Overall, there's a trend toward pattern instead of solids, and granite looks remain a strong seller, notes Brenda White, spokesperson for Wilsonart International in Temple, TX. Marble patterns are also a top pick, and neutral tones predominate. However, some consumers pick granite-pattern laminates in colors that don't appear in nature, such as white or blue.
White adds that, in addition to creating design interest, patterns also hide stains better. "Consumers are looking at it from a practical standpoint as well as [appearance]," she elaborates.
White believes that metallic laminates are still utilized more in commercial applications. In residential use, metallic laminate is used primarily for backsplashes and appliance fronts. "They can't be used as a countertop, because they'll scratch and dent," she notes.
But Buch-O'Dell counters that the company's new paper-saturating
technology produces a metallic laminate that can be used for
horizontal applications. She cites brushed stainless steel and
copper laminates, as well as subtle, soft metallics similar to a
The premise of engineered stone the convenience of solid surface with the natural look and feel of granite seems to be catching on in the marketplace.
"There's a trend of moving from plastics to hard surfaces," believes Brandon Calvo, v.p. for Cosentino USA (makers of Silestone), in Houston, TX. "Stone is becoming easier to fabricate; it's becoming more attainable."
Essentially, engineered stone takes real quartz and reconstitutes it to give it higher stain resistance and an easier-to-clean surface. "We're taking quartz, one of the hardest minerals in nature, and combining it with computerized technology," Calvo notes.
"With Zodiaq, people like the touch of coolness, a harder edge material," notes DuPont's Ebnesajjad. She adds that, like natural granite, Zodiaq is frequently used to make a splashy focal point in a kitchen.
"They don't mind using a brighter color," she says, and "I think the texture and material plays equally, if not more." She cites deeper colors, such as dark green and black, as popular Zodiaq picks.
Calvo adds that, while consumers may be attracted to engineered stone for its possibility of bright colors, they're actually buying the same sort of shades they might choose in a natural stone earth tones and neutrals. "They're combining different colors of engineered stone in the kitchen," Calvo elaborates, for instance, "earth tone creamy brown with a little blue in it [for the main countertop], solid blue on the islands, or solid accents on the backsplash." He adds that Silestone has a line with extremely small particulates that gives it a solid-color look.
Unlike natural stones, where the trend is toward less shiny surfaces, consumers picking engineered stone tend to favor a polished surface, which shows off the quartz crystals in the material. However, Caesarstone recently introduced a honed engineered stone line, reveals Arik Tendler, general manager for Caesarstone, in North Hollywood, CA.
Unlike natural granite, honed engineered stone doesn't present additional maintenance problems and doesn't have to be sealed. "That's the beauty of it," notes Tendler. "We still support our consumers with a 10-year guarantee, no sealer, no maintenance." The company also features a limestone line of colors that mirror that material's natural tan shades.
Caesarstone is also about to introduce a premium version of engineered stone. "It's a very, very expensive product," notes Tendler. "This is for people who already have everything else. It's like a piece of jewelry." Literally. The new surface adds semi-precious stones to the mix. "You can see a whole chunk of turquoise, it's amazing," he says. The new product will have a polished surface, and will be available in six colors.
For another truly attention-getting, high-end countertop, Green River Stone Company has introduced fresh water limestone complete with genuine fish fossils of varying sizes embedded in it.
"For years, we'd been selling it as art," explains Greg Laco, president of Green River Stone Co., in Logan, Utah. But now, the unique limestone is available for tables, backsplashes and countertops.
"We sell stone from eight different layers in our quarry [in Wyoming]," Laco elaborates. "It has a range of colors and textures, but the primary colors are beige/ brown tones." One layer has a bluish grey tone, he adds.