From the Floor Up

Evolution of the Kitchen Countertop

Posted by Daltile Team on Sep 24, 2015 8:30:00 PM

Granite in Paradise Beach on the countertop with Cristallo Glass in Smoky Topaz 4 x 4 and Coastal Keystones in Coconut Beach 1 x 1 on the backsplashFrom the dawn of time, man has sought out surfaces to work on. Today these surfaces are standard rather than luxury, but they continue to evolve. The most popular kitchen surface today is durable and beautiful granite countertop. The surfaces of the future combine strength and good looks like never before. Find out where kitchen countertops have come from and where they are going.

Ceramic Tile

At the turn of the 20th century the “Sanitary Movement” began. An awareness of germs in the kitchen started to influence the way kitchen design developed. This called for surfaces that were easy to clean and didn’t harbor bacteria and dirt.

Ceramic tile started to replace many of the traditional surfaces like wood. This is when the white subway tiled wall trend hit. A white tiled kitchen meant that it was easy to see where dirt was hiding and easy to get rid of it.

The 1920s saw a shift away from hiring kitchen servants and the women of the home began to spend more time in the kitchen preparing the meals. The size and functionality of the kitchen immediately grew. Women demanded more cabinet storage and more counter space.

As the tile industry branched out into more variety, the sterility of the white tile gave way to many colors and different shapes like the now classic hexagon and 1 x 1 square mosaics.

In the 30s, 40s, and 50s, manufacturers and designers got creative with tile. Innovations in color, shape, and pattern made this the golden age of tile. Tile continued to be a popular kitchen surface until solid surfaces like laminate and Corian came on the scene. Ceramic continues to withstand the test of time.

LaminateFeatured in THE NEW AMERICAN HOME, photo features ONE Quartz Micro Flecks in Cancun Beach with Glass Pebbles in Wheat on the backsplash

In 1912, Daniel O’Conor and Herbert Faber were experimenting for Westinghouse product development. They discovered a process of forming very thin sheets of plastic they called post-formed plastic. They laminated it to a thin piece of wood and formed the company Formica®, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary.

It wasn’t until the 1930s when Formica® really took off. It became commonly known as “laminate” and was all the rage in the 1940s and continues to be one of the most popular surfaces for the kitchen today.


In the late 1960s, DuPont introduced a cutting-edge new countertop surface, Corian®. It was made from acrylic and natural minerals and embraced the tagline “the original solid surface.” It took a while to catch on, with its peak in the 90s.

It introduced the idea of durability that helped define the next generation of kitchen countertop.

Granite in Tropical Brown

Granite Countertop

From the late 90s to today, granite has introduced a whole new era of countertop. It is the durable surface consumers crave and a gorgeous design element all in one. It may also be seen as the advent of the natural materials craze. Stone has never experienced this sort of popularity in the kitchen before.

On the East Coast in the 50s, soapstone was sometimes used for countertops and sinks. But on the whole, natural stone in the kitchen is a new idea. It is sourced from all over the world and is available in hundreds of colors. Granite countertop is the most popular kitchen countertop material today and doesn’t show any sign of being replaced any time soon.


Still in the solid surface vein, slabs of many different materials have come on the scene since 2000. Concrete is one that gained a big following and is still growing in popularity. It can be cast in place or pre-fabricated.

Concrete is a very versatile material for designers to work with because it can be stained in any color and formed with any finish. It can even be made to look like natural stone but is not nearly as durable. It is valued mostly for customization at a lower price point.

ONE Quartz Nature Flecks in Snow Leopard

Quartz Countertops

Quartz is the third most popular kitchen surface material behind granite and laminate. It combines the beauty of natural stone with today’s technology for a surface unlike any other. Daltile’s ONE™ Quartz Surfaces are 93% natural quartz combined with resins to produce a non-porous, heat-resistant, and more durable countertop.

Natural Stone

When granite became popular, homeowners and designers looked to other natural surfaces for inspiration. Solid surfaces are available for the kitchen in

•    Marble
•    Travertine
•    Limestone
•    Soapstone
•    Quartzite
•    Onyx

These all make beautiful countertops but none are quite as durable as granite. With proper care, they do very well in the kitchen.

MetalMetal Fusion in Stainless Steel

With the industrial trend, metal and metallic finish surfaces made their way into the kitchen in the 2000s. Stainless is very durable and unaffected by just about anything it comes in contact with. It is hygienic and can be used as a preparation surface if it is cleaned properly. However, they do scratch and dent and they can be noisy (imagine the sound of pots clanging together).

Stainless steel is the most popular of the metals for kitchen countertops but copper, zinc, and aluminum are also good materials.

Find the perfect kitchen countertop at Daltile today.

Topics: Kitchen Tile Ideas, Stone

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