When it comes to what’s trending in countertop and backsplash designs, it’s all about the personal touch. Designing for the next owner is out – rather, today’s consumers want to make a personal statement about who they are and what they love, whether with color, texture, material choices or eco sensibilities. Clean looks remain hot, with shades of white and grey in high demand, but color and even some metallic hints are also seeing increased interest.
And, while countertops and backsplashes often act as visual focal points for the space, that doesn’t mean that it’s all about aesthetics. In today’s hard-working homes, beauty needs to run more than just surface deep, as today’s consumers want multipurpose surfaces that are not only beautiful, but also durable and easy to clean.
This month, KBDN looks at a selection of countertop and backsplash designs that showcase some of the hottest design trends right now.
While Lea McDonough of the Hampton, VA-based Classic Cabinets of Virginia sees a variety of countertop products trending right now, sometimes a really special project requires a collection of unique materials.
In the case of this exotic mixed wood island top, a simple chopping board became a jumping-off point for what would become a one-of-a-kind design. McDonough explains, “My customer has several homes – from the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic (my area), and over to Texas. She has a lot of experience renovating properties and working on new construction projects herself. She and I both share an eclectic style and love for all different types of materials. We were chatting in my showroom where I had a sampling of wood counter tops…we were both admiring all the different colors and how we could see them ‘all’ in her kitchen.”
Part of being a successful designer means being able to see something that doesn’t yet exist, and convey that vision to the client. In this case, McDonough suggested having a local company, The Southside Woodshop, build the top with varying pieces of wood, including exotics. Based in Norfolk, VA, The Southside Woodshop creates custom hardwood countertops, and thrives on having the opportunity to create personalized designs that can act as both a fabulous focal point and functional food prep surface.
“My customer loved the idea,” McDonough exclaimed. “Jud Dinsmore [owner of The Southside Woodshop] made a small chopping board as an example and we fell in love – we just knew this would be the ‘wow’ factor of the kitchen.”
While the island top is striking in appearance, it also works for a kitchen designed for a serious chef who thrives on creating wonderful meals. McDonough explains that her client loves to entertain, and “she tells me that every guest’s favorite piece in the kitchen is this island top. It’s unique, absolutely stunning, and very functional for a serious Italian cook who uses it daily.”
In addition to mixing wood species, McDonough also sees a lot of granite and quartz being used in countertop designs today, and notes that tile is also seeing more interest on backsplashes. “Glass tile is very popular in our area,” she adds.
Creating a truly special design is all about making it personal – and that can include anything from a striking color palette to a mix of materials and design themes. In the case of this design, created by Susan Serra, CKD, CAPS, and president of the Long Island, NY-based Susan Serra Associates, Inc., a blending of American Coastal and Scandinavian design helps provide a sense of authenticity, while two different surfacing materials add color, texture and elegance to the space.
She notes, “This is a very personal kitchen design, and this image tells that story in great detail.” The framework helps to bring the countertop and backsplash design to life, and to that end, she explains, “It was important to me to maintain the flow of the walls throughout the kitchen for aesthetic reasons. Therefore, a downdraft was my cooktop ventilation method of choice. This downdraft and cooktop combination by Gaggenau is deeper than typical combinations. A recess into the wall behind the cooktop houses the downdraft. This design allowed a lovely dimensional area to feature Albedo by Silestone in the vibrant blue, which is repeated elsewhere in the kitchen.”
She continues, “The countertop and backsplash of Borea in Cosentino’s Dekton material makes a very elegant statement. It’s a warm color with a light texture, and the performance of this material is, quite honestly, second to none.”
While the design is striking, it’s also soothing, and this was part of Serra’s plan. She notes, “In an unsettled world, I see homeowners wanting authenticity, easy care and a sense of calm, all rolled into one. Authenticity in the form of tactile and visual texture (such as Borea by Dekton) adds that imperfect (opposite of visually cold) quality that feels comfortable. Easy care adds greatly needed and wanted efficiency in terms of time saved. Easy-care materials such as engineered stone also translate to minimizing health concerns from food-borne bacteria.”
