Guide to Kitchen & Bath Fabricating and Surfacing: Surface Appeal
When it comes to surfacing, almost anything goes, with designers mixing and matching materials, and granite and granite-look surfaces, textured aesthetics and nature themes commanding attention.
by Janice Anne Costa
Hopkins believes that "There's a move away from the traditional laminates and tiles, especially in the kitchens, because of the lack of ease in keeping grout clean."
DeMartino agrees that low-maintenance is a concern, and she believes this has driven the market to a place where educated consumers are demanding performance as well as aesthetics. "We've finally hit a point where all materials are mutually acceptable. There's more of an attitude of 'I'm going to pick a material that's best for me,'" she notes.
The use of color, texture and patterns is bigger than ever in the surfacing arena, and Terrie Buch, product design manager for Nevamar, International Paper, and consumer color directions co-chair for the Color Marketing Group, notes that this is becoming so prevalent that, "More and more, you see the consumer being offered a chance to use laminate as a material that almost becomes part of the focal point, rather than just as a material that's functional and affordable. You see more consumers picking laminate that has a look you can't find anywhere else, patterns you can't find in nature. I see this as the beginning of a trend."
However, while color is hot, solid colors are not. "We've moved from solids to textured solids, where visually, the surface is broken up," Hytry notes. "For example, in the case of our Surell, we're seeing more of the dark green granite look rather than the dark green [solid]." And she adds that "Scale, too, has gone from small scale texture to larger scale texture."
"In solid surface, we're seeing a move away from solid colors in the kitchen, and heading more toward a higher design stone look," agrees Andrew Ballard, v.p./sales and marketing for LG Decorative Surfaces. "The larger particulates we call them 'quartz' and 'granite' are big right now," he notes, adding that the color trend is "more toward earth tones, as opposed to the flashier colors you used to be seeing."
One of the biggest advantages of the visually textured surface, Hytry believe, is that "it hides a lot of wear and tear."
However, at the other end of the spectrum, Cynthia Muni of the Northfield Center, OH-based Kitchens and Interior Design says that many of her clients actually want the "worn" look. She notes a trend toward the "used, beat up 'worn' marble," though she also notes "a resurgence of butcher block and glass, particularly the sandblasted or 'beach worn' type of glass."
Mix and match
When it comes to surfacing, designers and manufacturers agree that one of the hottest trends right now is "mix and match."
"People are experimenting with different materials, even in the same countertop," Hytry adds. "For instance, you can work with a laminate top and use a wood edge or backsplash."
"Solid surfacing with edged treatments rather than rounded corners," is another hot trend, according to Muni, who adds that, "the 1"x1" mosaic tiles are really big you add in glass tiles, embedded into slate floors, for instance, or anything with jewels," for a unique yet stylish look.
Buch believes, "There's a real emphasis on furnishings in the kitchen, so you're seeing more upscale, intricate patterns to complement that."
If there's one standard in surfacing applications, it's that "Almost anything goes these days," as Trzcinski notes. "Although it's not new in the furniture industry," he adds, "we're using granite slabs for tables and legs in kitchens." The backsplash is one area where Hytry sees "lots of experimenting," particularly with stainless steel. She notes that, "The European aesthetic of having accessories along the backsplash is being picked up in the U.S. market." Hopkins notes that granite is being used in entry halls, as well as "any of the stones." She adds that a variety of stones are also being picked up in fireplace re-facing, while granite is moving into the living room.
When it comes to unique applications of laminate, Buch notes that she's seen people "filling the gap between appliances, or any kind of gap, with matching laminate." She notes one installation where "there was a big, stainless steel overhead lighting fixture, and there was a gap between the ceiling and the stainless steel, and it was filled in with laminate."
In the bath, Hytry believes that, "The traditional vanity sitting on a box is giving way to more creative use of materials, and people are embracing pedestal lavatories, which means people need more creative applications of countertop storage."
When it comes to experimenting, though, "It's the fabricator who really drives innovation," Ballard believes. "We give fabricators guidelines, but they're the ones out there dealing with new and different applications. On a daily basis, the fabricator is pushing the envelope to see how a product can be used differently, and more creatively," he concludes. KBDN