With house prices down, homeowners are more likely to be staying put, and without the concern about resale value, many are being more creative in their design choices. For countertops and surfaces, that translates to more colors, patterns and interesting mixing and matching of materials to create exciting visual focal points in the kitchen.
In fact, manufacturers recently surveyed by KBDN agree that unique materials and patterns are top of the list for surfacing trends.
At the same time, budget concerns, eco awareness and nature themes continue to impact the countertop market.
“Countertop material offerings really exploded in the last 15 years,” says Jean Pauwels, distributor/marketer of Raleigh, NC-based Pyrolave, a company that offers a unique glazed volvic lava stone surface. Previously, he says, granite, marble, laminate and solid surface were among the only choices. Now there are surfaces made from paper, concrete, recycled material, quartz, stainless steel, zinc, natural stone, glass, ceramic and more.
“Designers are looking for new materials and they have plenty of choices,” agrees Bertrand Charest, president of ThinkGlass, a glass countertop manufacturer in Boisbriand, Quebec.
Because there are so many options, consumers can shop within a wide range of price points, adds Lorenzo Marquez, marketing v.p. of Stafford, TX-based Cosentino North America. “For designers, value means providing clients with the solution that delivers the style they’re looking to achieve, while staying within the budget prescribed for the project. Sourcing reliable materials that deliver on quality and performance is key to enhancing a designer’s relationship with the client,” he states.
Mary Warner, brand manager at Vetrazzo in Tate, GA sees recycled materials as the new wave of material, with glass steadily growing. “People see natural stone and they relate that to a decade ago,” she says, “whereas recycled glass surfaces demonstrate an awareness of recycling or sustainability. These surfaces, often available in myriad colors, also allow homeowners and designers to create very personal spaces.” She adds, “Gone are the days of house flipping. People are staying put and want to make a mark on the space in which they spend a lot of time.”
Trisha Schmitt, v.p./corporate marketing for VT Industries in Holstein, IA says, “The popular looks include both natural stone and laminates and edge treatments that have a stone-like appearance.” She cites the company’s new 1/8"-radius Marbella edge as an example. “With marble becoming such a trending countertop material, our Marbella edge paired with the new laminates can really give you that look at an affordable price,” she says.
Laminate designs that mimic large-scale exotic stones are also popular because they provide new options to consumers looking for a low maintenance stone look at a more affordable price point, according to Gerri Chmiel, senior design manager at Formica Corp. in Cincinnati, OH. “Manufacturers are striving to create new surfacing designs that reflect the look of trendy materials at lower price points,” she says.
Dale Mandell, sales director – North America for Samsung Surfaces based in Los Angeles, CA says, “We’re seeing increased interest in countertop materials that are somewhat less traditional. For instance, we’ve noticed an increased demand for colors and patterns that are less similar to granite, more monotone and modern, with subtle design elements such as metallic flecks.”
Economizing with Style
While the economy continues to present challenges, the plethora of countertop materials available creates designer options even for those with smaller budgets. “Exotic granites and engineered stones remain popular for homeowners undertaking expensive kitchen renovation projects, while new large-scale laminate surfacing options appeal to homeowners who desire an exotic look [on a] smaller budget,” says Chmiel.