Custom Benchtops

Custom benchtops can transform a room into something special.

How do you do that? What’s the secret? ​

Fusion Pewter and Laminex AbsoluteMatte Pewter_ no sink

Designer Interviews

We sat down with two Perth interior designers to learn more about what custom benchtop choices work best in different parts of your home. We were also curious about how interior designers approach design and the latest trends in custom benchtops for West Australian renovations and new homes and apartments.

Annie Benson

Annie Benson

Why Custom?

Why are custom benchtops in your renovation or new home build worth it?

People don’t realise how important a kitchen benchtop is. It is the biggest focus of the family and home, where everyone gathers to share a meal and a glass of wine, have conversations, and discuss their days. When guests hand over a gift bottle of wine or their keys, it’s the most important part of the kitchen design because it is about welcome and hospitality. It is the soul of your kitchen.

Interior Design Process

Could you walk us through the design process for custom benchtops? How do you collaborate with clients to bring their vision to life?

I ask a lot of questions, and I listen carefully. I visit their home and look at any images they might have collected. It’s about working with their palette and their style. Usually, there will be specific requests, like an island bench. I consider those features and my client’s preferences and lifestyle, and I find that wow factor they are looking for in creating a kitchen with a custom benchtop.

Achieving the Finish

What is it like for you to see a custom benchtop project finished?

I feel a great sense of satisfaction. I love to look at my clients’ faces to see how much they love it and how they’re looking forward to enjoying that space or using that bench. I love seeing them enjoy that space and getting that sense of having created exactly what they wanted.

Benchtop Options

What materials are used for custom benchtops, and how do their characteristics vary in durability, maintenance, and aesthetic appeal?

Image: Laminex

Custom laminate benchtops made with composite materials are very popular. They’re cost-effective. They’re stain-resistant, low maintenance, and easy to clean. There is a variety of colours and finishes available: gloss, semi-gloss, matte, wood-grained and textured.

But there’s also the XENOLITH range from Polytec, a coloured core compact laminate with numerous benchtop profiles. While that’s a very new product and limited in colour range, it will be expanded. With the core colored it allows for exposed ends without join lines. It gives you a beautiful finish—a more high-end look.

You can achieve that with some of the standard laminates, too. There are a plethora of colour choices available. I can’t even imagine how many colours there are. If you’re working with a white kitchen, you might want something bold, or if you’re working with a grey kitchen, you might want something more concrete-looking for a more industrial look. There is every imaginable colour or finish available in the various groups. There is Polytec, Polyrey, Wilson, the Laminex group and Formica. Using custom benchtop trim options, such as gold, platinum, copper, and brushed steel, is a beautiful inclusion to provide a sense of luxury. 

Matching Materials To Environment

In what areas of the home are custom benchtops most effectively used? Why do certain materials excel in specific environments?

If you’re clever, laminates can be used in any area. Avoid prep areas if you are a butcher or a fisherman. You might not want to have it in an area where you will be cutting. You wouldn’t cut directly on a laminate bench. Other than that, there are no limitations. You can use them anywhere.

The compact laminates work well in entertainment areas like alfresco because they are water- and UV-resistant. It’s available as quite a thick laminate. You should look at those compact laminates for those sorts of areas. If you have messy spaces in a scullery or spaces with lots of water, I would also look at those compact laminates there. They can also be used in kitchens, office worktops, showers and toilet cubicles but are best used in outdoor and wet areas.

Any of the laminates can be used for shelving or TV cabinets. I sometimes mix and match them with natural timbers for a bookshelf or an entertainment unit. You can use stone or laminate on the top of bars. Put natural wood or natural stone in there. Just mix it up to get that raw, organic look. Being clever with colour can give you the wow factor you want.

Combining Materials

What type of materials can you use for custom benchtops?

