Laminate or granite? Sounds a lot like the old grocery store question, "Paper or plastic?" except it's a much more expensive one.

For the past few week's I've been haunting home stores, gazing at model kitchens and trying to picture how various types of laminate (also known as Formica), granite, tile, solid surface or quartz countertops would look in my own home. Adding to my confusion are all the various options: rounded or beveled edges, back splashes and trim.

One thing is certain: Most of the choices would look better than my 20-year-old, peach-colored Formica countertops. Truth be told, they have held up fairly well under a daily onslaught of meal and snack preparation, as well as recipe testing and cooking for photo shoots during the 14 years I've worked as a food editor.

They've served many a buffet dinner for friends and family. They've been a repository for kids' homework and daily mail. They even doubled as climbing walls and spectator seating when my kids were young and wanted to see what Mom was mixing or stirring.

But they're cracked and chipped. There are scratches where knives missed the cutting board, faded grape juice stains here and hot-pot discolorations there. They're ready for retirement.

I love the smooth, sleek look of granite. But I like the price of laminate. The estimates I've gotten show granite will cost about three times more, and solid surface (or Corian) is nearly the same. I was taught to avoid extravagance, and I tend to feel guilty spending money on something that's not a necessity. Life has taught me that extra money can always be put to use elsewhere: kids' college tuition or LDS Church missions, eyeglasses or root canals, new tires for the car or charitable donations.

Should I consider granite a solid investment? Or could I "make do" with something that is durable but not as exciting? It may be that laminate will need to be replaced in another 15-20 years, but it's also likely that I will welcome a change, or that someone else will own that kitchen and want a change.

So I'm asking Deseret Morning News readers: What's in your kitchen? Laminate? Granite? Solid surface or Corian? What do you like or dislike about them? Do you regret your choice? Email me with your opinion. I might use it in a future column, and I might take your advice. But then again, I might not. What works for you may not work for me.

This past week I visited two friends who recently remodeled their kitchens. One installed countertops of shiny black quartz, and the other installed a dark, marble-look laminate that also has a sleek appearance. Although the quartz was about $5,000 more in cost, both owners are happy with their choices.

I've been told to stick to a bland, neutral color that "goes with everything." But our family spends a lot of time in the kitchen, and I want us to enjoy being there. My counters don't necessarily have to go with everything. I'd rather that they have some personality.

I'm reminded of a friend who installed bright Kelly green countertops when her house was built. Several years later, I asked her how she felt about that color scheme. Was she tired of them yet?

"I loved them that day they put them in!" she said. "And every day that I'm in that kitchen, I love them even more!"

My friend underscored my feeling that there's no one "right" countertop for everyone.

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