Changing lifestyles, emerging design trends and consumer product “hot buttons” are having a major impact on materials, colors and styles for countertops, which continue to grow in prominence as both an aesthetic and functional feature in today’s new and remodeled kitchens.
That’s one of several key findings of a nationwide survey conducted by Kitchen & Bath Design News among kitchen dealers and designers, who report that countertops – impacted largely by the COVID-19 pandemic – have increasingly become the focal point of the modern-day kitchen, serving not only in their traditional roles of food prep, eating, cleanup and entertaining, but as a multi-purpose space for homework, hobbies, work-from-home projects, and various other activities.
Yet despite the dizzying array of colors, materials, features and other choices available, kitchen consumers are very specific when it comes to the criteria they consider when selecting their countertops, the KBDN survey found.
According to the findings of the survey, conducted last month, key factors in countertop selection include material, color, durability, affordability and sustainability. Sanitary benefits have also become increasingly important, dealers and designers tell KBDN. Similarly, cost is also a factor in homeowners’ selection of a countertop material, although it seems that clients are increasingly willing to invest – and even stretch their budget – in order to obtain the material, functionality and overall aesthetic they desire.
QUARTZ LEADING MATERIAL
According to the survey’s results, engineered quartz continues to be the countertop material that dealers and designers report is growing fastest in demand among their kitchen clients.
Specifically, the KBDN survey found that engineered quartz countertops are seen by nearly 33% of those surveyed as the countertop they see growing fastest in demand (see Figure 1).
By comparison, quartzite – natural sandstone that is fused under heat and pressure with sparkly quartz crystals – is viewed as the fastest-growing kitchen countertop material by roughly 17% of survey respondents, while granite is seen as fastest-growing among just over 9% of the design professionals polled. Other countertop choices include solid surface (7%), marble (5%), sintered stone (4.6%) and concrete (3.3%). Outdoor-friendly surfaces are also seen as increasing in popularity, along with the growing trend toward outdoor living.
In terms of color, white/cream (45%) and gray (24.4%) are the predominant colors in demand, according to survey respondents. Black is preferred by about 12.6% of the designers’ clients. Shiny and matte surfaces are preferred about equally by their customers, surveyed design pros report (see Figure 2).
Dealers and designers also report that clients are increasingly gravitating to countertops that feature subtle patterns and movement, as opposed to other options. The KBDN survey found, for example, that 62.5% of the dealers and designers polled reported that countertops with subtle patterns were the preference of clients. In contrast, only 18.8% said their clients are gravitating toward marble-look surfaces, while 12.5% said their clients prefer countertops with dramatic patterns or movement, and 6.3% said clients are gravitating toward solid-color tops.
OTHER KEY CRITERIA
The importance of selecting countertops with distinct sanitary/health benefits has apparently become increasingly important to clients, doubtless as a result of increased awareness regarding the benefits of anti-microbial protection due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, some 55% of their customers consider sanitary benefits such as easy-to-clean and anti-microbial protection to be either “very important” (42%) or “extremely important” (13.2%), according to surveyed dealers and designers. At the same time, surveyed design pros say sanitary benefits are “moderately important” to some 24% of their clients. By comparison, only about 20% of their customers consider sanitary benefits to be only “slightly important” (18.3%) or “not at all important” (1.9%), survey respondents report (see Figure 3).
Durability also remains an important factor in countertop material selection, with some 55% of the surveyed dealers and designers saying durability is “very important” to clients, and roughly 37% saying durability is “extremely important.” In contrast, only about 1.3% of clients feel countertop durability is “not at all” important (see Figure 4).
Affordability, as noted earlier, is somewhat less of a factor in countertop selection.
The KBDN survey found, for example, that only about 36% of their customers consider affordability to be either “extremely” important (8.5%) or “very” important” (25%), survey respondents said. By comparison, however, some 56% of dealers’ and designers’ customers said affordability was only “moderately” important, while more than 10% said it was either only “slightly” important (8%) or “not important at all” (2.4%) (see Figure 5).
Other key survey results were as follows:
- Regardless of material selection, kitchen clients are generally seeking neutral countertops that blend seamlessly with the overall kitchen aesthetic, as opposed to bold countertops with “wow” appeal, according to the survey’s findings. Specifically, nearly three-quarters of their clients favor neutral tones as opposed to splashy tops, dealers and designers tell KBDN.
