Innovative materials like quartz surfacing and glass looks, broad design transformations, and subtle blues and earth tones are now among the trends piloting changes in the countertop market.
By Kevin Winkler
While granite and natural stone remain hot, and granite-look surfaces continue to grow in scope and sophistication, other manufactures are focusing on new materials, with hot trends including quartz surfacing, glass looks and other new materials, from stainless steel to concrete.
The one trend that seems to span all materials, though, is the
continuing interest in anything "au naturel."
"For today, and transitioning from the '90s, consumers are in love with nature and natural materials," notes Renee Hytry, director of design for Formica North America in Cincinnati, OH. "Therefore, the most popular finishes for countertops are based on real materials: limestone, terra cotta, granites and tiles," she explains.
Kimberly Cilio, director of marketing for the Stafford, TX-based Silestone by Cosentino, notes, "Consumers like the look and feel of natural stone and the elegance it adds to their environment. They are looking for kitchen countertops that are resistant to scratching, staining and dulling, and [that are] also virtually maintenance free. They want their countertops to wear well, as this is a big investment in the look and cost of their kitchens."
"I see more and more market share going to real stone," agrees Wayne Rutledge, director of marketing communications for the Albuquerque, NM-based Avonite. "In general, we're all losing sales to granite," he notes.
That's because the countertop market is "lifestyle-driven," he believes. "It's not about performance at the high end. And it's not about colors, or patterns. It's [about] their belief that granite is the ultimate countertop, that because granite [used to be] so expensive and hard to find, having it is like being a member of an exclusive club. They want to buy what they believe is the most expensive countertop money can buy. They're buying a lifestyle.
"The demographics are shot from what they used to be," he
continues. "There are a lot more people who have money at a much
younger age, and at the other end, you have 60-year-olds who are
doing things [that this generation] wouldn't have done in the past.
They're not afraid of something
To capture the interest of today's lifestyle-driven consumer, he believes it's necessary to develop "products that match today's lifestyle and that's not necessarily a granite look. In some cases, that's a very exotic look, and it may even be more expensive than granite. What they want is something very cool and hip." To this end, he sees creativity as key, and notes that, "We're trying some glass looks, and some other composite looks with other materials that don't look like granite. We want to position Avonite as a company that just makes really wild and cool stuff."
Frequently, the size of a kitchen is a consideration when choosing countertop materials, believes John Scott, v.p. of Swanstone products for The Swan Corporation, in St. Louis, MO. "I think we'll see a continued increase in the use of solid surface and granite material for countertops, especially in larger kitchens with more feet of counter space," he says. Scott also notes, "Solid surface and granites are [becoming] more affordable because there are more and more manufacturers in the business."
"In solid surfacing, large particulate is definitely the best seller, as is granite," reports Brenda White, a spokesperson for the Temple, TX-based Wilsonart. Ease of maintenance of these products is key, she observes, as "People have busy lifestyles and don't want to do a lot of work on cleaning and taking care of things." She notes that real earth-inspired tones that play on the look of nature are the most popular.