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Consumers are increasingly looking to architects and interior designers, and the sources that they use, to maximise the spaces they live and work in. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the kitchen. A design professional will emphasise the importance of choosing the right material for the worktop – a decision that can transform a kitchen design. The worktop is one of the first things you notice when walking into a kitchen and certainly one of the first things you touch.
As the kitchen and dining space becomes more open and flexible, the worktop has evolved beyond its purpose as a food preparation area. It is now a prominent design feature that should blend fluidly into the interior style of your home. But buyers need to consider durability, maintenance and cost as well as aesthetics. With so many options beyond conventional laminates, this is our Shaws of Darwen guide to choosing the perfect surface to complement your fireclay sink.
Nothing says luxe more than marble. Especially when marble is paired with an on-trend matching splashback. As minimalism took hold in the kitchen, marble was often rejected as ostentatious. Now recognised as a timeless material that can suit any style, marble’s natural beauty is the perfect partner to bold colour palettes and warm honey-hued woods with metallic accessories.
Pros: Stratospheric style rating! Will stand the test of time. A cool surface for budding bakers and passionate patissiers. There is now a lot of choice in the market, and some truly stunning marble grains.
Cons: It’s a natural, porous material so needs sealing. Runs the risk of red wine damage. Cost can be prohibitive for large areas.
Design detail: Marble is typically matched with an undermounted fireclay sink, but why not consider a sink with a decorative front, such as Shaws Entwhistle? If your budget can’t quite stretch to using marble for all surfaces, it can provide a real standout feature on an island unit when combined with another material.
A cost-effective alternative to marble that can provide a seamless one-piece worktop. Corian is a hard-wearing composite material that offers an understated look ideal for both contemporary kitchens and period properties. We especially love a chalk white or dove grey tone partnered with a Hague Blue matt cabinet and brass accessories. When combined with our Pendle sink, this smooth contemporary surface perfectly complements our sleek design classic and results in crisp, clean lines.
Pros: Affordable, fully customisable and super-stylish! Repairable if damaged. Drainage grooves can be added to sink areas.
Cons: Although heat resistant, Corian may get damaged by very hot pans being placed directly onto surfaces.
Design detail: Corian can be shaped to any design, so why not add gentle curves to an island unit, and fit a Round undermounted sink?
The beauty of stone never falls out of fashion. Its natural veining and colouration means that every kitchen is unique. Traditionally used with a high gloss shine, more designers are now specifying a honed matt finish to give a subtle, contemporary feel.
Pros: Every worktop is a one-off. Granite is of course extremely durable. It can withstand high temperatures and is easily cleaned with a damp cloth once treated and sealed.
Cons: Granite needs sealing every 10 years. If this seems like a tad too much like hard work, then perhaps opting for a composite quartz surface such as Silestone might be more up your street.
Design detail: The natural durability of granite is reflected in any Shaws fireclay sink, but here we would choose one of the most traditional and iconic designs, the Shaws Belfast.
If you have a particular aesthetic in mind but covet peace of mind and a hard-wearing material, some of the new ultra-compact composite materials are worth considering. For example, Dekton (by Cosentino) offers high resistance to scratches, staining and heat, and has a wide selection of designs to imitate a range of materials such as marble, wood and even aged metals. Popular with professional chefs and hotels due to its longevity, and increasingly popular with interior designers for its variety of finishes, such as the ultra-luxe high shine.
Pros: Incredibly hardwearing, no on-going maintenance required and can be fabricated for a unique look to suit your desired kitchen style. A step up from Corian in looks and performance.
Cons: At the top end of the worktop market, but its qualities can make it a worthwhile investment.
Design detail: Complete the luxury look by choosing our oversized Butler 1000 sink.
A solid wood worktop is incredibly tactile. In a kitchen it adds warmth and a richness of character particularly when partnered with a cooler colour scheme. Strong, resilient and hard-wearing, solid wood worktops emphasise tradition and craftsmanship. With so many tones and woods to choose from offering unique textures and grains, this material can really bring a kitchen to life, as well as tying together the flooring and other features such as shelving. It’s the chameleon of materials, great for a more traditional look but also for giving minimal kitchens an industrial edge and bringing warmth to a Scandi-inspired space.
Pros: Natural beauty and craftsmanship. Hard-wearing, and easily sanded and repaired when necessary. Develops more character over time. Hard wood from sustainable sources is an environmentally friendly choice.
Cons: It does need some TLC and regular maintenance to keep it pristine (wood is porous so needs sealing). Will dent if you drop heavy, sharp objects.
Design detail: Match our traditional Shaws Longridge sink with an integrated fluted drainer to protect the wood from the damage that standing water can cause.
Poured polished concrete work surfaces are not only robust but provide an elegant and sophisticated mood in your kitchen. They are custom made so fit perfectly and the depth can be played with to create weight and impact. They are desirable in not only an industrial urban loft look but also a luxurious period renovation.
Pros: Fully bespoke including colours, integrated drainers and splashbacks. Concrete isn’t the greenest material, but with care will last forever.
Cons: Concrete can stain but it is repairable (we personally like them a little worn and marked with use!). Requires specialist installation, and can be expensive.
Design detail: Although conventionally concrete is often paired with stainless sink sinks, a fireclay sink adds contrast and warmth. We would recommend a sink with a lip that sits proud of the surface, such as the Shaws Inset.
For those seeking a bolder style statement need look no further than metallics. A copper surface and matching splashback could provide the perfect backdrop to your carefully-curated kitchen. Stainless steel provides a clean, practical and professional kitchen feel to complement an industrial design vibe. Match it with a double-bowl inset sink, such as Shaws Brindle. Both offer stand-out-from-the-crowd features to grace any kitchen - go on, we dare you!
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