As designers work to create exciting yet functional workspaces, there’s a move away from traditional materials and approaches and toward the integration of aesthetically interesting ideas – whether it’s layering materials, alternating thicknesses or coming up with other creative design applications. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News, who see consumers seeking durable, easy-care multipurpose materials that also add design appeal.
“The residential segment is taking its lead from the hospitality segment by designing kitchens that include unique and interesting countertop materials,” says Dale Mandell, North America sales director for the architectural products division at Samsung Chemical Industries, Inc. in La Mirada, CA.
Gerri Chmiel, senior design manager for Formica Corp. in Cincinnati, OH, says that integrated dining, which incorporates dining space into the countertop or island, continues to be a popular trend. “We’re also seeing designers using different surfacing materials and countertop heights to visually separate different zones in a kitchen, be it for dining, baking or food prep,” she adds. Layering materials, such as wood or solid surface over stone, is an international trend that is beginning to show up in the U.S. as well, according to Chmiel.
Another approach on the rise is the use of multiple colors for surfaces in residential projects, says Bob Paradiso, v.p./sales and marketing at Hanwha L&C Surfaces in Atlanta, GA. “What’s driving that is that multicolor gives the end user more flexibility as far as matching their cabinets to their flooring,” he says.
Tammy Weadock, marketing communications manager, PR/online and sustainability for Wilsonart International in Temple, TX, says that simplicity is still valued in modern kitchen countertop trends. “No fuss, low-maintenance countertops are as important as ever to consumers in this high-impact, fast-paced space we know as the modern family kitchen.”
INVESTMENT IN QUALITY
Designers mindful of consumers’ budgetary concerns have plenty of options with the number of products available at varying price points. “Homeowners with limited budgets don’t have to sacrifice their desired design aesthetics, as the current trends can be created at any price point based on material choice,” says Chmiel.
However, materials must live up to consumers’ expectations, regardless of price point, says Lorenzo Marquez, v.p./marketing at the Stafford, TX-based Cosentino. “With bigger budgets, we often see increased customization and more surfacing integrated into the kitchen plan. We’re noticing many high-end projects with waterfall countertops or a clean, seamless look that will include a wall-to-wall Silestone quartz backsplash and integrated sink.” He adds, “Consumers who are more value-minded focus on maximizing their investment with quality products that will last.”
Mandell says that creating materials that use ultra-fine particulates, which allows them to achieve a more modern palette, is a more expensive process, therefore, those materials often command a slight premium. “Interestingly, it seems households that have the resources to remodel may change-out a countertop rather than [doing the whole kitchen over],” he says. “As such, homeowners tend to upgrade the countertop materials and are seeking high-quality materials that provide the design aesthetics they feel are important.”
Another impact of the more budget-conscious climate, according to Paradiso, is that consumers generally expect that they have to live with the countertop for 10 to 12 years. Therefore, they want something that isn’t bland, he notes. “We see them investing in design, which as you get more intricate design, you get to higher price points in their countertops.” Consumers are willing to invest in a higher-end product, he says, as they upgrade to something that makes a statement about who they are.