The kitchen is one of the most essential spaces in any household. A place where meals are made, family time is spent and memories are created. Appropriately deemed the “heart of the home,” the design of this space is crucial, especially to those who like to entertain.
“Kitchens and baths are becoming more than the task-oriented spaces they have been in the past. Today, kitchens are family spaces where family members want to hang out and entertain,” explained Feras Irikat, director of design at Lunada Bay Tile in Harbor City, CA. “These spaces are becoming more social gathering spaces where people are building relationships. Bathrooms are equally as important and are becoming more spa-like spaces where people can take personal time for themselves. When it comes to both spaces, most professionals have seen brighter, bolder colors being used on traditional tile formats, as well as natural-inspired materials.”
As Irikat mentioned, bathrooms are equally as important, in terms of design and overall purpose. When it comes to both spaces, most professionals have seen brighter, bolder colors being used on traditional tile formats, as well as natural-inspired materials.
“Elongated subway sizes for walls, mostly in solid color tones, paired up with wood look for floors. Both baths and kitchens have been following this trend, however, color tones differ a little between the two areas,” said Jerry DiFabrizio, president of Tampa Tile in Tampa, FL. “Popular color tones in baths stay on the light side with white still leading the charge. However, when it comes to the kitchen — especially the backsplash — brighter, bolder colors have become in vogue.”
“Full backsplashes keep the more modern look, but for someone more adventurous, transitional projects,” added Christopher Grubb, founder of Arch-Interiors Design Group in Beverly Hills, CA. “I love the chance to mix in a mosaic. I’m not doing all glass square or linear mosaics, but have had fun with unexpected glass tiles and recently did a seashell mosaic as a detail in a master bathroom for a house at the beach.”
“Cement tiles and colored tiles that look like older Cotto clays are popular right now and there is a growing trend of pairing plain tiles with colored ‘designer’ grout as an accent,” said Curt V. Rapp, CEO of The Tile Doctor in Marietta, GA. “For example, you can achieve really interesting looks using grout in bold hues like oranges, blues and even reds with simple white tiles. The contrast creates a fresh unexpected look. Glitter grout and grouts with jewel-like sparkle are being used in glass mosaics to create eye-catching multi-dimensional effects.”
The colors even extend to the accessories in these areas, according to Aaron Dugas, national account manager for Island Stone in Santa Cruz, CA. “One trend that we are seeing more consistently is bold colors in cabinetry. Especially on the lower cabinets. Blues and greens being the most common to coordinate with the cool color palette that is still most common in today’s designs,” he explained. “Another trend is the resurgence of brass hardware in various finishes. Brass hardware and bold color cabinetry is being used for both bathrooms and kitchens. However, the brass hardware is most common between the two spaces while the bold cabinets are more often in kitchens than bathrooms.”
Although designers and tile manufacturers are seeing a surge of color in kitchens and bathrooms, neutral colors such as white and gray still remain long-standing favorites. “White is the most popular, then gray,” said Grubb. “However, ‘beige Zen’ for bathrooms is especially still a request.”
“The most popular colors are still white and ‘bone’ for the overall look of kitchens and baths, but gray might have something to say about that,” said DiFabrizio. “From a tile perspective, when white is the predominant color tone, marble looks like Carrara and Calacatta are the most popular. When it is bone or beige, the travertine look usually wins out.”
“White and gray are still king for both kitchens and baths,” Dugas explained. “White having a stronger presence in bathrooms than kitchens. All-white bathrooms are still very common, but designers are softening on the all-white kitchen. Instead, choosing to have a cool base color palette, but wanting to integrate undertones of warm colors. After years of color selections being further and further locked into all cool tones, the pendulum is starting to swing back towards warm tones. The most common color palette we see today is mostly white and gray, but with 25% or so warm tones.
“The trends are going towards warm tones, but haven’t made it all the way there yet,” he went on to say. “Common mosaic blends are white, gray and light brown or beige. Giving a blend that is 66% cool tones and 33% warm. That seems to be the sweet spot in today’s design.”
