Box™ interior designer Sam Elliot thinks she has the best job in the company. She gets to work with clients helping them to choose a material palette for the kitchen – and often gets invited around for dinner for her efforts! Here she gives her views on the best options in benchtops.
Our Number One material choice for benchtops. At Box™, we tend to use Silestone because they offer a good range of colours and no other company does a matte finish. Depending on the colour (black is an exception), matte-finish benchtops are much easier to keep clean. Silestone is made up on 94% quartz and the company has been around for 25 years, so they’re reliable.
Engineered stone comes with a polished surface, or a suede (matte) finish. It’s not necessarily cheaper than real stone (say granite), unless you go for the cheaper options. We don’t advise that because less-expensive versions can chip easily.
Dekton is an engineered stone (the marketers call it an ‘ultracompact surface’), with a component of recycled materials. It’s a state-of-the-art product that is super strong, scratch- and UV-resistant and can take heat up to 600 degrees C! The fact that you can plonk a hot pot down on it without fear is one reason we love for benchtops – another is that the colour never fades. Dekton comes in 15 colours and in large format so it can be shaped to bring the beauty of seamless design to your benchtop.
People tend to have a love/hate relationship with stainless steel. It’s a product that comes in three finishes: classic, linen and brushed. The advantage of the linen finish (which looks like it has a weave through it), is that it doesn’t show up fingerprints or scratch as easily, but it is more expensive. In my opinion, when a brushed surface gets scratches on it, they look out of place whereas the classic finish stands the test of time. You have to be patient though: a classic finish looks great in the first two weeks you have it, then it gets scratch and finally, after three years or so, it takes on a lovely patina of age.
Non-porous (and so super hygienic) and also seamless, acrylic surfaces such as Corian have the added advantage of being able to be re-buffed down the track should they become scratched or stained. They’re actually a plastic, so can look cheap and nasty if you opt for a lesser-quality version. Acrylics can be shaped so you can mould a sink and drainage board insert directly into the benchtop. More expensive than engineered stone.
Granite and marble
Unless you have sourced a particular piece – a beautifully veined slab that has won your heart – we don’t usually recommend granite because, believe it or not, it’s not as strong as engineered stone and needs to have seams or joins which can look unsightly. Granite is scratch and bacteria resistant although, being a natural product, it can stain and needs to be regularly resealed. Marble can be elegant and beautiful, but it’s a relatively soft stone that stains easily (especially with lemon juice). If you’re precious about your benchtop, I’d opt for something less prone to this.
These are a budget option that Box seldom recommends. One good trick with a laminate bench is to choose a dark grey laminate and then incorporate a stainless-steel edge which tricks the eye into seeing the top surface as stainless, too.
Since timber warps and cracks with exposure to moisture, we don’t recommend it as a kitchen benchtop surface especially in a home that has a clean-lined, contemporary aesthetic. It is also dents and chips easily.
Industrial in style, concrete benchtops suit the modernist design of Box™ homes, but they are heavy so the floor structure and cabinetry need to be up to the job.
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