Lydia Geisel

Published on March 23, 2020

Marble countertops are more or less a staple of most modern-day kitchens and for good reason. The stone’s timeless elegance adds a captivating detail to any space. Plus, we always like to shine the spotlight on nontraditional materials, too. There is a near limitless array of creative ways to outfit your counters: Concrete, quartz, stainless steel, stained oak veneers…the list goes on. If those don’t hold immediate appeal, perhaps their budget-friendly aspect will. All this time at home got you in the mood for a renovation? 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.

Soapstone

green and white kitchenPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ARIANA TENNYSON; DESIGN BY JACLYN PETERS; STYLING BY ASHLEY ILLCHUK

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

Laminate 

ikea faux marble counterPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RESERVE HOME

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. 

Tile

colorful pink tile cabinetPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY VEERLE EVENS FOR MADE.COM

This isn’t your typical chef’s kitchen: When restaurant owner Philip Owens called in designer Rhonda Drakeford to transform his kitchen, the pair replaced the basic black counters with colorful, hand-poured tiles (the finish sets unevenly so no two squares are exactly alike). 

Contact Paper

marble faux paperPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANITA YOKOTA

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. 

Granite 

dark kitchenPin It
Photography by CHRIS LOVES JULIA

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. 

Concrete 

concrete sinkPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATTHEW DONALDSON

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

butcher blockPin It
Photography by naked kitchens

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. 

Paint

pink and blue kitchenPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAM USHIRO

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. 

Corian

blue tilePin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GINA KIM

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

blue kitchenPin It
photography by DUSTIN WALKER FOR HUTCH

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.

Formica

white counter with blue cabinetsPin It
Photography courtesy of Formica

The manufacturer’s new faux marble countertops (a part of its 2020 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. 

This story was originally published on August 8, 2016. It has been updated with new information.

See more creative countertop ideas:

Your Guide to Designing a Kitchen Using Concrete Quartz Countertops
18 Stunning Wood Countertops to Warm Up Any Kitchen
How to Hide Your Ugly Countertops

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