She continues, “Countertops and backsplashes with little to no pattern add a calming element, particularly to smaller spaces, and fit aesthetically as modern design gets more traction.” She sees these as the “whys” that relate to today’s interest in solid colors, light textures, concrete looks and man-made textures, adding, “This trend also allows more lively and bold patterns to have a place, literally, as tabletops, or smaller featured areas in the kitchen or at a featured work station.”
As far as other hot trends, she believes, “Marble shows no signs of trending down,” and sees its transformation to solid surface materials providing “the best of both worlds.” Finally, she predicts a continuing trend toward neutrals in countertops “for the foreseeable future, probably with accompanying backsplashes for a more simple, cohesive look.”
While the personal touch is highly coveted in today’s kitchens, sometimes designers must deal with the challenge of designing something that feels personal, even while it works for a wide variety of users. This was the case for Teri Koss of Design Studio, in Santa Fe, CA, who worked with builder Greg Bock of Bock Construction on this project built for the spec market.
“It needed to be designed for both entertaining and family, and it needed to work for people on the go, which is a way of life [in this part of the country],” she explains. At the same time, she wanted a countertop design that would be clean, durable and beautiful, and neutral enough to work for a wide variety of potential families, without feeling cold or generic.
Recognizing the popularity of the marble look, she selected HanStone Quartz in Tranquility from Hanwha Surfaces because “it had the look that was closest to marble yet still quartz. Quartz is bulletproof, it has the properties and durability of granite, but [without the maintenance].” The material selected “doesn’t have a lot of pattern,” which she believed would be a good choice for providing the clean look that is so in demand.
To make the island more personal, it was designed with different levels. This gives it more “mass appeal,” according to Koss, and also works equally well for a family or for entertaining.
“Not everyone wants a gigantic island,” she explains, so the multi-level design maximizes functionality without being visually intrusive. “And it’s clean, with no maintenance,” which is sure to appeal to any future owner, she believes.
When it comes to overall countertop trends, she sees quartz being the number one trend right now, with people leaning toward either very light white or very dark black tones. She adds, “Backsplashes seem to be large-format tile, and we’re seeing some back-painted glass tile, or even window glass as backsplashes. One thing we are seeing is people staying away from texture; it’s hard to clean.”
She concludes, “Everything is just contemporary right now, dark or white, very simple, and all of the coordinating materials are natural, simple and clean.”
CLASSIC & GREEN
California designer Cathy Aroz appreciates the classics – whether that means classic whites and neutrals, or classic products with a twist. The latter was the case in a recent kitchen design where the homeowner came prepared with a whole file of photos showing what he thought he wanted – starting with classic subway tile in white.
However, at one point in the conversation, he hinted that he might be open to color, and Aroz saw the chance to introduce him to an eye-catching blue that would form the cornerstone for the unique yet classic kitchen.
She explains, “I wanted to give it an updated twist in both color and tile design that would suit his aesthetic. I went with an Oceanside Glass Tile glass subway tile, but with a twist, by adding a break in the pattern and a subtle contrast with the matte finish glass in the same color.”
The look “harmonized with the other elements in the room, but at the same time it stood out beautifully,” she notes, adding that the client was “thrilled with the results.”
Aroz believes, “The countertops and backsplash must strike a balance so that one doesn’t compete with the other. If the countertop is bold in color or pattern, the backsplash should be more subdued and vice versa.”
Of course, not everyone favors big, bold colors, and Aroz notes that soft grey and white comprised the palette for another recent design, where she had the additional requirement of “keeping it green.” She notes, “The house was basically a complete teardown, where they started from scratch, building a green house from the ground up. They wanted sustainable products that didn’t ‘look green,’ which is why they chose Oceanside Glass Tile.”
She continues, “It was a coastal house, so they liked the influence of the ocean, the sand, even the fog. The kitchen had an open floor plan, and it was a smaller space, so they wanted something very clean and fresh and modern.” To address the client’s desire, she went with subdued countertops that complement the eye-catching tile, providing a sense of balance, and working well with the open plan.
As far as overall trends in countertops and backsplashes, Aroz still sees “a lot of the classics – some neutrals, the whites and greys,” but she also notes a trend toward warmer tones. “And we’re also seeing lighter tones,” she adds, “very soft greys, very soft, warm, champagne-y tones, even some very soft silver blues. That’s a good transition color that brings in some color and serenity, with touches of the metallic. People love that because it’s so eye catching.”