Below is the first of many 'how to's' or 'Guides', more to come over the next few months. Any suggestions on topics let me know!

Guide to Choosing Worktops

Your choice of worktop sets the overall feel for your kitchen, often more than the other design elements. But which choice should you make? We've got the latest information on the practicality of possible materials, how best to maintain them and their suitability to your style choice. 

Corian ®
As an acrylic based man-made material, Corian® is often seen in more modern designs, although can sit just as well in a traditional setting. We have used Clamshell and Sonora Corian® in this Georgian country manor.
Corian® comes in a vast array of colours, although the lighter colours are most practical in the kitchen environment. It can be formed to create almost any shape and is hugely tactile.
Corian ® can withstand temperatures up to 180 degrees and is very practical around wet areas. Dupont recommend that everyday cleaning begins with a microfibre cloth and mild cleaning agent such as Cif or Mr Muscle. Heavy duty stains from coffee and cooking oils to cigarette burns and nail varnish can also be removed, Dupont offers a downloadable pdf guide on their website.

The most traditional of working surfaces, wood is often used to create a feeling of warmth. Although mostly associated with traditional and rustic designs, dark and patterned woods such as Makassar Ebony, Zebrano and Rosewood all suit modern designs. We recommemded iroko wood for this client's kitchen for it's depth of colour.
Wood can be rather high maintenance, although most stains and light scratches can be sanded out. Wood worktops in kitchens are best treated with oil - at Moore & Bradfield, we use Liberon's 'Finishing Oil'. Trivets should be used where hot saucepans are to be set down, and any water should be wiped away and not left to stand.
As a general guide, worktops should be lightly sanded and re-oiled every 3-6 months in order to maintain their sheen and protective coating. Oak is popular for many reasons, one being that it is hygenic as bacteria cannot live on it's surface.

This category can be broken down to granite, marble, limestone and slates. I would tell any client to steer clear of three out of the four if intending to install in a kitchen environment. Marble, limestone and slate are extremely susceptible to acids, including lemon juice, red wine, tomato juice and also oils. Granite however, is the more hard wearing, but as with anything, if mistreated, it can scuff and chip. Be especially careful with cast iron cookware and surprisingly, warm pizza boxes!
Granite should not be exposed to excessive heat - use a trivet where possible, and steer clear of limescale treating cleaning products - they're acidic and can attack the surface sheen of polished granites. Warm water and mild washing up liquid is an easy effective way of cleaning everyday spills. If you need something stronger, I like the Lithofin range of stone care products.
Granite's main advantage is it's versatility. Polished, honed or antiqued in finish, the range of colours available means it works in all styles of kitchen. Black granite is beautiful when polished, but it takes alot to keep it that way and every spec of dust and fingerprint is visible - I should know, I had it myself! Patterned granites are more forgiving, which was the main reason for installing the Venetian Gold granite in this Gothic Manor House. My favourite granite at the moment is Verde Ubatuba with a 'satinato' finish. We have just installed this in an English Eclectic designed kitchen - photos coming soon!

Composite Or Engineered Stone... made from crushed quartz mixed with resin to create a super-tough worktop material, that requires no maintenance. Composite stones are more resistant to heat, scratching and some companies even put anti-bacterial agents within the material itself for an ultra hygenic surface.
As these products are man made, the colour pigment and pattern can be guaranteed thoroughout. This does mean though that it can occassionally look fake or clinical in a traditional environment, although here it goes along way to creating a simple, timeless French Provincial scheme. 
Caesarstone produce a range of colours that mimic limestone, marble and slate, but with none of the drawbacks mentioned earlier. I am particularly fond of '4141 Misty Carrara' by Caesarstone - it's an excellent Carrara Marble replica.

Stainless Steel
Firstly, I feel the need to warn you that if you expect this to be a cheap option, you will be surprised. It's not. There are plenty of reasons why it's popular, the main one being it's durability. Stainless steel is ultra hard-wearing and can take alot of abuse, which is why it's used in professional kitchens. It can withstand heat, water and any kitchen chemicals you might choose to clean it with. It will however scratch, and buffs to a attractive patina over time.  But similar to granite, treat it well and it can last a lifetime. Needless to say, it is best suited to more modern designs  - be careful when you put it on an island, you can end up looking like you have a mortuary slab in your kitchen!