There seem to be two major trends in the industry that have been consistent. One is the popularity of whites and grays. While fabricators might see a light blue or a random project that uses different colors, generally what they are receiving requests for are materials with shades of white and gray for kitchen countertops. Also, in recent years, the popularity of quartz surfacing has continued to rise. Quartz sells itself as an alternative to natural stone that doesn’t need sealers and is durable, but recently the trend of quartz is to try to replicate the beauty of natural stone.
“The colors coming through the shop are whites and grays almost exclusively, with veining that mimics various Carrara or Calacatta marble,” said Joey Marcella, co-founder and president of Mario and Son in Spokane, WA. “The traditional speckled quartz colors are almost non-existent anymore.”
For Mario and Son, the amount of quartz that the company does, roughly 60% of the business, has stayed the same as last year. For Stuart Young, CEO of Stoneworks in Charlotte, NC, the amount of quartz work they are doing compared to last year has increased, but what customers are gravitating towards is almost the same as Mario and Son. “Customers are still loving the whites and grays, particularly the designs with the larger veining,” said Young. “More are choosing quartzite to showcase a large island with darker or lighter perimeter quartz.”
Quartzite in recent years has cropped up as a popular alternative to quartz and marble, as the cost to produce it has gone down, making it a viable option for the homeowner to afford. This leads some to wonder if quartz will be used more in other applications. For Marcella, it’s rare for it not to be used as a countertop. “We’ve done an occasional shower surround or fireplace cladding with it, but that’s about it,” said Marcella.
For Young, they have used it for a bit more. “Certainly countertops but we do have customers looking for customized furniture pieces such as dining tables, coffee tables and end tables,” said Young. “Other quartz requests include fireplace surrounds and feature walls, as well as less common applications like headboards and desks.”
For Mario and Son, educating the end users on their quartz countertop, compared to natural stone is a bit different. “We emphasis that we are fabricators, and the performance and attributes of a particular brand of quartz falls squarely on the manufacturer,” said Marcella. “We do not feel that many of the current colors perform as well as the traditional quartz colors, particularly the dark solid colors.”
From an objective perspective, Young doesn’t educate the customers differently when it comes to quartz or natural stone. “Our team explains the pros and cons of both stones,” said Young. “We talk about how granite is a natural stone so what you see is what you get whereas quartz takes on many colors, designs and patterns as each manufacturer is in charge of creating its own recipes. One thing we do stress is that quartz, unlike granite, is porous-free so they can expect less possibility of staining and easier to take care of.”
So in the end, when it comes down to it, why does a customer potentially pick quartz over natural stone? “People tend to want quartz because they perceive it to be more consistent and stable than natural stone,” said Marcella. “And also to achieve more contemporary design schemes within their home.”
For Young, the stone also has other ease-of-use benefits. “The maintenance piece in that lighter colors are unlikely to stain, particularly for the marble look designs, bacteria-free and no sealing ever needed,” said Young.
As far as Marcella is concerned, he believes the future of quartz will be strongly challenged by porcelain. “Quartz set out to mimic the look of natural stone, and in my opinion, failed,” said Marcella. “Some of the available porcelain and sintered surfaces mimic real stone incredibly well, and it gives the possibility of a realistic and affordable ‘Calacatta look’ to end users that were previously priced out of those high-end marbles.”