Rapp agrees with Dugas, but claims both cool and warm colors are trending in today’s designs. “White stone looks for countertops, islands and backsplashes are still common, but there is a definite move toward incorporating color into the kitchen and bath,” he said. “Patterned, pastel-colored tiles in smaller formats such as 10-inch square and hexagonal shapes are growing in popularity. More adventurous designers and homeowners are opting for bold colors like deep blues and emerald green. After years of neutral palettes and ‘greige,’ I think people are more open to experimenting with color.”
“We are seeing a range of interest in color and I am loving that,” added Irikat. “People are taking ownership of their own personal aesthetic. They are in tune with their environment and the colors they like. They no longer are going with trends to lead them; they are going with their gut and what they enjoy. There is an emotional connection they are feeling with their spaces and that is reflected in the colors they are choosing. Of course, lighter spaces are still trending, but we are seeing more personalization through custom blends of tile or custom colors on cabinetry. The key trend is personalization.”
When it comes to sizes of tiles nowadays, large-format tiles, known officially as “gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs” or “GPT,” are taking the industry by storm. “Right now in the industry, bigger is better,” said DiFabrizio. “Large-format tiles and stone materials are making their mark. Square and rectangular formats are utilized the most, however, if large sizes are not your cup of tea, the smaller hexagon shape is definitely making its presence known as well.”
“We are excited to be using a lot more of the oversized porcelain tiles,” said Grubb.
“Seamless, large-format panels comprised of tiles or thin stone veneer are gaining traction in higher-end homes and can create dramatic looks in bathrooms, especially in shower surrounds,” said Rapp. “The panels are made from natural stone and look just like slabs, but are thin, lightweight and can be installed like tiles. A 4- x 8-foot thin veneer panel typically weighs around 30 pounds, compared to a stone slab of the same size, which can weigh as much as 400 pounds. That’s quite a difference if you’re the person responsible for installing the stone.
The adoption of large panels is happening fast as the stone and tile industry shifts with European influences. New methods and innovations are continuing to open up to create design possibilities like never before.”
“Generally, we are seeing a movement towards cleaner environments — basically a more modern aesthetic,” added Irikat. “Larger-format tile is playing a key role in this trend; surfaces that are less fussy and have less movement. It’s the era of ‘less is more.’ Of course, people are still punctuating these clean spaces with personal touches, such as a custom mosaic. These mosaics are playing the role of the art in a space. Whether it’s a mural, a custom blend or a patterned mosaic, it is something that is echoing an emotion or a sentiment like art would. Sometimes it’s influenced by a sense of nostalgia. We are seeing this playing out in modern spaces with a twist of traditional or transitional design or a transitional or transitional space accented by modern elements.”
“Patterns are big in today’s design,” said Dugas. “Sales of loose floor tiles are mostly rectangles still, but there is an abundance of geometric shapes now being offered — from classic geometric patterns to unique twist on the classics. Boutique factories are trying to find that perfect angle cut that separates them from the pack and makes a classic pattern seem new. Meshed mosaics offer the same array of geometric options and similar to the floor tile the top seller is still the brick shape. The change that has happened over the last few years is the reduction of cost in waterjet mosaics and traditional cut stones hand placed to create intricate patterns. As they have become more affordable, the use of them has increased. Full walls for budgets that allow and picture-framed smaller feature areas if budget demands. With the intricacy of the wall feature, the tiles around it tend to be more simple and classic to not compete with the art feature. Brick shape being the usual go-to.
“The next big thing is rumored to be the comeback of squares,” he went on to say. “We are seeing it start to be selected more on the coast, which is usually the starting place before new trends go mainstream. We are watching that trend to see if it becomes the next direction for our industry or not.”
TEXTURE: AN ADDED ELEMENT
When it comes to kitchens and baths, ease of maintenance is always a concern, according to Dugas. “Split-face and other rough surface stones are not used as often for this reason,” he explained. “Even if the designer likes the look, the end user often has concerns of the long-term maintenance and cleanliness of the rough stone. We still see rough-face stone in these applications, but not as often as we would without this concern. Texture is a big want in today’s design though, so the most popular choice is a smooth surface stone with dimensional undulation. The smooth surface eases the maintenance concerns and the end design has the desired texture. We are seeing more designs playing with different textures and colors. Over the last few years, designs and material have been more modern with lots of white, glossy, clean-edge looks. There is a relaxing of this look happening now. Still the white and gray, but with undertones of rustics and warm tones like I mentioned before. We are seeing designers mix materials in the same way. Rustic elements and modern elements being used in the same space.”