- Environmental friendliness is a major factor in countertop material selection among only about half of today’s kitchen clients, dealers and designers told KBDN. Specifically, roughly 64% of those surveyed reported that environmental friendliness was only “slightly important” (39.9%) or “not at all important” (23.9%) as a factor in selection among their clients. By comparison, less than 10% said environmental friendliness was either “extremely important” or “very important.” ▪
Multi-Functional Countertops Termed ‘Priority’ for Kitchens
PALO ALTO, CA — Homeowners are making room in their kitchen remodeling budget to prioritize large, multi-functional countertops, in part as a response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on American lifestyles, a major new study has found.
According to the 2022 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, more than one-third of surveyed homeowners (35%) reportedly “splurged” on countertops, which were upgraded by more than nine in 10 homeowners, the most common feature improved during kitchen renovations.
“It’s clear that homeowners are willing to spend a little more to get exactly what they want in countertops that are both beautiful and practical, despite rising prices of labor, products and materials,” said Marine Sargsyan, senior economist for the Palo Alto, CA-based online platform for home renovation and design.
When it comes to choosing new kitchen countertops, homeowners opt for materials based on the look and feel, durability and ease of cleaning, rather than cost, said Houzz, whose online survey was conducted among nearly 2,400 U.S. Houzz users who are in the midst of, are planning or recently completed a kitchen renovation.
Engineered quartz and granite are the most popular countertop materials (42% and 24%, respectively), despite tariff and pandemic-induced price increases, Houzz reported. Of the more than one in five renovating homeowners who select an island countertop material that contrasts from their primary countertops, over one-third choose butcher block or wood slab. Aesthetically, homeowners increasingly choose white for their countertops during renovations.
Among other survey findings:
- Large Islands Popular: Following a kitchen renovation, one in five homeowners say that a top activity at their island is work, up 4% from 2021. Homeowners are making space for this activity, with nearly two in five islands stretching more than 7 feet in length, up five percentage points from last year. Homeowners are also making the space brighter, with the vast majority installing new light fixtures above islands (92%).
- White and Gray Prevail as Top Colors: White continues to lead as the top choice for kitchen cabinets, backsplashes and walls. Gray is the most common alternative to white, with 27% of renovating homeowners painting kitchen walls gray, 13% installing gray flooring, and 11% opting for a gray backsplash.
- Appliances Get a Boost from High-Tech Features: Appliances are the second most common feature that homeowners splurge on during kitchen renovations (27%). Over a third of upgraded appliances include high-tech features, up six percentage points from the previous year. The most popular kitchen appliance features are wireless and smartphone controls (26%), up eight percentage points from 2021.
- Beverage Refrigerators Abound: Nearly one in five homeowners are incorporating beverage refrigerators in their renovated kitchens, and 14% are adding wine refrigerators.
Homeowners Seen Seeking ‘Everything You Can Imagine’
CHICAGO — Homeowners are seemingly casting an extremely wide net, and spending willingly, when it comes to the selection of materials, styles and colors for kitchen countertops.
That’s the consensus among a nationwide sampling of kitchen design professionals polled last month by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
“It’s very difficult to answer questions about design trends and demand,” one designer told KBDN. “One client might have plain white countertops, while another has bold veining. It all depends on the project, the client, who lives in the house, and what are their unique needs and goals.”
“It’s busy out there, and clients are requesting everything you can imagine,” another designer said.
Dealers and designers also reported that clients are willing to spend a larger portion of their kitchen remodeling budget then they may have originally intended on countertops, as long as the specified tops meet their functional needs and enhance the overall design.
A sampling of additional dealer/designer comments conveyed to KBDN include the following:
- “We’re seeing countertops that stand out against the cabinetry but are either solid or very subtly patterned so that they better stand the test of time (with more people remaining in place). The backsplash is where the ‘wow’ factor is, if that’s desired.”
- “I see a growing trend toward warmer colors in quartz with a marble look – caramels, browns, red plum (yes!). We need to get away from cold gray and very cool white with only gray. My clients are tired of that trend, or they’re afraid I’m going to tell them that’s what they ‘have’ to do.”
- “We sell about 50% quartz for subtle patterns and 50% granite for bold patterns. However, lately we’ve seen demand rise for more expensive materials (such as quartzite), and more unusual materials (such as dolomite). Both those materials help the client make a more personal statement.”
- “People are mixing countertops, but whites and light-color marble looks with some darker brown or gray veining all seem popular. Also, while some clients want thick edges, most prefer thin (3 cm).”