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Episode 16 – Countertop Trends in 2019 – KBIS Recap

Discover how you can green your life by building a knowledge base of current sustainable and eco-savvy trends. This is Build Green Live Green.

This episode will cover the recent 2019 KBIS tradeshow and trends to watch out for. We are here today with Jessica McNaughton and Kim Loftis of CaraGreen.

JESSICA:  Hi, this is Jessica.

KIM: And, this is Kim.

JESSICA:  We are here with Build Green Live Green.

KIM: Today we are talking about the KBIS show, which is a trade show that Jessica just went to. So, can you tell us a little bit about the show, why you went, what it is.

JESSICA:  Right, so KBIS is the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, I think it's what it stands for, and it's held right next to the International Builder's Show. So, you get a lot of, kind of, your kitchen and bath designers, architects, suppliers and on the Builder's Show you get a lot of contractors and builders, as well. And I hate trade shows, I mean, I absolutely hate trade shows, I always have. Maybe when I was like 25 and I went to my first trade show, I thought it was neat.

KIM: I feel like you have a love-hate relationship with them.

JESSICA:  The only thing I love about them actually is the networking. Seeing the people that you know, and I just think people's expectations going into trade shows are just wrong, right? Some hired help was chasing me around trying to scan my badge so she can send me literature I don't want. I asked her two questions about the product and she has no idea, you know, and it's just, I mean, I can't, it just it seems like such a waste of time.  People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on these booths.

KIM: So, what type of people exhibit there?

JESSICA:  Right, so you're going to get, at the Kitchen and Bath Show, you're going to get, you know, a two square blocks of TOTO toilets right. Kohler has this mega, you know, five square blocks.

KIM: Did you go to the Kohler booth?

JESSICA:  I didn't, I'm boycotting them until they use my idea of saving all their money on a tradeshow booth and just having a faucet sitting in the middle with a sign that says, “all the money we would have spent on this booth has been donated to villages in Africa to supply them fresh water.” Once they do that, I will go to the Kohler booth.

KIM: Kohler did you hear that?

JESSICA:  Anyway, so why did I go? I've gone for the last few years- we actually exhibited one year with the Modern Surfaces group, who, if you guys aren't familiar with Modern Surfaces, you should check them out at www.modern-surfaces.com. Anyway, we exhibited with them one year and then ever since then I've gone mostly to support our vendors, Lapitec is one of our vendors and they usually have a really fantastic booth there. So, I did go and spend some time with them. I'd like to see what's new in our industry. We're heavily in the surfacing side, so, I think that surfacing is probably most where I focus when I do go to the KBIS show. I'm not looking at appliances and, you know, refrigerators that tell me what I want to drink and how many calories it has, you know, I'm more interested in, you know, some of the surfacing options like what CaraGreen sells.

KIM: So, did you actually see anything new this year, or..?

JESSICA:  Well, I saw some things that were being passed off as new. You know, for example, we all know that sintered stone is the next big thing. So, the definition of sintered stone is really being refined. There's a lot of porcelain companies that are trying to, kind of, elbow their way in and there's a vast difference between sintered stone and these porcelain tile companies that are just gigantic porcelain tiles that have been around for hundreds of years that are scaled up to be countertops. Just buyer beware, if your pattern is printed on top, you are going to have issues and that's what porcelain is. So, the sintered stones use a totally different manufacturing process. So, there were two brands that really stood out to me at the show. Lapitec, of course, and then the other big-name sintered stone that I saw, obviously you have Dekton at the show and Neolith at the show, but you've got some of the other porcelain-like brands like SapienStone and Daltile has one, Pental is private labeling one. But Corian had a sintered line, so, that was a new category for Corian. But you kind of expect a brand like Corian who's strong in solid surface, has recently established itself in quartz, they're going to get into the next big thing, so they've developed a sintered line.

KIM: So, they see where the market is going.

JESSICA:  Exactly. So, Corian Sintered was one thing that I noticed that really stood out in their booth, they tend to, you know, try to get you know ahead of the game and for a solid, predominantly solid surface company to enter into the sintered space, I think it really validates that category and it shows that, you know fabricators and designers need to be using sintered stone, now is the time.

