The one prominent design element that can dramatically change any kitchen or bath environment would have to be countertops. New materials are evolving all the time; delivering stunning looks combined with smart product capabilities. Here are some of the most in-demand, and some of the newest introductions, making headlines in the world of countertops:
Granite– There is a consensus among kitchen and bath experts that granite is still the number one countertop choice. According to Carl Telles, sales manager of StoneAge Design in Anaheim, Calif., “Granite is still our best-selling material. The durability and unique beauty of each slab draws customers to it.” Designers are in total agreement with that statement.
The desire to have a piece of nature’s own artwork in the home is the driver keeping granite in first place. Each slab has character and movement and is intended to last the life of a home. Annual sealing of granite countertops is recommended, along with use of cutting boards to protect the surface and to ensure beauty for decades to come. Granite should be polished with a soft, non-abrasive cloth and granite polish, to bring out the natural beauty and restore shine.
Vetrazzo– This manufacturer claims Vetrazzo to be “a story in every surface.” Vetrazzo is captivating because of its different look and its range of selections. From more homogenous looks (similar to quartz surfaces), to charismatic, chunky mosaic looks, these recycled glass countertops are dramatic. The prismatic effects in each panel combine with bold colorations to produce the “I want that” effect in customers.
Leather-Look Counters– The goal of this column is to introduce you to emerging new looks and materials for counters, and here’s one that will get your attention. Leather-look counters are one of the hottest new trends in design. These counters are quite convincing at resembling authentic leather, but obviously real leather would not be very practical.
But, if you could achieve the look of leather with the hardness and durability of granite (or limestone), then you’ve got a workable marriage of materials and aesthetics. And that’s exactly what’s being done. At the quarry, dark colored granite slabs are distressed using special wire brushes to produce a tactile, honed look and then sealed to ensure durability. Check out the matte finish on these products – it gives the appearance of true leather perfect for contemporary, urban designs.
Compac Quartz– Announcing two new designer series in user-friendly quartz: Compac’s Lumicks series and the Karim Rashid collaborative collection are all about color. Design has taken a huge turn towards bolder, clarified colors, and Compac has reacted to this trend. The Lumicks line features sophisticated, pure colors like Sky, Cocoa, Apricot, Citron and Orange. This line is not for the faint of heart. If your personality is bold, gregarious and avant-garde, take a long look at the Lumicks series to match your personality. Approved for kitchens, bathrooms, lounges, worktops, floors and walls, Compac Quartz might be the foundation for your entire design.
Just as bold and enticing is Compac’s collaborative collection. Artist Karim Rashid uses colors to create shimmering statements that encompass nine fresh color introductions, including deep plum (Lila), Lime Green, Flamingo (pink) and even Fuschia (red). If you are looking to take on a countertop line that makes a statement, this line is for you.
This same material has been used for decades by the aerospace industry for tooling, the marine industry for fiberglass reinforcement, and the action sports industry for outdoor skate ramps. With credentials like that, durability is a given. Richlite products are GREENGUARD certified for indoor use in residential, school, and institutional environments, and can contribute to LEED points. No wonder designers and architects are impressed. For more information, go to www.richlite.com.
Cambria Quartz– There are many fine quartz products on the market today. So why highlight the Cambria brand in particular? As a designer, I see an aesthetic in their finished product that sets them apart. In all quartz products, the variation of pattern is achieved through random distribution of raw material in each slab.
Cambria uses pure rock quartz and polyester resin, but retains larger particulates of quartz in the mix. This gives each slab a more highly defined, granite-like appearance. They recently introduced 16 colors in their Quarry Collection, all of which show more character and movement than traditional quartz products. Cambria countertops are approved for use in food preparation areas and achieve the same rating as stainless steel countertops (according to National Sanitation Foundation standards.) Check out www.cambriausa.com for more information.
Onyx Countertops– Here’s a high-glamour, Hollywood-style approach to countertops. In my search for what’s super hot and what makes a lasting impression, onyx was at the top of the list. This marbleized, translucent material comes alive when lit from beneath the surface. Although not meant for kitchen or bathroom duties, consider onyx for bar-tops, media center tops, fireplace surrounds and wall treatments. The backlighting brings the material to life, providing a soft glow that turns a functional surface into a work of art. Remember, these surfaces are not meant for a heavy-duty work life. They are meant to be decorative in nature and will become an honest focal point for your entire room.
ECO by Cosentino– ECO by Cosentino fits the bill as a durable surface made from 75% recycled content, mostly from post-industrial or post-consumer materials and bound by an eco-safe resin. These recycled materials include porcelain glass, crystallized ash, mirror and even stone scraps. ECO’s attributes are as interesting as its composition. High durability against staining, scratching and scorching are at the top of the list. It’s non-porous and does not require sealers. It’s available in slab sizes as well as standard tile sizes, and look for 10 designer colors to be available in two textures. Both leather and polished surfaces will be available in ECO slabs. And if LEED points are important to the project, ECO qualifies. This is a perfect example of a smart product making headlines in the market today.
180fx by Formica– One of the oldest, most recognized names in countertops is Formica. With the introduction of their 180fx series, laminate countertops have now entered a new era. The technology is in place to replicate the true scale and look of natural granite slabs without the repetition of pattern found in most conventional laminates.
This collection allows the customer to experience the striking color variations and veining found in real granite, with a tactile surface texture that simulates the real thing. According to Jonathan Segaar, production manager of Leonard’s Services Countertop Fabrication facility in Perris, Calif., “We are seeing a resurgence of interest in laminates, especially because of the advanced technologies being used today. The 180fx series can be finished with specialty edging, giving it a very convincing granite look. The cost savings, especially to our builder customers, makes these Formica countertops a true value-added feature.” To take a closer look at the nine stunning colors and styles Formica is offering, log onto http://formica180fx.com.
There you have a quick tour of what’s on the horizon for countertops. While most of us are pretty much always focused on floor coverings, it’s good to look up every once in a while to see what’s new above ground level. Your customers will thank you for it.