Getting ready to add some value here by replacing the old laminated cabinets and countertops with something special. The cabinets will be all wood (though still white). The countertops will be a very light Silestone (quartz). I've done a lot of research on Silestone vs. granite and have decided Silestone is the way to go for this space.
The kitchen is well designed though not that large, and I'm trying to maintain a light, uniform appearance (and there is no light granite). Plus, granite has to be sealed regularly to keep it from turning milky (sounds like I'm being a bit contradictory, I know--I could let it go milky). Plus it stains and is not that strong. If you want to make a cantilevered bar top, for example, the granite slab has to be reinforced with steel rods. This entails cutting channels into the underside of the slab to accommodate the rods. Silestone has more strength for this kind of use. Here's a snippet from Consumer Reports (Aug. 2007):
While granite is still what you'll see in magazines and real-estate ads, fancier faux materials are giving it serious competition for best kitchen countertop. Quartz, also known as engineered stone, is the fastest-growing countertop surface and is also at the top of our Ratings because of its better stain resistance. Plus, this non-porous blend of stone, pigment, and resin needn't be sealed like the real stuff.
Quartz has become so popular that its look is being copied. Staron and DuPont now offer solid-surface countertops that look like quartz and are essentially an imitation of an imitation. Still other countertop materials are moving up in the world as their makers vie for a place in your kitchen.
Silestone is actually 94% quartz and the rest is a tough resin (and I guess some color if you choose to have it colored, which I won't). It's made in Spain, by the way--who knew? Quartz is also "greener" than granite since there's a lot more of it occurring in nature. And it's very sparkly. It costs the same as granite, however. And since that's the case, I'll opt for the material that requires less maintenance, since I'm the one who really uses the kitchen to the max and makes the most messes, and is ultimately in charge of maintaining it.
We already bought all brand-new appliances a couple of years ago and this year we re-did the kitchen ceiling, adding soffits with recessed lighting. With new cabinets and countertops, the kitchen should be top-notch.