When it comes to surfacing materials, today's high-end consumers want plenty of choices in colors, materials, textures and finishes and more often than not, they want to mix and match them for maximum effect.
Whether it's the rich, textural beauty of natural stone, the translucency of glass, the vast array of color choices of solid surface, the striking look of concrete or stainless steel, the flexibility of laminate or the unique beauty and durability of engineered stone, kitchen and bath consumers want surfaces with more than just surface appeal.
Fortunately, designers have plenty to choose from, as a host of materials, patterns, colors and textures in endless combinations offer a wealth of possibilities for beautifying and personalizing the kitchen and the bath.
The "granite explosion" is far from over, with natural stone continuing to be a top choice among high-end consumers, according to dealers and fabricators interviewed. And, not surprisingly, this trend is expected to remain strong, as the desire for natural materials continues to flourish.
According to Lynn Monson, owner of Monson Interior Design, in Minneapolis, MN, "The trend [toward granite] is definitely not over. In fact, I see a lot more of a move toward the real stone."
Jens Jensen, owner of the Santa Barbara, CA-based Jens Jensen Design/Construction agrees: "We're seeing a lot of natural stone in both the kitchen and the bath."
Granite remains a popular favorite, and for good reason: As Nancy Elacqua, designer for Autograph Kitchen & Bath in Chelmsford, MA, explains it, "People seem to feel it is the lowest maintenance material. It can take heat, cutting and water, and as long as it's sealed, it will not even stain." She adds that marble is "very popular, especially for countertops."
Susan Dammer, owner of 42 Park, Inc., in Florham Park, NJ, notes that, "Most of the stuff we do is granite or marble for the kitchen and bath, though all [the natural stones] are popular. We are seeing marble, granite and ceramic tile, porcelain tile floors and tumbled marbles as well in the kitchen and bathroom."
"Granite is the number one choice in the kitchen because it is more durable and elegant, and customers like that," claims Bela Somogyi, president of City Glass d/b/a Jetcut Systems, in Orange, CA, who sees granite's texture as being "what consumers want."
Others cite the high-gloss yet richly textured look of granite as being sought after for the note of luxury it adds to a room.
Of course granite isn't the only natural stone commanding attention with high-end consumers. Notes Jensen, "I have done a lot of jobs with travertine [an Italian material which is like a limestone], which is a very light-based material that has been popular for quite a while [in my area]."
And Somogyi adds that he is doing "a lot of combinations with slate right now."
But while many designers see natural stone as a long-standing favorite, man-made materials particularly the new, quartz-based engineered stones seem to be gaining ground with many high-end consumers.
According to Roy McLain, CMKBD, Corian fabricator
and senior partner for the Mechanicsburg, PA-based Advanced Kitchen & Bath Partnership, "We do very little natural stone. We are starting to get into the [DuPont] Zodiaq now. That is becoming more popular than what the [natural] stone would be. It also has a ten- year warranty [which customers like]." Part of its popularity, he believes, is because, "It is more forgiving than what most other materials are, such as stone and laminate. People are looking for the durability that it offers."
Monson, too, sees the engineered stone as a hot up-and-comer, and he states, "I'm seeing a trend toward the [man-made products] such as Silestone and Caeserstone. Those are coming on really strong, and I think they have a real viable market here. If you want that large particulate look, then you want to go to one of the man-made materials like Zodiaq or Silestone."