Choosing Countertops: Concrete

Concrete's organic look suits both modern and rustic kitchens.

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Both modern and rustic, concrete works well with most architectural styles. In fact, if you want a natural look but don't care for the polished hue of granite, concrete is a great alternative. "It just feels good to the touch," says designer Jennifer Gilmer of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, Ltd. in Chevy Chase, Md. "It's very organic."

But don't plan on pouring it yourself. True concrete tops have meshing and metal in them and are installed after they are fabricated. Kitchen islands look great in concrete, she adds.

Design Tip: You can change the look of concrete by dyeing it or by using porcelain or glass tiles around the edges.

Maintenance: Wax concrete every six months and seal it annually. Wine, lemon juice and ketchup can stain, so clean up spills immediately. Companies like Sonoma Cast Stone have begun manufacturing stainless versions. Use a non-abrasive cleaner.

Cost: $75-$200/sq. ft., installed

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