Happy Christmas – to you and your worktop!

It’s almost Christmas and you’re probably overdosing on carols, fairy lights and pine needles. So here’s the antidote – an elemental studio special edition on … kitchen worktops!

If you’re the family cook, you may have spent a lot of time working in the kitchen recently, chopping, sorting, planning and arranging your Christmas preparations around your worktop. You may be fine with it, or ready for a change. If the latter, what’s the best way forward?

At elemental studio, we don’t even consider an option unless it is sustainable. So for us, the answer to the worktop dilemma is wood. Wooden worktops look fantastic. They are durable. Yes they need sanding and varnishing, but that’s only necessary once a year, giving you the chance to sand back and repair dents or scratches. Importantly, beautiful surfaces can be made from reclaimed oak, iroko and teak, or sustainably-sourced and PEFC (forest certified) new timber. At half the cost of granite, salvaged and reused wood is a real favourite of mine.

However, in the spirit of Christmas, I have to accept that you may not agree with me. So here’s an alternative: why not use plastic? If you think I’ve been knocking back the Christmas sherry, I’m not talking about new plastic, but recycling. There are fantastic recycled plastic countertops out there, blending milk cartons, detergent bottles and yogurt pots with plastics rescued from landfill. It’s affordable, long-lasting and moisture-resistant, with colours and patterns that would be a talking point for anyone loving modern design. However, there is a downside. These worktops can burn and scratch rather easily.

So perhaps you should choose paper? No, really! Paper countertops are made using recycled waste paper, compressed into solid blocks which are hardened using resin. They’re hard-wearing, don’t chip easily and can handle the heat of anything you produce in your kitchen. They’re also easy to clean. The only downside is you will need to reseal the surface twice a year with mineral oil, to prevent staining.

The final option I’d recommend is recycled stainless steel. This could use anything from 65% to 100% recycled steel, giving your kitchen a durable, low-maintenance modern look. Stainless steel is excellent in terms of heat-resistance and avoiding most stains. There’s a big caveat though, since this expensive option scratches easily and tends to get covered in greasy fingerprints.

Why not marble or stone? The short answer is that they are non-renewable resources. Extracting the raw materials causes environmental damage, plus a lot of water and air pollution. It also takes a lot of energy to turn the material into beautiful counter-tops. So only use recycled granite or marble, with a low VOC sealant (this means low levels of volatile organic compounds, which release nasty gases).

Happy choosing – and Happy Christmas!