The Rise and Decline of America’s Granite Countertops Obsession

THE RISE AND DECLINE OF AMERICA’S GRANITE COUNTERTOPS OBSESSION Revising the conclusions of his “what made granite countertops so popular” story from 2 years ago, Phil Edwards notes in this new video evidence that the mania for Brazilian, Chinese, and Indian stone surfaces in U.S. kitchens and baths reached its peak about a decade ago: “2006: The granite bubble and housing bubble came at the same time. Just as laminates rode technological and construction booms in the ’50s, granite rode similar waves in the 2000s. Granite was good, but its timing made it overrated — and that might be why we’re starting to correct. The end of that chart [of worked-granite imports to the U.S.] shows a dip in granite. That’s for a lot of reasons, some of which are bigger than interior design trends. But if you watch house hunting shows you’ll see there are other materials catching on.” [Vox; previously on Swamplot] Video: Vox

10 Comment

  • Even at peak granite, there were both objectively superior materials and also more fashion-forward options (like butcher block and concrete) available. It’s just that they cost more and were less familiar to most consumers. As granite countertops became increasingly commonplace and then a de-facto industry standard, of course its charmed status was…weathered. People are always looking for a way to make their kitchens and bathrooms stand out, and screaming “GRANITE COUNTERTOPS” in all caps on MLS listings no longer has the same payoff.
    I remember my own turning point vividly. I shopped for granite countertops for a one-off condo remodel and had never really taken stock of the options available to me. Once I became educated as to my options and the price point, I began seeing granite everywhere, especially the cheapest stuff, applied in all sorts of totally unnecessary applications that I had heretofore ignored. Simply knowing about the material cheapened its value. Don’t get me wrong, granite is just fine…but once I saw it as an unnecessary affectation and a commonplace one at that, any appeal that it may have had was based purely on the economic realities in the marketplace. If the marketplace is moving on to something else, well that’s not surprising, but I personally don’t give a damn.

  • I think we can all agree that it is time for a return to Formica

  • I’m an Anti-Bacterial agent impregnated Silestone guy myself. Marble (Carrera Marble) is even worse than granite, too porous, too soft, too “Las Vegas Strip Club”.

  • If you have deep pockets, marble is great for rolling dough & keeping fruit longer. Maybe in a small area in the kitchen.
    If you like rustic, soapstone is the bomb!
    Cheap? Plastic laminate all the way! There are many patterns and you can get color all the way through. Also it’s warm to the touch which is desirable.
    The myriad of solid surface materials and glass are fabulous, generally easy-care and at all price points.
    Granite is passe, too delicate, requires sealing, cold and sometimes (no lie) radio-active.
    That’s my 2 cents worth –

  • Formica is so passé, but I would not be surprised if it makes a comeback based on whatever sells fashion forward stuff. Concrete is fairly inexpensive and very cool looking. Butcher block would also collect a lot of bacteria–not good for food preparation… I look forward to seeing what the next trend is.

  • Granite still appeals to me because it’s a ‘real’ material rather than something fake. Formica is cheap and functional, but not very hardy in the long run (scratches, rubs through, and bubbles). I don’t mind formica when it’s a solid color, cause it embraces its own plastic-ness. But when it tries to replicate a stone pattern, it’s just cheap plastic wanna-be stone. Anyhow, there are tons of cool granites out there with exotic color patterns and veins, and I still think those are cool and unique. I agree the beige granites are gross – but so is beige in general and I hope to hell that mother-trend dies sooner than the granite trend.

    And there you have my unsolicited opinion. You’re welcome.

  • @ movocelot:

    How does marble contribute to keeping fruit longer?

  • I keep hearing that you’re supposed to re-seal granite countertops once a year. Does anyone actually do this?

  • In the meantime, the City of Houston Reuse Warehouse will take those old “formica” countertops, the swirly cultured marble vanity tops, and the new leftover granite pieces, and give them to resourceful non-profit organizations to reuse. None of it will go in a landfill. Everything is free. Just bring it in!

  • Granite has been out of style for at least 5-7 years even though builders kept pumping it out. I recall cheap $200K houses getting the stuff nearly a decade ago (probably early) and realized that the appeal of granite was gone.