There’s a great variety out there. As I mentioned, you can even combine a few different materials, such as metallic finishes used with timber, to create an interesting effect. You can do both. A range within the laminates offers gold, copper, brushed steel and silver. I wouldn’t use those as a benchtop because they would probably scratch. But running it around the edge can look smart. You are looking for more than just durable surfaces. You’re looking for something that elevates the space. It gives it just that extra edge of polish. Most clients who employ a designer are looking for that. They want that edge. Otherwise, they’d do it themselves.

Cost Considerations for Custom Benchtops

How do custom benchtop materials compare cost-effectively with purchasing pre-made benchtops? Can you purchase pre-made benchtops?

You can. They still have to be cut from a board. You get a much better look working with a custom benchtop. You can have a design that is appropriate for your space. You can change the edges, whether a sharp, square, arris or pencil edge. Working with custom benchtops allows you to select a style. Whereas buying a pre-made benchtop from one of the suppliers directly, you just have limited options. Buying a pre-made product is cheaper in terms of cost-effectiveness and budgeting, but you don’t get the quality finish or style opportunities.

What are the primary advantages of choosing custom cabinetry over other off-the-shelf pre-made options currently on the market?

Only a few people realise that you can combine the benefits of custom cabinetry with flat-pack economy and convenience. There is no need to settle for the off-the-shelf pre-made cabinetry and benchtops anymore. You don’t have to compromise on the quality of your cabinetry just because you are working to a budget.

Custom Benchtop Inspiration

Engineered Stone
Suitable for a broad range of people and was a frequently used material that could complement natural stones.
Porcelain & Natural Stone
The earth has taken years and years to make that stone.
Jess O'Shea

Jess O’Shea

Custom Benchtop Types and Their Qualities

What materials are used for custom benchtops, and how do their characteristics vary in durability, maintenance, and aesthetic appeal?
Engineered Stone

Engineered stone has been popular for custom benchtops, but it is in a transition state. We’ll soon see this product come back with zero silica.

Engineered was suitable for a broad range of people and was a frequently used material that could complement natural stones. I think you can have a white benchtop with nothing in it, and if you want something quite clean, you could do that. It’s relatively stain-resistant and scratch-resistant. You can’t put hot pots on it, but people could get even a marble look without having to deal with the properties that marble presents.


It is highly porous and vulnerable to wine, juice and oil staining. It’s not resistant to scratches. So you’ve got to be more careful when using it for custom benchtops in the kitchen, but in saying that, some clients like the idea that the surface will patina and wear over time.

Porcelain & Natural Stone

We’ve got porcelain, and then there’s natural stones. Natural stones vary from marble to quartzite to granite. Porcelain is the next step up, where you can get the full natural stone print. You can put hot pots on it.

The natural stone range is a favourite of mine for custom benchtops because you are getting a piece of history. The earth has taken years and years to make that stone. There are so many amazing materials and finishes out there, and they all come with different properties, but they’re beautiful.


Are people using timber for custom benchtops?

No. There’s still timber veneer around a lot which is used mainly for doors. We use it when we want to use natural timber, as solid timber doors aren’t environmentally friendly. Veneer enables us to use much more of a tree. You do get the odd job with solid timber benchtops, but it’s a rarity.


Custom laminate benchtops are durable and can cost less. I wouldn’t recommend gloss laminates for a kitchen benchtop because they scratch, but the matte surfaces can look amazing.


Price varies a lot when it comes to custom benchtops. Porcelain requires longer to fabricate, so the cost will increase in fabrication for this product. You can get granites comparable to engineered stone in terms of natural stone. Even engineered stone benchtops have an entry-level and top end, which can be comparable with natural stone benchtops. You can spend a couple of thousand dollars on a slab or even less. Then the prices can go right up. I think I’ve chosen slabs that cost $12,000 plus a slab. They look incredible.

Different Rooms

In what areas of a home are custom benchtops most effectively used, and why do certain materials excel in specific environments?

Custom kitchen benchtops are the main focus for custom benchtops. We meet with our clients and discuss their morning and evening routines. We explore the details of what the family looks like, and then we’d advise on the suitable material for them. Things like granites and harder-wearing stones will work better for kitchen benchtops. You can get away with using things like limestones and similar softer stones for bathroom benchtops because there’s less risk of staining in those spaces. As the designer, you must understand the use and cost associated with those things.

