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When you’re undergoing a kitchen renovation, your mind might immediately jump to the star of the show: Your cabinets. But when a harmonious space is your end goal, it’s important not to neglect all of the other elements of your reno. Picking the right countertops for your kitchen, for instance, is a huge decision that can seriously impact the overall vibe—and functionality—of your space.

Photography by Molly Rose Photography

Even if you go into your kitchen renovation with a pretty firm idea of what you’re looking for, finding the perfect countertops for your space will still be a process that requires a thorough look at all of your options. And even when you think you’ve landed on a look that you love, you’ll also have to consider the upkeep: Is a gorgeous piece of marble worth the risk of stains? Or would your household be better suited with stone that’s easier to keep clean?

If you’re ever unsure about all of your options and how they can work in your space, don’t be afraid to reach out to an expert. A contractor can help you to find your perfect match, and they can install your countertop in your space, making this process as stress-free as possible. That said, it’s helpful to go into your project with some knowledge—so here’s an easy guide to help you find your best match.

Consider Your Design Priorities

Design by Elizabeth Maletz; Photography by Nick Glimenakis; Styled by Beth Clevenstine

Obviously, the design of your countertops is an important consideration. If you need inspiration on how to find the best color and texture combinations, Semihandmade’s project gallery is full of ideas. Monochromatic combinations (white countertops against white cabinets, for example) are very on-trend right now, says Lauren Thompson, an interior designer who is also a member of BOXI’s business development and partnerships team. Little details are important, too. Nicole Richardson, a Long Beach, California homeowner who renovated her kitchen from scratch wanted her countertops to have dramatic veining—enough so that she could see it from across the room. This, along with several other reasons, is what led her to choose Caesarstone White Attica countertops for her space.

Take Cost Into Account

Design by Nicole Richardson; Photography by Jenna Peffley; Styled by Kate Leonard

Countertops can dramatically vary in price. You’ll have to shell out far more for real marble than you will natural quartzite and especially Caesarstone, a type of engineered quartz. But that doesn’t mean pricer options are definitely off the table if you’re on a budget: You’ll also have to consider how much material you need for your renovation. Do you want to have a waterfall edge over an island? Are you using your countertop material for your backsplash as well? How big is your kitchen, and how much counterspace do you need to cover? These are all questions that you need to keep in mind when you assess your options. A contractor or designer can help you to understand exactly how your material (and installation) needs will factor into cost

Think About Maintenance and Durability

Design and Photography by Phep Design Studio

If you love to entertain, have small kids or pets, or—let’s be honest—tend to be a messy cook, the durability of your countertops is also extremely important to consider. Natural stones like marble are easier to scratch and light-colored stones can stain (your white clothes aren’t the only things in danger of red wine and spaghetti sauce). “Originally, I had my heart set on marble,” Richardson says. “Then, somebody told me about quartzite, and I looked into that. And then someone told me that I could get quartz—and it would cost half as much and last twice as long.” 

Durability also plays a role in countertop upkeep. If a spill does happen, how quickly can you clean it? Man-made options like Caesarstone tend to be more forgiving in terms of timing, so if an accident happens before you can fix it or even notice it, you can breathe a little easier. Richardson—who frequently hosts family and friends in her kitchen—wipes stains away with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and cleans grease and spills with a simple, natural all-purpose spray—nothing abrasive. 

You might also consider expanding your countertop material to your backsplash—instead of opting for a tiled backsplash—if easy clean-up is a top priority for you. “Cleaning grout is awful,” Richardson says. “Plus, I loved the clean look of a backsplash naturally leading into a countertop.”

Thoroughly Explore All Options

Design and Photography by Tessa Neusdat

If possible, visiting a showroom is a great idea to see your countertop material options in-person—but you can also order samples online from some companies. Samples are important, Thompson says, noting that no two samples are the same—so order a couple. Bring them into your kitchen so you can see how they look in different areas of the space, depending on how your lighting changes over time. 

Once you see a countertop sample with your cabinet color, you might end up changing your mind. “I loved how these countertops looked with my Desert Grey Shaker Semihandmade fronts,” Richardson says. “Plus, they paired well with my white paint, which has a warm undertone.” Remember: Every element of your kitchen design should work in harmony.

Renovations can be intimidating, especially if you’re a first-timer (like Richardson was when she designed her sunny California space). But Semihandmade and BOXI’s team of experts are here to help, should you choose to create a semi-custom kitchen. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had customers come to us with a photo and simply say ‘This is exactly what I want! Can you help me get this look?’” Thompson says. “And then we do!”