Your guide to luxury benchtops

Luxury kitchen benchtops are one of the most important elements of any kitchen, framing the space and contributing to the overall aesthetic. Therefore, it’s essential to choose wisely, ensuring that the end result not only looks good, but is seamlessly functional.

Modern kitchens are now home to a wide range of benchtop materials, ranging from laminate and timber to marble and stone. When choosing your preferred material, it’s important to understand its benefits, costs and potential aesthetic to ensure the end result is one you can enjoy for many years to come.

Laminate

Having fallen out of style, laminate is now firmly back in fashion, thanks to advances in technology and the introduction of contemporary styles. It is now one of the most affordable and versatile options on the market, available in a wide range of colours and finishes. It allows you to emulate timber or stone styles, or introduce a little colour –  how you use it is completely up to you.

New versions of laminate are built to last, with an average lifespan of 10 years. In Australia, they are also protected by the strict standards that manufacturers must adhere to, covering fire resistance and wear and tear. Coupled with its easy installation, repair and replacement procedures, it’s a fantastic option for those looking for a flexible and low maintenance option for their luxury benchtops.

Engineered stone

As the name suggests, engineered stone is a man-made material that is made by combining quartz and granite parts with resins and pigments. The result is a scratch-, dent-, abrasion- and acid-resistant material that presents the effects of natural marble or granite, without the higher price tag. Engineered stone products are most commonly spoken about through their brand names – you may have heard of Caesarstone, Silestone or Smartstone.

As it is a man-made product, engineered stone is more versatile than natural options – it’s available in a wide range of tones as the manufacturers can add colourants to achieve the ideal end look. It maintains the same texture as slate and granite, so if kept in a neutral colour, most untrained eyes wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between engineered and natural stones.

The nature of engineered stone also makes it more durable – it is comparable in hardness to natural granite and won’t crack as easily as slate. It’s also heat- and stain-resistant and non-porous, making it easy to clean. As quartz is readily available, engineered stone benchtops are often more affordable than their natural stone counterparts.

Timber

Fans of the country-style kitchen may be looking to timber for their luxury benchtops, as it gives the space a rustic and warm look and feel. It’s also an incredibly unique option – the naturally occurring variations in texture and colour means no other benchtop will look the same as yours.

Solid timber benchtops are created from laminated strips or recycled pieces of timber. In Australia, we’re lucky to have a huge range of timbers available, including Jarrah, Oak and Ash, meaning there are plenty of styles to choose from. Thanks to the ubiquity of the material, they are more generally affordable than both natural and engineered stone but more expensive than laminate.

As timber is a softer material than stone, your benchtop may be liable to scratches, chipping and staining. These can add to the individual nature of your kitchen and add to the rustic aesthetic, but over time, may need addressing. Luckily, the process is quite simple – all that’s required is a light sand and new coat of sealant. The easy maintenance process means timber benchtops often outlast their stone counterparts. That said, we don’t suggest using timber benchtops around a high-moisture area, as they may absorb water and end up cracking.

Marble

For a stunning and timeless finish, it’s hard to look past the natural beauty of marble for your benchtops. It’s a naturally occurring material that starts its life as a metamorphic rock, transforming in a beautiful stone after the application of heat and pressure. The result is incredibly elegant and diverse, with the naturally occurring variations in the veining meaning no two marble benchtops look the same.

The nature of its formation means marble is naturally heat resistant and doesn’t conduct heat, resulting in a cool surface all year round. It is also softer than other stone options, making it easier to manipulate to the shape you’re after. However, this softness also makes marble vulnerable to chipping and scratching.

Unfortunately, its metamorphic beginning also makes marble porous, which means liquids and bacteria can seep through. It can also be affected by acidic materials, such as red wine and citric fruits, as when they come into contact with the material, they cause a chemical reaction that leaves a dull mark, called an etch. However, using a premium sealant before installation can prevent this.

The cost of marble depends on the type you choose. Carrara marble, which features grey tones with softer veins, is a very affordable natural countertop option, but the likes of Calacatta marble, which features a whiter surface and dramatic veining, can be at the more expensive end of benchtops, thanks to its rarity.

Find more kitchen inspiration

Explore the range of luxury benchtops currently on the market at The Kitchen Collective showroom. Our expert team of interior designers will guide you through our curated selection of suppliers, answering any questions you may have along the way. Book your appointment.