Monson believes the demand for a warm, textural look is part of what fuels the engineered stone market, and he notes, "Most of the solid surface companies are coming up with something like that or they already have it. I really like the two new surfaces that Avonite introduced last year, it looks like cracked glass and I have seen so many different applications of that in the bathroom, from privacy panels around the toilet to side panels for an open walk-in shower and for countertops."
Monson adds, "I also like the new solid surface that Avonite is doing which resembles concrete and the natural looks like that. I have seen people asking for that type of thing."
Monson adds, "In our market, I'm getting people asking about concrete countertops because it has not been done here very much, and it's not as warm a surface as it would be in, say, California or something. That has its own problems with the logistics of doing it, so these solid surface look-a-likes are very hot, and getting people asking for them."
But not everyone is a big fan of the man-made surfacing materials. Notes Jensen, "I definitely prefer natural materials more than artificial plastics."
And Jensen notes, "The surfaces, such as the ones that simulate stone, are very popular, but they are about the same price as natural stone, so who knows why [people choose these over natural stone]? You are stepping down from a high-end job to a middle-end job when you choose them, but, they still remain popular."
While stone both natural and man-made continues to have a stronghold in the kitchen and bath, solid surface remains a perennial favorite, both for its durability and enormous flexibility of design and color options. As McLain notes, "We are 99% solid surface and the rest is laminates."
Dammer cites DuPont Corian as a popular favorite with her customers because of its durability and easy-care properties, which she believes remains high on consumers' list of priorities.
Monson also notes that interest in certain types of patterns have made solid surface more popular. He notes,"I am seeing a trend much more toward the small particulate and the background look. Solid surface seems to have its strength in the small particulates and that more smooth, homogeneous look."
Elacqua notes that her customers want "countertops that are [made of] sleeker, smoother materials, such as solid surface," and she sees DuPont Corian as a popular choice in the bath "for its easy maintenance."
Of course mix-and-match remains a hot trend, and as Douglas Leake, CKD, Custom Kitchens, Inc., in Richmond, VA notes, "We see a lot of the solid surfaces, the Corian, Wilsonart, Gibraltar, etc., but the texture [of solid surface] is so different [from granite], they are being used in combination in order to get the best of both worlds."
Somogyi agrees: "The biggest change is in the combining of unusual materials, such as marble and glass and stainless steel."
Monson, too, sees a big demand for mix-and-match materials, stating, "In my market, it's uncommon where I'm doing one material all the way through. [I might try] mixing stainless steel and concrete, where it acts as accent. If I have an island, I'll do that in a different material than what the back areas will be because that may be the focal point in the design, and it adds interest. You can carry through the accent material that you use on the island and use it on the backsplash and meld it with a more neutral tone on the back area.
While Leake says he's seen a "run on Corian," he adds that, "The most popular above all is laminate." A large part of this is its flexibility, he believes, and he states, "With wood edges you can do more elaborate details. The laminates are just a very popular product."
He adds, "As far as laminates, we like Wilsonart when fabricating. We've tried other products, but I feel that Wilsonart is consistent. We don't have any trouble with it."
Keith Hill, senior project manager for Forbes Cabinets, Inc, in Apex, NC, notes, "Our preference is Nevamar, both for the quality and durability and for [the fact that we have] good distribution in this area. I have national distribution within a day. One of the challenges [in this area] is getting the other products because of poor distribution channels. They may stock lots of colors, but they may not have the products I need."