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Kitchen and bathroom surfaces with style and substance

Natural materials such as marble and wood are really coming to the fore in interior design but they are rarely the most practical choice for the kitchen or bathroom environment. Here, Simon Boocock, managing director of CRL Stone, looks at some of the alternatives available.
With a bold grey veining on a crisp white background, this ceramic surface is simple to care for and will make a striking impression in the modern kitchen.

With a bold grey veining on a crisp white background, this ceramic surface is simple to care for and will make a striking impression in the modern kitchen.

Kitchens and bathrooms can be tricky areas to specify products for. These are spaces within the home that are becoming ever-more luxurious and comfort-driven, yet the materials chosen must be suitable for such hard-working areas too.

Kitchen worktops, bathroom surfaces, walls and floors are always on show, so they need to look the part but are also subject to daily wear and tear, so durability is important. The surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms have to be multi-functional. On one hand they must be hardwearing and robust, while on the other, they need to enhance the aesthetics of the room by tapping into design trends, offering variety and making a striking impression.

Practically natural

While the trend in interior design is very much leaning towards natural materials, these seldom meet the practical requirements that a busy environment such as the kitchen or bathroom demands. Marble and granite, for example, have a lot of visual appeal and create a luxurious effect, but are not hugely practical for the kitchen as they are porous, require sealing and a lot of maintenance. Designers are increasingly turning to engineered materials such as quartz and ceramic as a suitable alternative. While such materials can be chosen to resemble natural stone and timber, they are incredibly hard-wearing and easy to maintain making them more than suitable for kitchen worktops, bathroom vanity tops, flooring and wall cladding indoors and outdoors.

A non-porous surface is ideal for bathroom vanity tops.

A non-porous surface is ideal for bathroom vanity tops.

Best effect

Ceramic and quartz surfaces are available in a very wide range of styles, colours and even finishes and are among the most durable and suitable surfaces for these high-traffic, high maintenance areas of the home. Ceramic is totally impermeable, stain and scratch resistant, very thermally stable, UV resistant and highly durable, while quartz is scratch, heat and stain resistant and, unlike natural materials such as marble, never needs to be sealed.

Marble or wood-effect surfaces, as well as those that emulate the look and feel of materials such as concrete, not only offer superior practical qualities, they can also be chosen to complement other key trends in kitchen and bathroom design, such as colour blocking, to tie the whole look together, without any of the common maintenance issues.

Trend setters

So, what are the prevalent trends in kitchen and bathroom design and how can quartz and ceramic tap into them, while ensuring longevity? In the kitchen, lighter worktops, often in white or with a grey veining to resemble the natural beauty and individuality of marble, are popular and make smaller spaces appear much bigger. These are often chosen as a contrast to darker cabinetry beneath or combined with timber to add contrast and respond to the shift towards mixing and matching materials in interior design. When it comes to overall colour schemes for kitchens, neutrals and shades of grey/white continue strongly, with work surfaces blending or contrasting with this theme.

In recent years, there has been a huge rise in popularity of grey, black and white tones in the kitchen, which can work to varying degrees, depending on the size and shape of the space. These can be chosen for an entire run of worktops or cabinets or as a subtle contrast through the addition of kitchen accessories. Monochrome may initially conjure up images of white and black, but various shades of grey surfaces are very more popular in this regard too. Colour blocking is also a big look in the kitchen, and a marble effect worktop offers contrast here to any of the wide variety of strong, bold colours that are increasingly being seen in the kitchen, be it contemporary or classic in design. Worktops themselves are becoming thinner in profile, tapping into the trend for minimal, streamlined design.

Surfaces in the bathroom need to be water-proof, easy to clean and hard wearing.

Surfaces in the bathroom need to be water-proof, easy to clean and hard wearing.

Bath time beauties

Trends in bathroom design are taking their influence from the kitchen also, and this is one reason why surfaces that offer visual or tactile interest are gaining in popularity in the bathroom, together with the fact that the space is simply becoming more luxurious. Modern bathroom design is all about creating a sense of calm and relaxation. Soft curves, organic lines and nature-inspired materials are being matched with surfaces in a textured finish to make the space a warm, welcoming and all-round comfortable and pleasant place to be.

Ultimately, the current trend in bathroom design is towards harmony, and the choice of vanity top surface, flooring and wall tiles have a huge part to play in achieving this. Washbasins with curved design elements and cylindrical brassware can be matched with a textured vanity top that has visual appeal in abundance, while a softly rounded freestanding bath meets its match with practical, durable and beautiful ceramic floor tiles beneath the feet.

Textured surfaces also combine beautifully with other bathroom trends, including timber and natural wood grains now often seen on furniture, creating a sense of style that is modern yet timeless. While colours and patterns are effective ways of adding interest in a bathroom, textured surfaces are equally as exciting and very on-trend. This design element is also often seen elsewhere in the home, such as the living room and bedroom.

For bathroom walls and floors, large format tiles enable a seamless finish to be created, with less requirement for grouting and less areas for bacteria to develop, with ceramic being an ideal material for both areas.

With some careful planning, kitchens and bathrooms can be created with style, function and longevity in mind.