Luxury Returns to the Kitchen in High-end Countertops

Luxury is returning to the kitchen. After scaling back during the recession, homeowners are not only ramping up their remodeling spending — they’re showing an eagerness to add high-end touches to their homes.

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies reported in April that year-over-year remodeling spending is expected to rise about 20 percent in the second half of 2013, on the strength of rising home prices and an improving job market. Consumers are financially secure enough again to pay for what they want — not just what they need.

Even among value-conscious customers, budgets are loosening dramatically. Spending on new cabinetry rose 27 percent from 2010 to 2012 as consumers chose larger projects and higher-priced cabinetry.

More dramatically, sales of granite and quartz countertops more than doubled. In 2010, during the depths of the recession, we sold more than twice as many laminate countertops as high-end granite and quartz ones. In 2012, high-end countertop sales eclipsed laminate sales.

What does this mean for kitchen remodelers? Two things:

First, kitchen remodelers often compete for customers on the basis of price, but they should really be competing for jobs on the basis of value. When a customer asks about a kitchen remodel, the first question out of your mouth should never be, “What is your budget?” Customers shouldn’t have to commit to a budget before they understand their options. Most people pay to remodel a kitchen only once or twice in a lifetime, and remodelers should help them evaluate their needs and choose the right services at the right price. Once a customer has been educated, they’ll have the knowledge to decide if an extra pantry is a good value, or pullout drawers for pots and pans, or high-end cabinets — or high-end countertops.

Second, remodelers need to start planning ahead. High-end countertops were extremely popular before the recession, too, and as kitchens installed in the late 1990s and early 2000s continue to age, more homeowners will want to upgrade their cabinets — but they won’t be eager to get rid of their gorgeous, expensive countertops. High-end cabinet refacing allows a remodeler to update a kitchen’s looks and add functionality without having to remove the countertop.

Gerry Henley has more than 35 years experience in the remodeling industry and is President of Kitchen Solvers, a Wisconsin-based franchise that provides systems, support and buying power to franchisees in the U.S. and Canada. Learn more at