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Marble countertops are more or less a staple of most modern-day kitchens. But despite the material’s sheer elegance and potential to boost your home’s value, it comes with quite a few cons: It stains and scratches easily, not to mention it’s costly. So before you commit to a slab of Carrara, do some shopping around first.

There is a near limitless array of creative ways to outfit your counters: concrete, stainless steel, stained oak veneer—the list goes on. Whether you’re in the market for something low-maintenance or simply want to spend less, these countertop ideas will inspire you to think outside the box and, in some cases, beyond the quarry.


Most people’s biggest beef with marble is that it stains (one lemon or a drop of red wine will leave a permanent mark). Autumn Hachey’s clients in Balm Beach, Ontario, shared this fear, so their designer found them a material that only looks like Calacatta—it’s actually a thick slab of printed porcelain that’s resilient and resistant to marks.


If you can’t make your mind up about what countertop material to go with, then terrazzo is probably your answer. It consists of chips of marble, quartz, granite, glass, and other materials, which give the composite its distinct speckled appearance. When designer Hillary Rielly ended up with slabs of this Max Lamb–designed terrazzo, she had to figure out how to make the most of the surface: A statement island is always the answer. 

Zellige Tile

Tile countertops aren’t just a relic of the 1960s. Some homeowners are opting for the unconventional surface—even with trendy textured zellige tile. Sure, the grout lines and bumps aren’t as easy to wipe down as, say, quartzite, but a little extra cleaning is worth it if you’re a sucker for character. 


Soapstone is pricey, but its lustrous, rich color and silky-smooth texture are two reasons why homeowners like baker Ashley Illchuk are willing to splurge. To help compensate for the price, Illchuk and her designer, Jaclyn Peters, opted for a 6-inch backsplash in the same material versus a standard 18-inch barrier. A little goes a long way. 


Forget everything you knew about the dated material. Brands such as IKEA are giving laminate a cool name again by offering options that look like fancier stones. Mallory Fletchall of Reserve Home put the Swedish retailer’s faux marble version in her rental kitchen. Because the stuff is easy to cut, she used extra scraps to make a built-in breakfast bar and a small overhang. 

Contact Paper

Designer Anita Yokota’s countertops appear to be marble at first glance, but they’re really covered in $40 contact paper that’s meant to look like the real deal. To ensure a smooth finish, she went over the surface with a blow-dryer and carefully folded the edges around the sink. 


Chris and Julia Marcum gave their dated dark granite counters a totally fresh look by simply painting the walls and backsplash in their kitchen a green-gray (Thunderous by Sherwin-Williams). Now the stone seems like a thoughtful, modern addition rather than an eyesore. 


This material isn’t just for warehouses. Take a design cue from Faye Toogood’s studio, where concrete fits right in with the moody, modern farmhouse–esque vibe.

Butcher Block

Aside from contributing a burst of warmth to a room, this oak countertop from Naked Kitchens is all about allowing for a solid and versatile workspace. Seasoned cooks will want to leave it unsealed so you can chop and cut directly on it. 


Sam Ushiro translated her signature pastel aesthetic into her rental’s kitchen thanks to a few strategic updates. The countertop is from a kit that allows you to paint a new surface and imitate the effects of having real granite. After putting a black base coat down, add three layers of mineral paint, and then finish with a clear top coat to give it the look you want. 


John and Gina of Leeward Furniture executed their kitchen reno completely by hand. A custom job through and through, they mixed raw reused oak with a simple white Corian for a truly unique Craftsman look.

Stainless Steel

Why not match your surface to your appliances? In this Los Angeles townhouse, the shiny metal is everywhere, including the cabinet handles and open shelving. The pale teal cabinets keep it from feeling too sterile.


The manufacturer’s faux marble countertops (a part of its Living Impressions collection) are 20 times more affordable than authentic stone. The surface is painted by hand—a first for the brand—making it all the more lifelike.