Countertops are King

There’s no denying there are a lot of products and materials available to help kitchen and bath designers take client spaces from ordinary to extraordinary. Throughout the year, KBDN highlights hundreds of products in its Product Trend Report and Product Review sections, everything from appliances, hardware and Universal Design accessories to sinks, faucets, cabinetry and lighting. But if KBDN’s annual “Most Asked About Products” list is any indication, countertops were of special interest this past year.

At the end of each year, KBDN provides a review of the hottest, most interesting products, the most-asked about items as selected by tallying reader requests throughout the year. This year, countertop materials – anything from glass and quartz to wood and stainless steel – garnered six of the top 10 spots, and were represented in an additional four places in our top 20.

While half of the most-asked-about products came from one category, the remaining 10 products provide a mix from six different categories. Likely to no one’s surprise, Universal Design products showed a strong representation, with four products designed to promote safety and ease of use for clients of all ages and abilities. Hardware, which historically generates a lot of interest, was well represented in 2012 as well, with styles that offer a high level of personalization.

Peruse this and the following three pages to find out more about which products and materials captured the most interest among dealers and designers this past year.

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Stone Countertop Guide

(tie) 1. The Convenient Guidelines for Stone Countertops technical guide from the Marble Institute of America provides standards, guidelines and recommendations for residential natural stone countertop installations.

“We’ve taken the ‘technical speak’ out of countertop installation and tailored it to the residential audience,” says Garen Distelhorst, communications director for the Marble Institute of America. “We’ve made those specifications more readable. That’s important because everyone wants to make sure countertops are installed correctly.”

Several specification sections have been updated and include clarification on the differences in lippage on countertops vs. islands and peninsulas.

Recycled Glass Surface

(tie) 1. Curava is a recycled glass surface available in Standard and Splendid Collections in 20 colors. Each slab is made from at least 70% recycled glass. The manufacturing process allows for particulates to be spread throughout the product for a three-dimensional quality.

Artistic Glass Countertop

3. ThinkGlass Artistic glass countertops are custom designed and manufactured using 100% recyclable glass. Painted to suit client specifications, they create a surface that is also a work of art.

“There is certainly a trend toward adding a glass accent piece in the kitchen,” says Bertrand Charest, president, ThinkGlass, noting that the addition of lights is becoming increasingly popular. “Seventy percent of our sales include LED [lights] for lighting the tops, and for changing the mood of the kitchen.”

“Glass is a wonderful material,” he continues. “It will not change under sunlight, or with age or exposure to the environment. It is always present in our lives (windows, drinking glasses, etc.). Selecting it to be visually more present is an obvious choice.”

ThinkGlass recently added side panels to its product line. “The streamlined look leaves the kitchen open and uncluttered,” he continues. “The glass is beautifully textured and scatters the light in a continuous flow, adding drama and interest. The transparency of glass countertops and their continuous side panels illuminated by LED lights literally lights up any kitchen with sophisticated style.”

Zero-Threshold Shower Base

4. The Zero-Threshold TZ3260 Shower Base from Jason International is crafted to meet Universal Design needs.

“This shower base makes remodeling easier and makes bathrooms safer,” says Jennifer Jacuzzi-Peregrin, v.p., Jason Corporate Development. “Millions of Americans are adapting their homes to live more comfortably as they age, and this specially designed, stainless steel linear drain is recessed into the front of the base, removing barriers and allowing easy access upon entering and exiting.”

A built-in lip provides a water-tight installation. The shower also includes a slip-resistant floor and integral seat. It is available in a 60”x32” size.

Alternative Backsplash

5. The HiLites Wallsplash from RangeCraft Manufacturing is an alternative to traditional kitchen backsplash materials.

Its blackened non-directional “swirling” effects offer a colored “swish” pattern that appears when room lighting is turned on. When the lights are turned off, reflections in the swirls create dramatic highlights from swish patterns in the “splash.”

“Like our made-to-order range hoods, the HiLites Wallsplash Backsplashes have become popular with designers and consumers looking for something unique or different that adds sophistication and elegance,” says Ramona Panus, v.p., RangeCraft Manufacturing. “Our backsplashes are a stylish, attractive alternative to traditional materials used in kitchen backsplashes.”

The HiLites Wallsplash backsplashes may also be used for feature walls and decorative borders. They are available in Stainless Steel, Brass and Copper.

Quartz Countertop

(tie) 6. The look of the Waterstone Collection of quartz from Cambria was influenced by the natural movement of water over stone.

“It captures the depth and beauty of marble and granite, while offering the superior strength and performance of quartz,” says Heather Rist, manager of communications at Cambria.

Because it is nonporous, it is also maintenance free, “meaning that living with your Cambria means no sealing or polishing with harmful chemicals… ever,” she adds. “With the busy and healthy lifestyles of families today, this is a very attractive feature.

Ranging from neutral to vibrant tones that are reminiscent of granite and marble, each color is named for a location in Wales and England.

LED Tape Lights

(tie) 6. Nora Lighting low-profile LED tape lights are an energy-efficient solution for illuminating kitchen and bath areas, including under cabinets, in toe kicks and on bath steps.

“There are several reasons why our LED tape lights are so popular,” says E.J. Phillips, national showroom sales manager, NORA Lighting, “including the fact that they’re efficient, versatile and easy to use.”

