The countertop is the pivotal material in the kitchen. It is the most frequently observed item in the kitchen and should provide inspiration with every glance. Choose wisely.

There are a lot of man-made stone composites used for kitchen countertops. Such composites are made from acrylic, resin or marble dust, and are often very energy intensive to manufacture. They have many properties that make them practical: hard wearing, indestructible, non-staining, germ resistant, easily repaired. And, in many cases, it is hard to tell them from the real thing. There are also wood tops (not at all practical), cement, stainless, terrazzo, tile (the grout can get nasty) and finally, the ’50s favorite, formica.

However, none of the above quite match the priceless beauty of a slab of natural stone, especially if it is 3 cm thick or thicker. Despite the fact that real stone can easily stain and needs extra care with quick wipes from spills, lemon juice and red wine, I find there is a special alchemy in natural material. It is the connector between upper and lower cabinets, the thread that allows kitchen details to be painted different colors, defines the style and color palette of the area, and in many ways, informs the backsplash choice.

I especially love stones with active surfaces. You can almost feel the magic of the mountains in materials that have significant veining and multiple colors. That color variation and striation makes for great conversation about the choice you have made and how it connects to the backsplash, color of the cabinetry, and ultimately, alignment of the kitchen to adjacent rooms.

My advice: Get out of your comfort zone and dependence upon white as a countertop. There are so many fabulous stones, each with its own personality, energy and inspiration.

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