Countertops offer so much more than just work surface.
Story by Tracy Dickinson
Photography by Tim Abramowitz
Featured in November/December 2020
Under normal circumstances, financial advisors recommend certain conditions before potential buyers apply for a home loan—favorable interest rates, reliable employment, and acceptable savings. But circumstances for home buyers today are nothing like normal.
If the kitchen is the heart of the home, the countertop is the heartbeat of the kitchen.
“Countertops can really change the entire look,” says Deb Pudenz of AIM Kitchen & Bath. “It’s one of the first things people notice when they enter. The color, design, and finish can dictate whether a space feels contemporary or traditional.”
Marrying beauty and utility has always been the challenge for every kitchen designer, but these days, that’s not just a romantic notion. And it seems nearly everyone is attracted to quartz.
“Quartz is by far the most popular countertop choice because it doesn’t really take any care,” Nancy Ruzicka of BLC Projects explains. “It needs no sealing, no repolishing, doesn’t scratch or stain.”
Quartz countertops contain quartz minerals. However, the countertops are actually a man-made product with particles of stone bound together by plastic resin.
Pudenz says, “While nothing can replace the beauty of natural stone, quartz has come a long way over the years with so many colors, patterns, and finishes available. And it’s actually stronger than natural stone because it’s an engineered product.”
That durability, combined with current manufacturing capability, also makes quartz an ideal option for nearly any design, no matter how large.
Woodharbor’s Jill Lampe says, “The super slabs many manufacturers offer are really nice. Large islands are much more common now, and to be able to get a slab of quartz in a super size to eliminate the need for a seam is wonderful.”
Ruzicka agrees. “Our go-to brand, Cambria, has a number of patterns available in large slabs. And manufacturers also offer computer modeling to show how patterns will be laid out and where any seams will be.”
Not only does this enable designers to plan the pattern more accurately, it allows them to place seams to be the least visible. “Technology has improved so much that seams are much, much less noticeable than they used to be,” Ruzicka says.
Because it’s a man-made product, other design possibilities are also expanded.
“We still use quartz with natural veining to provide a marble look,” says Pudenz, “but we’re also doing quartz that looks like concrete or soapstone.”
“There is so much available now. Quartz can work with any design and any style,” Ruzicka says.
Lampe says quartz is the most popular material choice, but the design selection from there runs the gamut. “I have more requests lately for a clean, white countertop,” she says. “But I also have clients who want a bold look with a big pattern. Hands down, though, a white marble pattern in quartz is the most popular with my clients for its classic, timeless look.”
New finishes such as matte and leathered techniques can soften the look of the product too, to give it a more natural appearance.
“For a while,” Ruzicka says, “the go-to look was all sparkle.” Clients were choosing products that had flecks embedded in the quartz to reflect the light. “Now, designs are going back to a more classic, natural finish.”
Pudenz says, “We’re definitely seeing less granite. It’s not a bad choice in the kitchen, but it often has a busier pattern. The trends are leaning toward more-open, loose veining, rather than the heavy, speckled look you typically see with granite.”
Manufacturing advances open up other design possibilities as well. “We’re starting to see manufacturers offering thinner products for easier wall applications. We can run the countertop material up the backsplash for an impressive look that is also easy to clean with no grout lines,” Pudenz says.
Design trends these days range from ultrasleek modern to updated farmhouse. Quartz can suit either of those and anything in between. For example, Pudenz says, “I’m really loving the matte options. It’s a nice, sleek look and provides an interesting contrast when using a polished backsplash. The concrete-look product is really sharp for a contemporary or industrial space, too.”
With its variety of finishes, patterns, and colors, quartz is ideal for designs that utilize contrasting countertops for perimeter and island applications.
“We’ve done designs where we used butcherblock or wood on the island and a stone product on the perimeter countertops. The soapstone and marble looks work really well together, too,” says Pudenz. “You also use the same material throughout and just choose a different color for the island.”
“If the cabinetry and wall color are neutral, adding a beautiful contrast in color with the countertop can make a statement for the room,” says Noel. “If you want the cabinetry to be the focal point, keeping the countertop more subdued may be better.”
Lampe says, “Sometimes I’ll have a client who gravitates toward a bold pattern but is worried about committing to it. That’s when a bold pattern can work for a statement island, toned down by a subtle pattern for the perimeter of the kitchen.”
Too often, material and product selection can come down to a marriage of convenience–finding an attractive product that is compatible with the budget. Quartz offers the best of everything: stunning beauty, a wealth of design possibilities, and a variety of price points to fit nearly any budget. •
- Deb Pudenz AIM Kitchen & Bath
- Nancy Ruzicka BLC Projects
- Jill Lampe Woodharbor’s