The Best Materials for Your Kitchen Countertops

With the seemingly endless material and finish options, selecting a countertop for your kitchen can quickly become overwhelming. To help you navigate the daunting field, we asked Mick de Giulio of Chicago-based de Giulio Kitchen Design to weigh in. Heralded as a kitchen and bath design leader by Interior Design magazine, the designer, who created House Beautiful's 2012 Kitchen of the Year, knows what it takes to create a beautiful and highly functioning space. Read on for his top material picks for all your countertop needs. _1

The Short of It: A classification of stone similar to a marble but heartier, most often available in white or gray tones. Perfect For: Anyone, anywhere. Perk: Won't show stains or marks. Draw Back: Patinas over time. Maintenance Level: Low Investment: High Expert Take: "It's a gorgeous material that looks like an onyx and is a great substitute for more high-maintenance natural stones."


Material: Stainless Steel The Short of It: Available in a variety of finishes providing multiple different looks, this professional material will look best with a lightly brushed finish, giving it a less industrial look. Perfect For: The prep areas of germaphobes. Perk: Practical for a kitchen, anti-bacterial, heat resistant, and easy to clean. Draw Back: Scratches and marks easily. Maintenance Level: Low Investment: Moderate Expert Take: "While it does scratch, these imperfections develop into a beautiful patina over time. It looks best two to three years after installation."


The Short of It: A warm, neutral material which, when treated properly, adds a beautiful texture to a space. Perfect For: Butler's pantries, bars, or eating surfaces for families. Perk: Won't dull or damage knives; provides a classic and timeless look. Draw Back: Requires regular sealing and proper finishing to stop absorption. Maintenance Level: High Investment: Moderate to high Expert Take: "I love using this with a hand-scraped finish on eating surfaces, like the end of an island. The warmth it provides is perfect for resting arms."


The Short of It: A man-made material with the look and feel of natural stone, available in a variety of colors and finishes. Perfect For: High-use areas. Perk: Heat, stain, and scratch resistant. Draw Back: Though it comes close, it won't ever perfectly mimic the look of natural stone. Maintenance Level: Low Investment: Moderate to high Expert Take: "I'm typically not one to use fake finishes, but with the look and feel of natural stone, the popularity of quartz makes it the fastest-growing countertop option."

For more kitchen design inspiration, check out our Kitchens Board on Pinterest and make sure to follow DomaineHome for a daily dose of pinsperation. _sig Photographs: Michael Graydon for House and Home, Ben Gebo, via Decorahhh, Trevor Tondro, Sage Design, Michael Graydon for House and HomeSarah Sherman Samuel, de Giulio Kitchen Design photographed by Chris Eckert for House Beautiful, Elissa Toews.