The natural color and veining of marble, like the white Carrara, is unparalleled in either nature or manmade products. A longtime favorite for drugstore counters and restaurant bars, marble is a traditional choice that will not lose its design appeal. Marble will patina over time; consider a honed finish and be sure to talk with your installer or retailer about a sealant to prevent stains.
If you're looking for a countertop that is especially efficient when it comes to food prep, choose butcher block. This popular work surface—which doubles as a cutting board—is durable, easy to care for, and coordinates with a variety of styles. If you're using butcher block with stained wood cabinetry, consider coupling it with a second light-hued countertop—as illustrated here—to break up the expanse of wood.
Timeless in both style and substance, wood countertops are also made to last a lifetime, thanks in part to the ability to refinish their surfaces as needed. Traditional rich, grained woods such as walnut and cherry make great options. Bamboo is another popular—and equally durable—choice that can lend a slightly more modern feel to your space. Wood's natural beauty can coordinate with the aesthetics of a warm-hued space or contrast with a white room.
Over the past two decades, granite has quickly risen to the top of the list for countertop materials. Many homeowners value its lasting durability, resistance to heat and scratches, and the fact that it's naturally occurring in a variety of palettes. Granite countertops are available in both polished and honed finishes, and need to be resealed at least once per year for maximum endurance.
Solid-surface countertops are usually engineered from acrylics and resin. One of their greatest benefits is a seamless appearance; for example, if you want a backsplash made from the same material, fabricators can craft one that will roll seamlessly from the countertop to the wall. Solid-surface countertops are also low maintenance, easy to repair (they may even come with a warranty), and available in a variety of colors.
When it comes to durability, quartz surfaces stand out as one of the toughest. Though manmade, they are constructed mostly from ground quartz, giving them a resilience that's unsurpassed. What's more, because the substance is ground, they are available in a variety of patterns, colors, and finishes. If you like the look of natural materials but want to control the color and design of your countertop, quartz may be for you.