It is hard to believe that the first half of 2014 is already past us. The months seemed to have flown by, and keeping busy certainly makes the time go quicker. From the start in January, we at Stone World have had a full schedule. I, personally, have attended several trade shows, stone industry events and a trip to Italy with the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance, which I have spoken about. Getting out in the field and talking with industry professionals is the best way to learn what’s going on. It gives me the opportunity to see new product introductions, advances in machinery and what issues are at the top of the list among fabricators today.jennifer adams

I also have the opportunity to speak with a diverse group of architects and designers. This provides another chance for me to find out what trends they are seeing in stone design. We are always trying to learn about new projects that feature stone so that we can share them with our readers.

Through all my travels and discussions so far this year, one thing that I realized is that the popularity of quartz continues to rise. The design community seems to gravitate towards it because of its durability and consistent aesthetic, and many fabricators report that homeowners desire it for their kitchen and vanity tops.

Touring the exhibition hall at Coverings, I noticed that many of the quartz manufacturers were introducing new lines, which offers architects, designers and homeowners, alike, more design options. Because of this growing trend, we have decided to include a focus on quartz in this addition of Stone World, which begins on page 58.

“People are using [quartz] a lot more now — probably 75% of our work is quartz,” said Leslie Jensen of Signature Design and Cabinetry in Tacoma, WA, the designer for an upscale residence in Washington state (page 58). “The Pacific Northwest likes the ‘northwest contemporary’ look — clean lines, not too modern, not too busy — and quartz just fits that style very nicely.”

And while quartz has become a popular trend, natural stone remains a staple in today’s designs, and there are always new products being introduced in this arena as well. Recently, I attended the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), which is held annually at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. While the exhibition is filled with products from a range of industries that pertain to design, there were some stone and tile companies that participated too. As I was walking the show floor, I came upon a booth that immediately caught my attention. There were numerous stone pillars that had tops that reminded me of pencil tips. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw that it was Antolini’s exhibit. Our publisher, Alex Bachrach, was by my side so we both stopped to talk with one of the company’s sales representatives, who explained that the stone used for the pillars was a Spanish fossilized limestone in a veneer format. While the limestone is available in slabs, tiles and cut-to-size pieces, Antolini wanted to illustrate the design possibilities.

Those who know Antolini know that they are a brand that is always thinking outside the box. They push the limits of creativity and offer materials that inspire design. But thinking outside the box doesn’t have to be as grand. It can be something simpler that achieves the same results. I have sat in on a couple of fabricator forums lately, and one thing that comes up is that you should find your niche. See what customers are looking for and fill that need. Whether it is carrying a certain type of stone or offering a unique finish — or just being known for top-notch customer service — can make all the difference in the success of your business.