Topping Things Off

by Autumn McGarr

Countertops, tasked with a multitude of aesthetic and functional demands, have increasingly become the focal point of today’s kitchens, serving not simply in their traditional roles of food prep, eating, cleanup and entertaining, but as a multi-purpose space for homework, hobbies and various other projects.

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, according to a nationwide survey conducted by Kitchen & Bath Design News among dealers and designers.

According to the findings of the survey, conducted early last month, key factors in countertop selection include material, color, durability, affordability and sustainability. Sanitary benefits have also become increasingly important, particularly in light of the nation’s current public-health crisis, dealers and designer tell KBDN.

Quartz, far and away, continues to be the kitchen countertop material that surveyed dealers and designers say is growing quickest in demand among their clients. Specifically, the KBDN survey revealed that quartz countertops – engineered from ground or crushed quartz, and mixed with polymers, resins and pigments to create a wide array of textures and colors – are seen by nearly 36% of those surveyed as the countertop they see growing fastest in demand. By comparison, quartzite – natural sandstone that under heat and pressure is fused with sparkly quartz crystals – is seen as the fastest-growing material by just over 14% of survey respondents, while granite is seen as fastest-growing among about 9% of the dealers and designers polled (see Figure 1).

In keeping with color trends throughout today’s kitchens, white/cream (45.5%) and gray (25.6%) are the predominant colors in demand by countertop customers, according to KBDN survey respondents. Black is preferred by some 14% of the designers’ clients (see Figure 2). Shiny surfaces are preferred by 55% of their customers, surveyed design pros report. Matte surfaces, by comparison, are preferred by about 45% (see Figure 3).

Cost is also a factor in homeowners’ selection of a specific countertop material, although it seems that clients are willing to spend in an effort to get the material they desire, according to surveyed dealers and designers. The KBDN survey found, for example, that only about 36% of their customers consider cost to be either “extremely” important (9%) or “very” important (27%), survey respondents said. By comparison, some 57% of their customers said affordability was only “moderately” important, while about 7% said cost was either only “slightly” important or “not important at all” (see Figure 4).

The importance of selecting countertops with distinct sanitary benefits has apparently become increasingly important – likely a result of increased awareness in the benefit of anti-
microbial protection due to the current 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 “extremely important” (16.5%) or “very important (38.8%), according to surveyed dealers and designers. By comparison, only about 16% of their customers consider sanitary only “slightly important” or “not at all important,” survey respondents report (see Figure 5).

Other key survey results were as follows:

Regarding material selection, kitchen clients are gravitating toward countertops that feature patterns (75%), as opposed to countertops in solid colors (see Figure 6).

Consumers are also 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, more than three-quarters of their clients favor neutral tones as opposed to splashy tops, dealers and designers tell KBDN (see Figure 7).

Durability remains a critical factor in countertop material selection, with 54.2% of the surveyed dealers and designers saying durability is “very important” to clients, and 34.9% saying it is “extremely important.” In contrast, only about 1.3% of clients feel countertop durability is “not at all” important (see Figure 8).

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, nearly 60% of those surveyed reported that environmental friendliness was only “slightly important” (34.9%) or “not at all important” (23.5%) as a factor in selection among their clients. By comparison, only about 10% said it was either “extremely important” or “very important” (see Figure 9). ▪

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