By Brad Baker
Like fashion, kitchen design is cyclical. Ten years ago, granite was all the rage and everyone wanted it. It was prestigious to have granite counters in your home. Today, everyone has them, and wood may be the surface homeowners aspire to own. Europe, which often leads the U.S. in trends, is moving toward wood countertops. For instance, in Scandinavia, wood countertops represent 40 percent of the market share, whereas here in the U.S., wood currently holds about seven percent market share.
But that may be changing, as designers and homeowners look for different materials to create a kitchen that is distinct, fresh and current, both visually and functionally. This has become even more critical, as kitchens are increasingly the focal point of most homes and, as such, a showpiece.
CUES & FACTORS
As a designer, you may know all the benefits of wood countertops—warmth, durability, beauty, longevity—but how do you convey this to a homeowner? Some homeowners, of course, may be more inclined than others to entertain the idea of incorporating wood into their kitchen, but how do you find that all out? Following is a list of key words or phrases that could serve as tip-offs:
• “I want something different.”
• “I want my kitchen to be a centerpiece.”
• “I’m only looking to spruce up my kitchen.”
• “I only want my countertop replaced.”
• “I only want my island replaced.”
• “I want an island.”
You may also want to consider:
• What else is in their kitchen? Another way to identify the ideal wood customer is by the other products in their kitchen. If they are buying custom cabinets and commercial-grade appliances, they are definitely prospects for wood surfaces. They may not be happy with a cookie-cutter kitchen surface and would be open to, say, mixing materials for a more individualized look.
Homeowners who opt for custom cabinetry are the perfect prospects for a solid wood countertop.
• What is their kitchen budget? When you walk into their kitchen, what do you see? Appliances, countertops, cabinet faces, backsplash, hardware and fixtures. Those are the areas where homeowners spend the majority of their budget. As their advisor, look at the total amount of money budgeted and break down the amount to own a wood surface as a percentage of the entire project. For example, someone buying granite perimeter countertops could upgrade the centerpiece of their kitchen—their island—to a solid wood top starting at roughly 10 percent more than that they would spend on, for example, their granite island alone.
MYTHS & ADVANTAGES
Cite the advantages of wood. There are a lot of myths in the marketplace about wood. Now is the time to debunk them.
• Contrary to popular belief, wood is enduring. In the 1800s, wood countertops were used in the very best kitchens and remained the first choice in countertop materials until shortly after World War II when laminate and ceramic tile became two other options for kitchen countertops.
• There are numerous practical benefits. In addition to being durable, it is waterproof and food-safe. And depending upon the finish chosen, wood countertops provide a maintenance-free, worry-free surface.
• Wood is warm to the touch, as well as the eye, which is a plus, as today’s kitchens often serve as the hub of family life and more consumers are spending more time at home.
• It is a green option. In addition to those made from species that are harvested from certified forests, there are also rapidly renewable options, such as bamboo and lyptus, as well as reclaimed wood alternatives. These surfaces are made of wood repurposed from old warehouses, homes or barns that are being torn down into a new countertop—the epitome of recycling.
Green options include lyptus, which can be mixed with granite for a richer look in any kitchen.
• Wood tops can be ordered with special hand distressing as well. This gives the surface a naturally aged patina from the outset.
Expertise creates loyalty. Honing your knowledge of specialty products, such as wood, and the confidence to present/sell them can help you create a niche that will protect you and your business. Currently, there are only a handful of specialty wood surface experts in the marketplace; you can be their singular expert.
Having a thorough knowledge of selling wood surfaces, gives you one more tool in your bag that will help you distinguish your customer and give them the kitchen of their dreams. Check back for the final installment of this four-part series, which will offer tips on how to design a kitchen with wood.
—Brad Baker is the director of sales for Craft-Art, Inc., a manufacturer of fine wood countertops.