Clients have discussions with us, and that’s where we advise what’s best. Quite often, you’ll get clients who love Arabescato marble, and yes, it’s amazing, but it comes with a high price tag and some care is involved. And as long as they understand that, and are happy to work with it, then it’s just going through those conversations and working out what’s best for them.

Big Patterns

There is a trend toward big patterns in custom benchtop work. The biggest thing now is that people are getting bolder with their colour choices. Where budget allows, clients have wanted bold patterns in some of the projects we’ve done lately. The bigger, the better. This house has recently gone up for sale, creating a lot of interest with a custom marble benchtop design. I recently finished a bathroom with custom benchtops using a bold terrazzo design. 

Bold Combined With Plain & Simple

A recent project in a kitchen at a Fremantle home, we used a boldly patterned stone called Patagonia for their custom kitchen benchtop. I’ve loved this stone forever, and the patterning that’s in it is nuts. Stone like that comes with a hefty fee, but our clients were happy with that investment as they wanted that statement piece. Projects like this mean you need to spend time finding the right piece, and it’s being selective. The rest of that space’s kitchen had a simple porcelain benchtop. With custom benchtop design choices, you must choose the right space and application for that type of feature stonework.

People are getting bolder with their benchtop colour choices, especially with natural stone. If you’re going to pay for a natural stone, make it obvious that it is natural. You have this amazing piece of nature in your house where you can sit and have a coffee, and you’ll notice these different elements in the stone every time you sit down. This is part of the magic in choosing a custom benchtop. It can be something that delights you every day.

Combining with Other Materials

How can custom benchtops be seamlessly integrated with other materials in home design to create a cohesive and visually appealing environment?

It’s all about balance and working through a design process. It’s also a personal preference, and not everyone likes that. If someone wants a nice, simple stone and is happy with that, then it’s the right choice. There’s no right or wrong there, but it’s all about visually balancing where your key elements are.

Cost-Effectiveness and Budgeting

How do custom benchtop materials compare cost-effectively with other benchtop options, and what are your strategies for planning a renovation that respects the budget?

If you’re considering going custom for your bathroom or kitchen benchtops, the main element would be your spatial planning or use of each stone slab. If you have an island and a rear bench as a hutch, you could try to achieve that out of that one slab. We will put time into working out the best way to do that rather than designing a space and then hoping it all works. We’re lucky we don’t have to consider that so much. We’ll just design a space, and then the stone is what the stone is. If you are budget-conscious, it could even be using stone on a specific spot, say in your kitchen on the island, if that’s the statement piece. Then you could switch to a laminate benchtop in the other areas. It’s being creative about a mix of materials.

Maintenance and Longevity

How durable are the various materials used for custom benchtops, and how do they compare to other benchtop options regarding longevity and maintenance requirements?

They can all be as durable as each other. Many people sometimes get scared away from natural materials like stone because people will talk about resealing and all that kind of thing. But that is just wiping your bench down and re-wiping a product over the top of it. It’s not a big process. With the right care, they’re all good. Laminates and engineered stone, and porcelain don’t require anything. You just don’t try anything too crazy with it.

Personal Style

How can homeowners infuse personal style into their homes using custom benchtops?

They can infuse personal style by letting themselves choose bold things they love. Forget about the whole resale thing. More and more people are getting their heads around that. Who cares about the next person? If the kitchen looks great, like that house in Cottesloe with that custom benchtop using boldly patterned stone, it will sell. Not only that, but it will also excite a lot of interest. That client had a line down the street and around the corner for their home open on the first weekend. That kitchen benchtop and the custom cabinetry in that home are pretty out there by Perth standards. But it’s what made it so exciting. 

What are your favourite aspects of working on custom benchtops?

It’s the freedom to be creative. Put curves where you want to choose some funky materials and mix your applications. If you incorporate stone mason, there are lots of layers you can add to it. Custom benchtops allow you to do something special that I enjoy.

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