If you’re a bettor, it’s generally a safe wager that someone’s granite countertops came from Brazil.
Before the mid-’90s and 2000s, Italy had a leading position in granite processing, but things opened up after that. “In the early 2000s,” Schwartzkopf says, “you started to have a number of different countries enter.” More were both quarrying granite (getting it out of the ground) and processing it into worked granite (refining it to be cut). The United States has granite, but other countries could provide more at a lower price. That led to more countertops, creating a cycle in which supply and demand surged.
For the most part, American imports of finished granite are dominated by Brazil, China, and India, with Brazil providing about half of the worked granite supply. That means your granite probably came from an international market and likely landed somewhere in Brazil or China along the way.
Just what kind of scale are we talking about? It’s massive. Based on estimates from the US International Trade Commission, total United States imports of processed granite were about 206,000 metric tons in 1996. Last year, they exceeded 2 million metric tons.
“In the real heights of 2006,” Schwarzkopf recalls, “importers from Brazil were going around the United States trying to find excess capacity to take granite.” Granite supply isn’t a problem — it’s about which countries can get it out quickest and cheapest, and right now those countries are Brazil, China, and India.
2) Shipping granite got easier
In the past, people typically got their domestic granite from local suppliers, and that kept them roughly in sync with local costs. As global granite became more easily shippable, it became more affordable for builders and consumers.
“Containerized shipping is not the newest thing on the block,” Schwartzkopf notes, but its rise had an influence in lowering granite prices.
Because granite slabs intended for countertops could be precut on site and then safely packed and shipped, which was largely new to the ’90s, it became possible for people to get granite from around the world.
3) Granite became easier to cut
When a granite slab arrives at a shop, it gets cut into the appropriate rough size and is then hand-shaved by someone operating an industrial grinder. But today, computer controlled saws can make major cuts, like the hole for where your sink goes, more easily.
“Everything has been influenced by computerized controls,” Schwarzkopf says. While granite used to be impractical and niche, computer cutting has made it much easier to work with.
4) The housing boom exaggerated every trend
The timing of the granite boom is closely tied to that of the housing bubble of the 2000s. That’s probably not a coincidence. Trends in home construction during that period probably helped change public opinion on what a “good” countertop looked like.
As builders put granite into their homes, it quickly became a standard. In turn, even older houses needing renovation latched onto that granite mania. One trend — a boom in home construction — took granite along for the ride and perpetuated the impression that granite was the prime material of a “new” building.
“Granite went from being a premium option to a sales come-on,” Schwarzkopf says. “You started seeing ads for ‘free granite countertops!'”
Post-bust, granite fell, but it’s picked up again without the housing boom’s artificial highs.
Admittedly, there are some benefits to granite as a material. New varieties have given it more color and range since the ’80s, and it has some advantages over competitive materials like marble, which is likely to etch or stain. But a big part of its appeal is an impression of luxury that, thanks to changing globalization, technology, and housing trends, makes it an affordable indulgence for the middle class.
Can anything stop granite mania?
A lot of people like granite well enough. But for anyone who’s spent too much time watching HGTV, it’s hard not to wonder if our nation’s brightest minds will ever break free from their granite addiction.
For now, it’s granite ho, Schwarzkopf says, but with a few important caveats. Marble is rallying as white becomes a big color again, and there’s a strong trend in recycled surfaces that allow for both flash and environmental consciousness. In a few years, you might see more countertops made from materials like recycled Skyy vodka bottles:
Still, for the most part, there’s little reason to believe that the granite fervor will disappear. The big trends that helped it become a hit continue to make it a realistic luxury option for the middle class. So be prepared — you’ll probably be seeing people screaming, “Oh my god, granite countertops!” for a while.
Here are some neat ideas on how to create storage and functionality into your new kitchen.
Bread Box – Viola Park: I’ve been on a bread-baking kick lately, and in my quest to master some techniques, I’ve ended up with a lot of loaves. Without a bread box, those boules, braids, and bagels are piling up! This under-counter bin is the perfect low-profile solution. Provided you have space under your counters, of course.
Cutting Board & Trash Drop – House Beautiful: This is probably the idea you’ve seen most commonly. A pull-out cutting board that fits directly over your trash can so you don’t have to transport scraps from the counter to the bin.
Compost Bin – Blanco: Of course, if you compost, this solution will probably be more your speed. Because the bin is flush with the countertop, you can scrape scraps directly into the metal canister, and then pop on the lid to keep your compost contained until you can take it to your backyard pile or your local greenmarket.
Fruit Bowl – House Beautiful: This might be a little less storage-focused than some of our other picks, but if you keep fresh fruit (or even potatoes and onions) in your kitchen, this could be a life-saver. We love the idea of this built into a bar counter for keeping plenty of citrus fruits on hand. You’ll never be without a garnish again.
Built-in Knife Block – DeVos Custom Countertops: Knives are some of the most important tools in your kitchen, but they can take up a lot of drawer or counter space. This simple built-in knife block is ideal for any kitchen where you want to maximize your storage.
Outlets – Michael Robert Construction: Pop-up outlets are great. They save you space, and can be installed wherever you need them most. Plus, because they can be hidden away, they encourage you to put away your small appliances as well.
Stacked double oven. This is the most familiar setup, and most manufacturers carry versions of this appliance. Most cabinet manufacturers also offer standard tall oven cabinets for this type of appliance. The double oven unit often has one or two drawers below; the appliance is about 10 to 16 inches or so off the ground, including the toe-kick space.
Have all the options for ovens, with or without cooktops and drawers, left you steamed? This guide will help you simmer down
Design trends are more opinion than fact but opinions count.
Here are some ideas to spice up your kitchen
Accessibility; Often called ageing in place adding more accessibility features such as lower cabinets, wider isles, lever handle faucets and more can make a house more comfortable for senior citizens with less mobility.
Pet Friendly; Creating areas in the kitchen for pets such as self filling water bowls and even built in shelves for dog beds.
Brighter Kitchens; Whites and grays instead of dark colors.
Pull Outs and Roll Outs in Cabinets
Built ins for multiple small appliances and smaller cooking appliances like steam oven and small built in oven,
Floating vanities: modern look and easier to clan floors.
No threshold shower: Part of the aging in place trend but popular among other age groups as it provides clean design line.
With the popularity of granite, quartz and other hard surface countertops under mount sinks particularly vanity bowls are on a rise.
Thank you for visiting the ANO blog. We cover all things bath and kitchen, from redecorating to caring for your sinks and faucets. For more information please visit www.ANOsales.com or the
ANO YouTube channel
By signing up for our email list, you'll receive a checklist detailing exactly what to look for in a fabricator the next time you need stone countertops! You will no longer be an uninformed consumer. Thank you and enjoy!