My ideal kitchen counters are the exact opposite of what I’ve lived with for ten years (butcher block, ick). For the new house, I want cold, sparkling, hard counters in bright white that will go with everything and be impossible not to keep clean.
Quartz is my top choice for our two-toned kitchen. They are solid, durable, top-rated by Consumer Reports, and so pretty. The bad news is that quartz counters cost about $60/square foot, which means without sacrificing something else, they may be out of my reach.
image from Granite Gurus
If we can’t afford quartz in our kitchen, we may settle for Corian, which is a man-made solid surface, and it comes in all kinds of colors. While it is considered very durable, it can show scratches and even possibly melt if a hot pot is placed on it. Perks include the option of having a sink build right into the Corian, and also the price: $30/square foot (see a nice example of Corian below).
image from Apartment Therapy
The cheapest option is laminate, which starts around $15/square foot. I really need to look into laminate a bit more to see if they have a solid or sparkling white that would match our needs. Also worth mentioning is that the same counter materials for kitchens can also be used in bathrooms (something to keep in mind if you have expensive taste, but a small budget; you won’t need nearly as much counter in a bath).