KIM: So now there's other brands that you mentioned Neolith, Dekton, some of the others, are those also considered sintered stones?

JESSICA:  Well, the jury's out on the definition right now, I believe there's some work being done to refine the definition of sintered stone. Dekton refers to themselves as ultra-compact stone, which is- The main point with the sintered stones is, they're all mineral based, right, and they're, the manufacturing techniques to make them are different. But you know, they're all natural minerals versus resins, which are what's in quartz, and a lot of silica content, which is what's in quartz. Which is the bad, you know, silica is the bad thing that gives people Black Lung that you're starting to see in all these Queensland studies and that lawsuit in India that we were looking at the other day, all the OSHA requirements around silica. So, I think you're seeing sintered stone really take hold because of, you know, the lack of silica in it and, you know, the fact that it was designed for this market. So, with sintered stone, yes. One of the other products I saw was Wilsonart has a product called THINSCAPE and I found it really interesting because all these porcelain companies are out there printing new patterns on top of these tiles and, you know, basically calling them new things because it's a new aesthetic. THINSCAPE is actually, it's a new product. Its half-inch melamine with a, basically, like a laminate top layer. So, they're kind of- and the top layer can look like stone, granite, marble. But it's really old technology. Those materials are really old.

KIM: What's the advantage of the solid surface underneath?

JESSICA:  So, it's easier to cut than porcelain. So, they're going up against porcelain with a solid surface-type product. So, it's not acrylic or polyester-based solid surface, it's a melamine. But they're going up against that porcelain ability to print whatever you want on top. This technology sounds like something that was done in the 1970s or 1980s and I think there may have been a couple companies that did things like this. But, you know, they've kind of positioned this as a competitor to the porcelain and the ability to print all these patterns on it. So, I thought it was really interesting. Wilsonart has a lot of things going on. Because they're, you know, strong in solid surface, they are private labeling quartz, they have the relationship down in Temple, Texas with Hanex, so, they're building that big solid surface facility there. So, they're really kind of trying to establish themselves multiple ways. But they've always had phenolic and melamine and, you know, there's some of these high-pressure laminate type products. But this was the first time I had seen, you know, them, it was trying to position effectively a solid surface against the porcelain.

KIM: Yeah, that's really interesting, see where that goes, I guess. So, is there a third trend or new product that you saw out there?

JESSICA:  I can't even call it a trend anymore, because it just riles me to the core when I see it is the aesthetic of marble. Marble looks like marble, you can get anything today to look like marble. Everyone in my neighborhood has a marble kitchen. So, you can take your white countertop and your dramatic gray vein and what are they doing? They're making it more dramatic, less dramatic, slightly less dramatic.

KIM: Pink, I saw some pictures of a pink vein.

JESSICA:  There's a lot of black slabs with white and gold veining. All the porcelains are printing these marble patterns, all of these THINSCAPE laminate solid surface was marble patterns, quartz obviously, as if quartz doesn't have enough issues right now. Which if you haven't listened to our podcast on the quartz industry, you should. We will be updating that soon, as well. But I mean quartz, still marble, marble, marble and it's like they can't…

KIM: Marble look, not actual marble.

JESSICA:  No, just so it looks like marble and everything's going to look like marble that the aesthetic fatigue of marble is going to set in very soon and I would just expect that people would start to recognize it now, at least in the commercial space, where we typically see it first because we focus on A&D.

KIM: Yeah, and with some of the trends that we're seeing in 2019 like the Memphis trend and like Scandicolor and things like that, I would imagine that it's going to start pushing its way out. But, you know you just never know, I'm sure that at KBIS when you're surrounded by all these massive booths to have these massive slabs with the marble veining, it is overwhelming, and I would get tired of it very quickly.