Offered in a range of colors, including cool or warm white, the silicon-encapsulated tape is cETLus-listed for wet locations and CA Title 24 compliant. Measuring 7/16” wide x 1/16” thick, the tape light can be cut every 4 inches.

“The tape is linear and small, and they can be attached to anything,” he continues. “It has so many opportunities. We’ve barely scratched the surface with LED lighting.”

Wood Countertop

(tie) 8. Craft-Art Rustic Black Walnut countertops offer a knottier version of Black Walnut. The heartwood is a rich, dark brown with more wavy or curly grain than standard Black Walnut.

Wood countertops give homeowners the ability to add a natural, visually warm element to their kitchens, notes Sarah Anderson, product manager, The Craft-Art Company. “Dark wood countertops, in particular, can soften bright white kitchens which are so popular right now,” she continues. “We’ve seen a trend toward mixing surfaces, and wood countertops give homeowners the ability to add visual warmth.”

Rustic Black Walnut countertops are finished with Tung Oil, giving it a waterproof finish that allows it to be used with sinks.

Craft-Art offers more than 25 different wood species.

Cabinet Tray

(tie) 8. The SBDT Tray from Rev-A-Shelf not only protects the bottom of the undersink cabinet, but also funnels excess water to the front of the cabinet and out onto the floor to showcase the leak.

“This tray gives people the ability to protect their investment,” says Shari McPeek, marketing manager, Rev-A-Shelf. “Because it is designed to funnel excess liquid, you will be notified of a spill.”

The SBDT Tray is available in a variety of sizes, including the recent addition of sizes available for vanity cabinets. It holds 1.75 quarts of liquid, wipes clean and features a front-gravity design.

Onyx-inspired Countertop

(tie) 8. Inspired by the look of natural onyx, Okite Pietre Preziose from Seieffe offers a deep, luminous color that brings design projects depth and the allure of precious stones in a 93% natural quartz compound. The highly heat-, stain- and scratch-resistant is durable, nonporous and, according to the company, never needs sealing.

The Pietre Preziose Collection is also translucent, allowing light to move through it to create a dramatic, modern look that is suitable for countertops, wall cladding, partitions and other indoor applications where natural onyx is used.

“It’s a great choice for countertops and showers, where it can be used vertically,” notes Mike Boyd, sales manager, Seieffe. “In addition to its durability, it does not promote the growth of mold, mildew or bacteria.”

This Collection is available in three color options presently: 9002 Honey, 9003 Red and 9004 White. OKITE’s entire line has over 50 color options, including the “Venati Collection” which was inspired by natural marble.

European Countertop

(tie) 11. The Euro-Star European kitchen solid wood countertop from CafeCountertops is engineered to resist warping and splitting. Its finish stands up to kitchen spills, including red wine, yet is safe for chopping and food prep, the firm notes.

Art Glass Vanity Top

(tie) 11. Hirsch Glass’ Art Glass Vanity top series features distinctive colors and patterns embedded throughout the glass. Available in a variety of color depths and appearances, it is tempered and laminated and comes in 37”x22” with ¾” thickness. Custom sizes are available.

Decorative Hardware

13. Fersa Hardware’s more than 4,000 handcrafted decorative models are reproductions of period hardware made using ancient methods. The two-tone collection is one of Fersa’s many offerings.

Wood Surfacing

14. Caron Industries’ Top Style Collection of surfaces offers warmth, richness and durability in a wood work surface. The warm wood surfaces provide eco-friendly benefits and complement a wide variety of kitchen designs.

Tub Shower Screen

15. Ark Showers specializes in European-inspired bathtub shower screens, an alternative to shower curtains and sliding doors. The company offers single-panel, pivoting designs that provide ease of installation and the look of frameless shower doors, according to the company.

Stainless Steel Countertops

(tie) 16. A-line stainless steel countertops by Advance Tabco come in various edge styles. Constructed of heavy-duty 16-gauge 304 stainless steel, they incorporate steel hat channel understructures and are available in standard or custom sizes.

Stained Glass Knob

(tie) 16. Glance Yar Stained Glass Design offers the Doublet cabinet knob. A domed checkerboard crystal is placed atop a hand-cut base of stained glass. The Doublet is available in a variety of glass colors and styles.

Fold-down Shower Seat

(tie) 16. The Fold-down Shower Seat from Moen Home Care features a wall-mount design that folds down into a seat and folds up to a think, compact profile when not in use. A 20”x15” seating surface supports users up to 400 lbs. The seat is constructed of aluminum and water-resistant teak wood.

Seated Shower

(tie) 16. Sterling’s Accord seated shower features a geometric back wall design and block-style sided walls. The shower seat is designed at a sitting and transfer height of 17 ½”, and is movable and removable, fitting snugly into place. The Accord is designed to fit in standard-sized alcoves, and is available in two sizes.

Teak Transfer Bench

(tie) 16. The ADA Compliant Teak Transfer Bench from Teakworks4u is available in Burmese Teak, Garapa, Plantation Teak, Cypress or White Cedar, and features rounded edges on the seat battens for comfort. The bench remains in a raised position until pulled down. Low-pressure spring action makes it easy to raise and lower the seat.