From marble to metal

Ongoing research and development in sintered stoneware manufacture offers a wide range of choice to housebuilders and developers. Mar Esteve Cortes, marketing director at TheSize, explains how.

2017 has seen exciting developments in sintered stone application. From vivid colour palettes and subtle tones to ultra-realistic texturing and silky smooth finishes, new technology is driving innovation within the surfacing industry. This means that buyers can have the look and feel of real stone, but with the added benefits that the man-made alternative can offer, including higher durability, and more hygienic, non-porous designs.

Colour

The enduring appeal of white marble and grey stone ensures it has dominated the market in 2017, remaining a hugely popular choice for kitchen applications. Particularly, Carrara marble effects have a highly desirable aesthetic. The intricate fine veining means that it is frequently used to create a focal point within a room. This could be anything from an elegant central island to a striking splashback, contrasted with a darker foundation colour.

A certain nostalgic sentiment seems to be growing within the marketplace, with more and more clients looking to yesteryear for inspiration. For example, interest in Terrazzo patterning, which has a big grain effect, has been resurgent. Fashionable in residential builds during the 1960s, this iconic design, long overdue a comeback, is once again finding a niche among developers looking back to classic materials.

Heavy metal

The demand from clients, whether it’s architects, designers, builders or developers is usually for either realistic or unique patterns which have longevity. As such, it is a key priority for companies to stay at the forefront of the industry, with research and technology continually being released.

Premium, high-specification products such as sintered stone present specific challenges which demand complex solutions. Improvements in digital patterning technology, for example, has encouraged developers to reconsider metal effects in residential builds. Previously, the cost and practicality of incorporating the real material was enough of a deterrent to ensure its exclusion from the design process.

The clear demand for metallic finishes which are both easy to install and offer high durability (at a fraction of the cost) was a catalyst for the industry to develop a solution. Housebuilders are now able to incorporate the lustrous beauty of real metal into their build, with the added longevity of stoneware.

A greater appetite for bronze, brass and copper finishes for kitchen projects has become increasingly apparent. This marks an expansion from the typical application of stainless steel, which has traditionally dominated the market. These styles are now being applied to kitchen worktops, islands and splashbacks without restraint, creating an unusual, lustrously industrial look.

Stylishly functional

Of course, aesthetics are essential. Any surfacing used in a kitchen area however needs to offer a balance with high-levels of functionality. Essentially, the surface must be easy to clean and hygienic. This can easily be achieved with the right surfaces. Using 99 per cent non-porous materials means the product will not absorb any liquids or other residues and stay spotless for longer. It automatically offers an advantage for those looking for long-term value and durability.

Increasing format variety is a demand encountered in the sector year after year. Although the information gathered from market surveys is not consistent enough to confirm whether the market is definitively moving towards ‘thinner’ or ‘thicker’ slabs, it has become noticeable that customers want more choice to fit in with increasingly elaborate and ambitious kitchen designs, whether for single projects or larger contractors.

There has also been a call for larger format wall tiles. The ease of application and hygienic qualities (for starters, it requires less grouting) have made them a popular choice for modern kitchens.

Commercial appeal

The global hotel and restaurant scene dictates the zeitgeist for the home interior. For developers looking to capture a sense of originality within the kitchen/diner space, hospitality design offers a great starting point for inspiration. Often, the large budgets involved with these projects allow manufacturers and designers the latitude to be more adventurous, resulting in highly individual and eye-catching interiors.

There are a myriad of possibilities which arise from this sector, allowing for a strikingly individual, bespoke design. Modern technology now gives clients the ability to create a unique stone design to simultaneously impress and stand out from the crowd.

Mar Esteve Cortes is marketing director at TheSize.