Designers must also take into account the various ways a homeowner will put their countertop to use to make the best choice for their clients. Marquez says countertop usage is reflecting a move toward congregating around a table, island or counter to socialize. “‘Integrated tables' or ‘social tables’ that merge an island with a countertop or feature a surface with a drop-down or wrap-around countertop, with a level lower, are becoming increasingly popular for a number of entertainment and aesthetic reasons,” he says. “Some homeowners prefer to have the ‘children’s table’ connected to the main kitchen island to have continuation of seating and serving space. Others prefer the varied aesthetic the drop-down or wrap-around surface of an integrated table provides and desire the level of drama it adds to the overall design of the kitchen.”
The evolution of the kitchen into a more multipurpose space means countertops get more use as well. Beyond prep space for cooking, the surfaces are used for dining, studying, crafts, storage and more. As this occurs, most manufacturers say the amount of surface area is naturally getting larger.
“Kitchens are the gathering places in the home and are being used for so much more than just food preparation,” says Schmitt. “Oversized bars or islands are trending as people are opting for a less formal dining area and are including seating and functionality into the space.”
Weadock agrees, adding, “We are finding that by creating surface layers, kitchens become more functional for these diverse activities.”
Paradiso believes, “Islands are picking up more attention. We definitely see the island becoming the focal point within the kitchen.” These islands tend to have more extravagant design and intricate edge treatments, he says.
And, “though kitchens may be getting smaller, the islands are getting larger,” Morici maintains, explaining that LG Hausys manufactures quartz in a jumbo size slab (130"x63" as opposed to the traditional 120"x54"), which allows fabricators to get an island done with one slab.
Kitchens are moving to a more open concept, and may be replacing formal dining areas as well. “As homeowners are forgoing their formal dining rooms, the countertop surface area has expanded to incorporate the dining function,” says Chmiel.
“Architects and designers are knocking down walls more than ever before to create a continuation of space – fusing together the kitchen and living room. This open plan continues to gain popularity and, as a result, more surface space is becoming a preference in making the kitchen truly the 'heart of the home’,” says Marquez. “In achieving an open-plan look, designers are now removing more cabinetry and wall fixtures and opting for expansive kitchen islands that add a multi-functional element to the kitchen – a worktop for counter space and storage beneath,” he concludes.