JESSICA:  And it's interesting that you mentioned the color, because you're starting to see a lot more color come out in, whether it's appliances or cabinetry and there's this pop of color that people are trying to introduce and you're the designer, not me. But I think a pop of color with marble isn't right. Like it feels…

KIM: I mean it's more fake than the other part of it being fake where it's a fake swirl, right? It's man-made right, you know, and then you add pink to it and it's obviously man-made. It just doesn't it doesn't compute.

JESSICA:  Right and I just, you know, I don't see how someone can, you know, if you have a solid gray countertop and you want to add yellow cabinets or a yellow wall, you can.  But I think if you have a marble-top surface, you try to add that color around it, it doesn't work.

KIM: Yeah, I mean people that we have come into our showroom, they are looking more for the neutral sorts of things and then those pops of colors in the cabinetry or sometimes in their countertop. But, you know.

JESSICA:  The other thing I saw, and this is the last trend I'll really mention because I hate trade shows, is texture. We're starting to see texture on all surfacing. Now, some of the sintered stone brands are, part of their whole entry into market is textured. There were some really cool anti-slip surfaces, like for pool decking surrounds, regular flooring, with just a slight texture to it. So, there were some really neat textures that I saw and even, you know, the granites and the, some of the natural stones and the quartz man-made stones, you're starting to see many of them have textures and that high-gloss look is kind of, you know, fading by the wayside. You know, that was one thing I really noticed and there was a lot of touching- not that kind. With, you know, on the booths, surface of the booths, there's a lot of kind of tactile surfaces. So, I saw a lot of that, I think that trend will continue, too.

KIM: So, speaking of textures, just in the industry in general, we're seeing textures used on the exterior, is KBIS mostly focused on the interior or do you see some of that exterior stuff there too?

JESSICA:  They have some interesting, sort of, outdoor kitchen areas that they set up outside. You and I went that one year, remember, in the food truck area. So, they do some of that in that outside area. Now, it was snowing when we were in Las Vegas for the show. So, let's put three things I don't need together. Las Vegas, trade shows and snow. Yeah. And the hired girls in the booth, there are four things. You know, it was still that outside area and in the outdoor kitchen area was neat to see, a lot of these materials. Again, especially some of these new materials that can be used as surfaces outside which is really a new thing.

KIM: And is that in the sintered category as well?

JESSICA:  Sintered for sure can be used outside and, you know, that area that was out there, you know, it wasn't just the sintered stones. It was some kind of exterior, you'll see like ZipWall out there because it was adjacent to the Builders Show.  There are a lot of nice things to see, but for a sustainability company it's a lot of money to see thrown at a show where you get a bunch of leads sent to you, follow up on these leads, people are running each other down with scanners to get their information and then those people went into 200 booths that day and they don't remember you from Adam, you know, and that's why I say it's a waste of time. But I think the networking that you can do and the learning that you can do at those events is really worthwhile.

KIM: So, who would you say is the most advantageous to go to shows like this? Is it interior designers, they're learning about new products? Maybe not necessarily on the distributor side? Maybe on the manufacturer side?

JESSICA:  Yeah, I mean I would think, you know, as an interior designer, I think you've probably got most of this stuff in your library. There's no big “aha’s” that are happening at this show. I think a lot of the appliances and some of that smart-home functionality, if that's your thing, if you're a builder and you're really trying to get ahead in the smart home space and you want to be up on the latest technology, it's definitely advantageous to you. If you're a remodeler or a custom home builder and you want to be adding value and finding products that no one else has, there were a lot of custom builders that wanted to get their hands on the sintered stone product, because it's the newest, it's the latest, it's the greatest and not every other builder has it. Those other builders are still throwing cheap quartz into these custom homes and, you know, some of these other high-end builders are actually cladding the outside with materials like the Lapitec. Especially being close to the west coast, you have a lot of progressive design in California that has that more modern look. So, they're looking for ventilated facades or rain screens using new materials and not just stucco. So, there's a lot of interest around new cladding materials and I expect that will continue.

KIM: Great, well thank you so much for the recap of the KBIS show. This is Kim and Jessica for Build Green Live Green.

JESSICA:  Thank you.

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