Of course, the laminate tops do not require sealing like stone products and are easy to maintain, as well, she points out, noting that this addresses consumer demand for easy-to-maintain products.
Paul Grothouse, owner of The Grothouse Lumber Co. in Germansville, PA, is convinced that in an ever-evolving countertop market, wood’s time has come. According to Grothouse, the wood trend is up and offers a luxury look combined with high performance.
“Today, people are looking to put varied surfaces in the kitchen – they don’t want it to look like a mausoleum,” he insists. He continues that a wood island, for example, can greatly complement stone used in other kitchen areas, warming up the entire space.
Grothouse also states that a wood countertop is not only easy to maintain, but “steps up the function in the kitchen.” With built-in options to hold knives, and the ability to cut safely on the counter, the wood countertop can be quite convenient.
These days hardwood countertops can be designed in either a contemporary or traditional style, he notes, adding that a variety of grains and finishes, as well as many intricate patterns, offer designers a nearly limitless array of options.
As for colors and patterns, Scott notes, “Granite-like colors and patterns are the focus because of the real granite and engineered stone influence.” He has also seen less demand for solid colors, with more consumers gravitating toward designs that offer depth and dimension.
While there are always those going for an edgy look, manufacturers agree that nature remains a prime influence in countertop colors, with design professionals and their customers turning to the great outdoors to inspire their kitchen designs.
“Natural, earth-tone colors continue to dominate mainstream appeal,” states Tom Schneider, director of new business development for LG Surfaces in Peoria, AZ. Schneider. He says that this trend is driven by consumers concerned with resale home value, and adds that there is a strong desire to see “directional movement and different textures and finishes,” as well.
Kathy Calhoun, laminate and solid surface marketing manager for Wilsonart International in Temple, TX, agrees that consumers do not want a “flat appearance” in their countertops. She says that today’s laminates offer “a luxury look that gives the dimension of granite and is more affordable.”
Calhoun also sees nature’s palette influencing color choices. “Most consumers are striving for the natural look with warm browns and soft tans,” she says. Calhoun adds, however, that others are looking for “comforting and simple shades of blue, violet and green.”
Schmitt also concurs with other manufacturers that, “Natural-looking colors and patterns have become very popular.”
However, Arik Tendler, president of CaesarStone Quartz Surfaces in Van Nuys, CA, has a different take on this. He believes, “Consumers aren’t really looking for patterns that imitate granite. They are looking at patterns and textures that other products can’t provide.” With regard to colors and patterns, he states, “Whites and grays are continuing to be requested in large numbers.”
Grothouse notes that consumers are demanding darker colors for wood countertops. “Black walnut is the number one wood right now,” he explains, despite the fact that only three years ago, it ranked a mere number five. Another very popular wood for countertops is sapele, a mahogany-like wood grown in Africa. Consumers tend to prefer this stained dark as well, he notes.
Growing Green Trend
Across the board, countertop manufacturers agree that the green trend is on a fast track. Consumers are looking for alternatives that will be healthier for their families and for the earth. While most manufacturers interviewed are offering some environmentally friendly products, the choices are not yet extensive. The products also can be pricey, which can make them a tough sell in today’s challenging economy. And in many cases, dealers find themselves fielding questions about green choices for countertop materials, but the consumer’s budget simply won’t allow for it.