Kitchen Countertop Trends 2023: Topping Things Off
Countertops have become more critical than ever as both an aesthetic and functional component in today’s kitchens, with consumers increasingly willing to invest in larger, multi-functional tops in an ever-widening array of materials, colors and configurations.
That is the key finding of a nationwide survey conducted by Kitchen & Bath Design News among 400+ kitchen and bath design professionals, who report that countertops – impacted by COVID-driven changing lifestyles, regional preferences, budgets and personal tastes – have increasingly become an integral part of modern-day kitchens, serving not only in their traditional roles of food prep, dining, cleanup and entertaining, but as a space for school work, hobbies and crafts, work-from-home projects, mobile device/smart-phone charging and other activities (see related sidebar).
KBDN’s online poll, conducted in March, found that 52% of the dealers and designers surveyed believe that countertops are becoming more critical to overall kitchen design, while a whopping 74% report that countertops are becoming larger in size than in years past (see Figures 1 & 2).
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the design pros surveyed also told KBDN that kitchen countertops are generally becoming more multifunctional than in years past. In contrast, 24% said that countertop functionality is about the same as in the past, while only 3% of those polled said that countertops are not more multifunctional than in the past.
“Countertops are becoming far more important now than in the past,” said Rich Metivier, of Kitchen Direct Inc., in Westfield, MA. “Our clients are willing to spend more for the finishing touch of their kitchen. They also want a maintenance-free product, mainly because life in general has been turned upside down.”
“Countertops are critical to an overall kitchen design – perhaps as much a key now as cabinetry,” another designer observed. “In my view, they’re like the flowers on a cake.”
“Our clients are looking for unique patterns and colors,” a third survey respondent commented. “They want their countertop to be drop-dead gorgeous, and be the ‘star of the show’.”
Said another: “Customers are looking for the ‘wow’ factor in their kitchen countertops.”
Consistent with these sentiments, roughly 73% of the design pros surveyed by KBDN report that today’s customers are increasingly willing to invest money – and even stretch their budget – in order to obtain the material, functionality and aesthetic qualities they desire. In sharp contrast, only about 4% are spending less on their countertops than in the past, survey respondents said (see Figure 3).
Yet despite the dizzying array of colors, materials, features and other choices available, kitchen consumers are apparently very specific when it comes to the attributes they most seek when selecting their countertops, the KBDN survey found.
According to the survey’s findings, key factors in countertop selection – aside from cost and material preference – include durability, ease of maintenance and ease of cleanliness. Other factors, such as sustainability and antimicrobial qualities, are also significant considerations – as is, in some cases, where a product is made (see Figure 4).
Kitchen clients also continue to lean decidedly toward engineered quartz as the countertop material of choice today.
Specifically, the KBDN survey found that engineered quartz countertops are seen by roughly 30% of those surveyed as the countertop they see growing fastest in demand.
By comparison, quartzite – natural sandstone fused under heat and pressure with sparkly quartz crystals – is viewed as the fastest-growing kitchen countertop material by roughly 21% of survey respondents, while porcelain and wood are each seen as fastest-growing among 10% of the design professionals polled. Other popular countertop choices include granite, marble, sintered stone, metal, recycled content and concrete (see Figure 5).
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, other design pros report. ▪
Multi-Functional Islands Seen as Key Kitchen Trend
SEATTLE — Today’s “ideal” kitchen includes a spacious, multi-functional island that “can seamlessly flex from breakfast bar to homework headquarters to dinner prep station,” according to data from Zillow, the Seattle-based real-estate marketplace company.
Zillow recently unveiled what the company identified as the top five residential design trends to watch in 2023, noting that multifunctional kitchen islands drew a 19% increase in mentions in listing descriptions on Zillow in the past year.
“As we redefine the spaces in our homes, kitchen islands are being designed to accommodate dining and entertaining activities in the kitchen rather than the formal dining room,” said Kerrie Kelly, creative director at Kerrie Kelly Design Studio. “In 2023, we will see a surge of larger, and even double kitchen islands, using unique colors and materials.”
“Different countertop materials, combination wood and stone worktops, and mixed metal fixtures and hardware will become more common, as will homeowners increasingly repurposing unique furniture pieces or vintage tables as islands,” Zillow observed.
