“Across the range of price points, from high to low, consumers are demanding functional products that look great," adds Trisha Schmitt, v.p./marketing for the Holstein, IA-based VT Industries. "They want low-maintenance surfaces with a beautiful, high-end look.”
While granite has long seemed the holy grail of countertops, and still has a solid position in the high-end countertop market, manufacturers say other materials are on the rise, due to factors like cost, sustainability, ease of maintenance and warranties.
“Aspirational materials like granite and natural stone are highly influential,” says Weadock. “With consideration to sustainable attributes, laminate now offers beautiful translations of granites and stones in a variety of designs, colors and price points.”
Quartz is in high demand, manufacturers say, for many reasons. “If desired, colors and patterns that are different from granite are available in quartz materials. Plus, the product is virtually nonporous and does not require chemical sealants,” says Mandell. An added benefit, he continues, is the fact that quartz surfaces typically carry a manufacturer’s warranty of 10 to 15 years.
Huong Tran, marketing manager at Vicostone USA in Dallas, TX, says the demand for quartz is on the rise because it’s a material that is environmentally friendly, durable and safe for food.
Marquez adds, “We’re seeing a growing consistency amongst consumers, designers and industry professionals who are seeking surfacing that resembles the look and feel of natural stone, but requires little maintenance. I think we can expect to see a continued investment in natural quartz countertops because they are easy to clean, never need to be sealed and require very little maintenance. Overall, homeowners consider the countertop as a major investment for the kitchen, so they demand a product that will stand the test of time and look great for decades.”
“What’s nice about quartz is that it’s nonporous,” agrees Mike Morici, director, HI-MACS & Viatera for LG Hausys America, Inc. in Atlanta, GA. "There’s a comfort level that if you have quartz surfacing, you don’t have to be so protective or worry about every little thing that gets spilled on it.”
Solid surface, on the other hand, has flexible qualities that allow people to incorporate other products, such as trivets, drainage boards, hot plates, lights and even touch-screen TV monitors into the surface, Morici adds. “There’s going to be lots of unique applications in the future, and solid surface really is set up well to adapt to that,” he says.
Mandell adds, “If seamless countertops without the visible joint lines in a stone or quartz countertop are preferred, there are high-end acrylic surfaces that emulate the appearance of natural quartz while providing all of the benefits of a solid-surface material and without obvious joints or seams.”
In a still-challenging economy, laminate also offers an affordable option with many design choices. “Overall we’re still seeing the continued presence of stone looks in the laminate market,” says Schmitt. “Laminate technology continues to advance, yielding beautiful laminates that are then paired with postformed edge profiles for gorgeous, realistic countertop options.”
Countertops dominate much of the kitchen, making colors, patterns and design elements like edging and backsplashes important in achieving a designer’s overall vision. A natural stone look is still popular, regardless of whether the materials are real stone or materials that simulate that appearance.
The overwhelming trend in countertops now favors natural stone-look colors for quartz, especially those representing rare and/or expensive marbles and granites.
“We’re seeing that large-scale, exotic granite, stone and marble looks still hold mass appeal as Formica’s 180fx large-scale designs remain our most popular laminate offerings,” says Chmiel. In addition, she adds, “Textures that enhance the realism of a pattern without detracting from it continue to be successful.”