haul, stainless steel is your ride-or-die.

Yes, it scratches, but that’s part of its charm. Sheryl Crow said it best, the first cut is the deepest. When the bench top is all shiny and brand new, the first few scratches will hurt. But over time the entire benchtop will show an overall softly brushed appearance – lean into this, the scratches are actually part of the beauty of the material. It’s called patina and we love it.

Other benefits include no risk of staining, it’s heat resistant and hygienic.

But, stainless steel can be expensive because of the fabrication costs – each benchtop is custom made just for your kitchen. And, it can be extremely glary when the light hits it.

In this kitchen white acrylic benchtops provide the perfect neutral backdrop! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli and Sarah Hendriks

Framed artwork by Matlok Griffiths. 1960s lamp bought in Pitigliano, Italy. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli and Sarah Hendriks

Ikea kitchen cabinets with fronts from Ren Studio. Handles from Linear Standard. Alessi coffee pot. Ella Reweti vase. Tiles from National Tiles. Butter dish from Cibi. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Ikea kitchen cabinets with fronts from Ren Studio. Handles from Linear Standard. Alessi coffee pot. Ella Reweti vase. Tiles from National Tiles. Butter dish from Cibi. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Acrylic

Solid acrylic surfaces are sometimes known as the brand name Corian or Hi-Macs. Essentially, they are a solid plastic surface.

An almost seamless surface can be achieved with the solid acrylic sheets glued together resulting in near invisible joins. Even the kitchen sink can be integrated into the benchtop surface for one continuous smooth surface. It feels lovely and smooth to touch. It’s ideal for the perfectionist that likes a clean smooth surface.

Even better, it’s non-porous. So that means that stains can’t penetrate the surface. Solid acrylic can scratch, however if there is damage to the surface these can be buffed off and repaired.

Acrylic is not commonly used as a kitchen benchtop material as it can be cost prohibitive. I prefer the solid colours that don’t try to imitate real stone. White, creams, speckles or the bold colours come up so beautifully.



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