The youngest homeowners will lead a new wave of the pandemic-era renovation boom, according to Zillow, whose survey found that 48% of homeowners younger than 40 have tapped the equity in their home in the past two years, most commonly to pay for home improvement projects.
“However, 90% of those homeowners under age 40 who took out a home-equity line of credit or a second mortgage, or opted for a cash-out refinance, have yet to spend all the money they borrowed, suggesting 2023 may be the year they complete all the renovation projects on their to-do list,” Zillow said, adding that the younger generation of renovators is likely to focus on projects that make their homes more sustainable, low-maintenance and high-tech.
Wide Range of Preferences Reported for Countertops
CHICAGO — When it comes to kitchen countertops, client preferences are as diverse as the available options, and based on such factors as homeowner demographics, budgets, lifestyles, regionality, designer recommendations, personal tastes and functional considerations, according to a survey by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
KBDN’s poll of kitchen design pros found that a dizzying array of colors, features and materials as diverse as quartz, porcelain, quartzite, granite, sintered stone and wood are finding a home in today’s kitchens.
“Despite competition over physical properties, the main client concern is tied to aesthetics,” one designer told KBDN. “Many people just want what their friends or family have, although high-end customers often want the latest ‘cool thing’ that makes their kitchen special. What influences purchase decisions most is the imagination of the designer, and how he or she uses different materials to best affect a creative design.”
Said another design pro: “Using different materials for countertops is something that’s definitely trending – and has been for a while. I think that’s going to continue.”
“We deal with the A&D community, primarily serving a luxury clientele,” another designer said. “Overwhelmingly, faux marble looks are out. Soft neutrals with minimal veining or pattern are the go-to. Porcelain is becoming a buzzword, but it has yet to produce big sales numbers.”
Another major factor in specification, designers note, are the functional considerations unique to each kitchen.
“It’s an exciting time for kitchen countertops,” one designer said. “That said, what’s often overlooked is how different materials wear over time, and how substrates must be built accordingly. What I’m seeing is a lot of beautiful kitchens, and new lovely looking products, but not enough information, or care taken, to ensure that people understand what could happen over time with their countertops.”
“Solid surface countertops are gaining in popularity because some customers do not like the seam between stone/quartz countertops and the undermount sink,” another designer commented. “In addition, some customers prefer solid surface because they opt for a coved/attached backsplash that’s maintenance-free and creates a waterproof seal at the back wall, which loose/set-on stone splashes can’t offer. A 1″-high coved solid surface splash creates an ideal waterproof transition from the countertop to the backsplash tile.”
Other comments culled from KBDN’s survey included the following:
- “I’m getting requests for wood/quartz combos that allow for functionality, as well as aesthetics. The warm tones of the wood surface soften the hard edge of the all-white theme and lend for a softer ‘feel’ to the overall space.”
- “Countertops are an integral part of the kitchen design – and can be versatile in terms of edgings, thicknesses, shelving, backlighting, dramatic or subtle design, and mixing different designs in one kitchen.”
- “Concrete continues to be the best material for a custom design solution. The possibilities with concrete are endless and not constrained by industry norms.”
- “Our clients are much more aware of quartz than they were a few years ago. However, we need to be careful to present the properties of quartz carefully, since most manufacturers have backed off from their ‘bullet-proof’ claims of past years.”
- “We’re seeing a huge interest in butcher block countertops, especially for islands or secondary prep areas. When you see these products in stock at The Home Depot, you know they’re here to stay a while.”
- “In our market, homeowners desire a high-quality, yet low maintenance material for their countertops. This often leads them to quartz, although the characteristics and natural beauty in a natural stone such as quartzite often wins them over.”
- “We’re seeing a huge push towards natural stone. Customers feel comfortable with natural stone, without having to worry about where an engineered material was made, what’s in it or issues like that. People also really respond to the beauty that Mother Nature created.”
- “The ability to sanitize a countertop is the number-one question I’m hearing from homeowners. After COVID, the cleaning ability of countertops is first and foremost for kitchen designs.”
- “Kitchen countertops of mixed media are becoming more popular. Wooden surfaces add warmth with traditional areas to dine and accomplish work/homework tasks; while a hard, natural, stone surface creates beauty, drama and a solid work surface for years to come.”
- “As always, we do a lot of very expensive quartz counters, rare marbles, gorgeous wood counters – all kinds of things, including concrete with interesting elements within.”