The way interior designers see it, bathroom countertops can go two ways. They can either make a statement or subtly complement other finishes in the bathroom, says Denver-based designer Jess Knauf. “If you select a more striking countertop material, maybe with a lot of veining or an interesting color, that can be the focal point of the room, whereas a classic Carrara could be the more subtle accompaniment to a more interesting tile elsewhere in the space,” Knauf says.
Regardless of which route you decide to go—statement or subtle—there are some practical considerations you should be mindful of when looking at the range of bathroom countertop materials, Knauf says. Is your priority choosing a cost-effective material, or do you want something custom? Are you okay with the patina and aging that come with a natural stone, or do you prefer an entirely stain-free surface? Be mindful: Makeup, hair products, and anything with oil—in other words, known regulars on vanity tops—can stain a natural stone, Knauf says. Meanwhile, tiled vanities can add interesting texture, but the grout requires upkeep. Wood bathroom counters are susceptible to water damage, so you have to keep them sealed properly.
We asked Knauf and other designers to outline more pros and cons of popular countertop materials—including quartz, granite, and marble—to help you narrow down which ones would be best for your bathroom, whether you’re doing a full remodel or just sprucing things up.
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With so many varieties to choose from, marble can suit pretty much anyone’s taste, and it’s a classic and timeless choice, says Lindsey Black of Memphis, Tennessee–based Lindsey Black Interiors. You can go bold or more subtle. It will age, and it can stain or etch, though.
“I most often prefer marble in a bathroom for its timeless look,” Black says. “I feel you can never go wrong with it, and I personally love how it ages over time and gives a ‘lived-in’ feel to a space.”
Marble is incredibly versatile, agrees San Francisco–based interior designer Naomi Rigas of Envy Interior Design Studio. Depending on whether you choose a light or dark color or a more or less dramatic veining pattern, marble countertops can really set the mood of a bathroom.
Just be prepared to keep a hand towel nearby to wipe up excess moisture from hand and face washing, says Rigas. Resealing regularly will keep your countertops looking like new for longer, she adds.
Quartzite looks a lot like marble and comes in a variety of colors. But it’s an incredibly dense stone, so it holds up better than more porous alternatives like marble, says interior designer Momoko Wong of Denver-based Naka Interiors. “It’s also so elegant and beautiful, with its appearance of movement as well as the crystalline sparkle throughout,” Wong says.
The downside? Quartzite tends to be one of the more expensive slabs of stone. More pure white crystal-like quartzite can go for $10,000 per slab, says Rigas.
Granite is a popular pick for bathrooms partly because it costs less than other materials and is easy to clean. But it’s also a workhorse. It’s dense, it won’t etch or stain as easily as marble, and when you find some unique slabs it can create a wow moment, Wong says.
Let’s tally the pros: Quartz is low maintenance, resilient to staining and etching, and always looks new, Black says. It’s a good option if you’re looking for more of a background accent, she says; it isn’t the star of designs. While marble and quartzite are usually the contenders in a popularity contest, Black is seeing a trend toward using quartz that more strongly resembles natural materials.
Concrete can lean industrial or be more polished in appearance, Black says. It’s durable, comes in a variety of colors and shades, and it’s highly customizable. It is a super-heavy material, which you need to be mindful of when designing the vanity or floating supports, Black says, and it can stain if it’s not sealed. She likes concrete as an option for a pool bathroom because it feels unique. Concrete also works well in a wet or damp environment.
Designers Lissette Fernandez and Chelsea Murawski of Together Home love working with soapstone, which they call the “little black dress of bathroom countertops” because it can be dressed up for a primary bathroom or down for a kids’ bathroom. Their suggestion: Embrace the stone’s moodiness. It comes in a range of colors from gray to almost black. “We love contrasting the earthy, graphic element of the soapstone with polished nickel hardware,” says Fernandez. It’s pretty indestructible, but you need to reseal it once a year.