Your countertops are the little black dress of the kitchen. They're the first thing, besides the cabinets, that people see, and from a functional perspective, they take the most punishment. Put your money where your countertops are by investing in materials that will take some pounding and last at least until the kids head off to college. No countertop material is completely carefree, though. Look for countertop options that offer a good balance between style and function.