“We are seeing more mixed textures than ever before and that is speaking to the trend of people personalizing their environments,” said Irikat. “If they begin with a clean slate of large-format, monolithic surfaces, they can then layer textures to create something unique that shows off their personal aesthetics. It’s about blending smooth surfaces with texture or three-dimensionality that to create layered, interesting environments.”
“Textures do vary from style to style,” said DiFabrizio. “Wood looks have the expectation of feeling natural so texture is required. Concrete and marble looks are much smoother. As for traditional ceramic or terracotta, a more textured feel is most popular. Whatever the look, it should feel authentic. When it comes to mixing and matching textures, it usually happens when you change from the floor to the wall. The textured products are more popular on floors and smoother finishes on walls, especially when it comes to bathrooms. It makes sense to have a more textured, non-skid surface of the floor and an easy-to-clean, smoother wall.”
“Today’s textures range from tiles with high-definition wood looks to realistic stone looks and concrete effects that are created with a mixture of inkjet printing and more traditional glazing techniques,” added Rapp. “Three-dimensional wall tiles are being used to add depth and character to feature walls, showers and backsplashes, and hand-tooled stone is being seen in more applications. Over-the-top colors and effects for tiles are definitely catching on; for example, bold chromatic colored grouts and metallic grouts are showing up more frequently. The added pop of color or shimmer really brings a ‘wow’ factor to tilework. There is even a diamond grout made with real diamond aggregate, making it possible to literally ‘shower yourself with diamonds in the shower.’”
“I really like using textural mosaics because I think it adds an exciting element especially if you are doing an all-white look,” said Grubb. “Also, there has really been an advent of even more tiles that are curved symmetrical or asymmetrical. We are beginning to incorporate more into projects for a bit more detail then just all white, but with the ‘Zen look,’ it is more of a tone-on-tone look with a more visual texture.”
A SHIFT IN COUNTERTOP MATERIALS
In regards to the types of materials utilized in kitchens, particularly on countertops, natural stone has been the popular choice for decades. Marble and granite have served, and still do in many cases, as the “go-to” choices for many homeowners, given their durability and clean aesthetic. However, the market has definitely changed in recent years, making room for different manmade products.
When quartz was introduced to the industry in the 1960s, it didn’t have the ability to embrace the look of natural materials, such as marble and granite. However, with various advancements in technology, by the 1990s, its popularity grew swiftly. By the early 2000s, sales of quartz increased by more than 60% and it became one of the most popular materials used for residential countertops.
“For both rooms, quartz/solid surface countertops are the most popular requests,followed by natural stone. I’d say a 75/25 split,” said Grubb. “We are not using granite unless it doesn’t look like granite, but I know as I speak around the country for NKBA that granite is still popular in mountainous resort areas that have a more rustic look.”
“In speaking with the customers, quartz seems to be a very popular choice,” added DiFabrizio.
“We are definitely seeing an increase in the use of quartz countertops because they are a great functional piece that complements a variety of other materials,” said Irikat. “Quartz speaks to the movement of cleaner, modern, less fussy environments. People are getting bolder in their color choices, however, and may choose to use a couple of colors of countertops within one space to craft their personal environment.”
For Dugas, he believes the choice is still very dependent on the budget and overall design. “Projects with bigger budgets and an end user comfortable with the maintenance concerns are still selecting marble. Granite is still heavily used, but it tends to only be used on more traditional or rustic designs,” he explained. “Quartz is the most common selection. The ease of maintenance is an easy selling point. The drawback is quartz countertops are still unable to truly match the beauty of natural stone the way porcelain tile has. Resulting in the most common selection being a solid color tone quartz. The counter becomes more of a muted background with the focus being on wall tile. Patterns and blends on backsplashes or the exposed cabinet concept with the wall stone being the focal point all the way to the ceiling.”