The rules have changed, and for the better. Countertops are no longer limited to one color and one texture. Instead, they have acquired new depth and dimension in which varied materials mix and complement each other. Granite can be polished to a high gloss or honed to a satiny patina. Soapstone and limestone impart a subdued and elemental touch. Exotic woods share space with traditional butcher block. Even metals such as stainless steel and copper, and unexpected materials such as concrete, are found in the newest kitchens. Not to be outdone, synthetic surfaces, including laminates and aggregate stone-like products, give incredible flexibility in color choice. But countertops are far more interesting in a design sense: thicknesses vary; edges are rounded, ogeed, beveled, or straight; varied counter heights accommodate specific chores and, at the same time, add visual interest. An accent counter, in wood or copper, for example, creates appeal and delineates between functions.