Interior Design5 benchtop tips Shelley shares five tips for finding a benchtop that suits your look and lifestyle. 1. Emotion There are many practical considerations to take into account when choosing a benchtop. But if you’re anything like me, the look of it comes first. There’s no point choosing a material that’s on budget, practical and on trend if it doesn’t make your eyes turn into lovehearts. The first time I saw a large slab of Sensa Taj Mahal by Cosentino it took my breath away. It’s a natural quartzite and features beautiful veining, graduating layers of white, gold and champagne and crystal details, and just like Carrie and Mr Big it was love at first sight. 2. Colour I’ve already renovated the rest of my home, so the current interior colour palette gave me clues on what benchtop to select. I gathered samples of my flooring, carpet, curtains, paint and tiles and took them with me when looking at benchtop samples to see at a glance what ties in. Rather than looking at samples on a screen I recommend visiting a stone manufacturer – seeing and feeling the huge slabs up close is half the fun, you get an instant vibe for what you like, and there’s expert help on hand. I visited Cosentino and was able to view full-size slabs of all the stone I was interested in, lay samples of it out with those from my interior palette, and ensure that the under and overtones happily married. I also recommend taking stone samples home and viewing them in different lights and times of day in your kitchen. 3. Price The benchtop is often the hero of your entire kitchen so it needs to have wow factor. However for most of us budget defines our choices. The great news is there are lots of statement benchtop materials available in every price range, from cost-effective laminate to mid-range engineered stone and high end natural stone. My advice is to figure out a realistic budget first before getting your heart set on a material. I’d saved for a long time to have my dream kitchen and had always planned on using natural stone. But I also included some tricky stonework in the design which meant the fabricator’s bill was higher than usual (the company who cut and install the stone; an additional cost to buying the stone itself). Having these quotes before setting my budget meant I had a very accurate cost before committing, therefore avoiding blowouts. 4. Size matters I have a long kitchen so I wanted a large slab size to avoid seeing too many joins in the stone (a key detail when you have a defined pattern). Stone and engineered stone slabs come in different sizes, so it pays to compare the benchtop size you’ve planned to the size of the slab you want. Cosentino import many slabs, some jumbo-size 3.2m x 1.8m, which means you can achieve a large countertop without joins. If you do need joins which is often the case, a good fabricator is key. The full slab for my scullery was too long to get through the door so needed to be cut and joined. I used Lineastone and they did a masterful job of matching the veins so you can barely see a seam. 5. Are you worth it, do you work it? My kitchen benchtop has to work like a trooper. It needs to withstand all manner of food and drink spillages, hard objects being dropped on it, felt-tip marks from homework lessons and ring marks from cocktail sessions. I knew I wanted to invest in natural stone and had budgeted a good amount to do so. However I wanted a hard stone with surface protection that wouldn’t dent or stain. Quartzite is a very hard metamorphic rock made almost entirely of – you guessed it – quartz! Apart from the stunning visual appearance, it’s seriously practical. Cosentino treat it with Senguard NK stain and UV protection that allows the stone to be used in all the ways a busy kitchen demands (including exposure to acidics), while still being able to breathe and preserve it’s natural colour (that’s right, natural stone needs to breathe thanks to its network of pores and voids). Oh, and it doesn’t need any special maintenance. My perfect match! By Shelley Ferguson. Photography by Helen Bankers. Visit cosentino.com to see the full range.