What Does the Future Hold?
What remodeling trends are on the horizon? Industry experts say that they're seeing the first signs that the 1970s may be returning. For example:
Kitchens are Expanding
The kitchen has evolved over time from a place to prepare and eat meals to the focal point of a home. Today, kitchens are used as gathering places and a place for doing homework and crafts, paying bills, and surfing the Internet—and kitchen design is now reflecting that usage. Computer desks, huge islands, fireplaces, and comfortable seating areas are frequent choices in kitchen remodels.
"The kitchen has really become the Grand Central Station of the home," says Snyder. "It's a place where people spend a lot of time, so there are a lot of renovations occurring within the kitchen area."
Homeowner preferences in kitchens these days include commercial-look stainless steel appliances, most often in a brushed finish. Viking stoves and Sub-Zero refrigerators, which used to be found only in high-end homes, have moved into mid-priced homes as well. "More manufacturers are making the professional look available in a residential line, without having to go to the high-end," says Amy Brown, marketing director for DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide, a remodeler based in Waco, Texas.
Homeowners also are opting for the look of freestanding furniture in the kitchen—adding cabinetry with a different finish or at a different height than the rest so that it doesn't appear to be built in. "The furniture look is strong," Brown says.
Maple and hickory cabinets are catching up to cherry wood in popularity, and the simple, sleek lines of Shaker, Mission, and Asian design can be seen throughout the kitchen. Darker finishes are a frequent choice for cabinets. Merlot—a deep burgundy color—has become quite popular, as has black.
While homeowners still prefer a sleek, clean look in the kitchen, elegant touches, such as farmhouse sinks or Victorian faucets, add class and individuality.
High-end kitchens may feature top-of-the-line appliances, such as a $13,000 Aga stove with four ovens that require no preheating—available in 14 fashion colors—or a $1,900 built-in coffee system from Miele that automates every part of the coffee-brewing process, from grinding beans to frothing milk. Less expensive, but still very chic, is the pot filler, a faucet installed on the back of a stove that allows you to fill pots without the inconvenience of having to lug them from sink to cooktop. Pot fillers can be easily added during a kitchen remodel; prices start at about $125 (not including installation).
For the ultimate in high-end kitchens, however, imagine them in duplicate. DreamMaker's Brown has seen his-and-her kitchens, where the man's kitchen features items like a brick pizza oven complete with real fire. "They can cook their pizza and smoke their cigars in his kitchen," she says.
Baths Are Getting More Luxurious
Like kitchens, bathrooms—particularly master bathrooms—are expanding. "Baths are becoming like a luxurious oasis where people can go and retreat," says ASID's Snyder.
Homeowners are replacing standard shower heads with oversized "rain" shower heads, and those doing more extensive remodels are adding showers with body sprays, steam showers, solid surface shower walls, and heated tile floors. Traditional-styled cabinetry, made to look like freestanding furniture with legs, is popular as well.
Homeowners are increasingly opting to use concrete in bathrooms—and not just on the floors—due to its reasonable cost. SkimStone Hybridized Portland Cement, for example, which is used for concrete flooring, costs less than $1 per square foot.
When Barbara Hagin recently decided to remodel her master bath, she chose stained concrete for the shower, counters, and floor. "It maximizes the in-floor radiant heat," says Hagin, who lives in a $750,000 house in Palo Alto, Calif. "And choosing concrete allows us to refresh and update the entire look."
Hagin chose a light eggplant color for the concrete flooring in her master bedroom and bath; the concrete will be scored with lines that will run in a diagonal to echo the diagonal lines of the cabinetry in her bathroom.
"Concrete flooring is a durable, easy-to-clean product that has a very long half-life," says Christopher LeVally, a salesperson with Keller Williams Arizona Realtors in Scottsdale, Ariz., who also is a developer and remodeler. "I am really gung ho on commercial products used in a residential setting."
In higher-end bathroom remodels—as well as for new homes—homeowners are investing in spa-like tubs, with whirlpools and waterfalls built in. Philip Spiegelman, a principal of Aventura, Fla.-based International Sales Group, a sales and marketing firm that represents 18 South Florida residential projects with units selling from $200,000 to $2 million, says that he's had a number of buyers who have purchased Kohler infinity-edge tubs and waterfalls in their master baths. But other high-end choices abound.
"There's a new whirlpool tub by Jacuzzi with a 42-inch flat screen TV built in," says Bill Feinberg, the owner of Allied Kitchen & Bath, a remodeler based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "But one of my favorite features to add to a new bathroom is a hidden TV behind a two-way mirror." Imagine shaving, or putting on makeup, while catching up on the morning news.
And for those who want the very latest in bath design, consider adding a urinal. (Yes, a urinal.) Much to the delight of men—and the confounding of women—urinals are going from train stations, ballparks, and other public restrooms and slowly creeping into the home. Perhaps they've found favor as a result of increased exposure on television. Singer Ozzy Osbourne, for example, showed off his urinal on the MTV show "The Osbournes," as did Curtis Martin, a running back for the New York Jets, on “MTV Cribs.”
No statistics are available yet to track the home urinal trend, but maybe people are looking for more fixtures to fill their ever-growing bathrooms. Or maybe installing a home urinal is the ultimate way for men to avoid having to put the seat down.
How Big is Your Laundry Room?
Laundry rooms are becoming a status symbol these days. No longer isolated in a dark corner of the basement, laundry rooms are now decked out with the best appliances and filled with color. That's because families are spending more time in their ultra-large laundry rooms, doing messy chores, crafts, and gardening projects there in addition to washing, drying, and ironing.
Whirlpool Corp. has introduced an innovative suite of products called the Whirlpool Family Studio, a multi-functional space that combines the latest in high-tech clothing care, such as the ImPress Ironing Station, SinkSpa Jetted Sink, DryAire Drying Cabinet, Duet Fabric Care System, and Personal Valet Clothes Revitalizing System. The full set of appliances will run you about $5,000, and they can be encased in custom cabinetry to enhance the look of the room.
Specialty Rooms to Fit Every Need
As families spend more time at home, homes are evolving to meet the specific needs of every family member. Rooms such as wine cellars, media rooms, libraries, sewing rooms, meditation rooms, and even personal beauty salons and ballet studios are increasing in popularity, according to ASID. These specialty rooms are being added to homes through remodeling or as options made by purchasers of new homes.
But family members aren't the only ones being pampered with specialty rooms these days; pets are enjoying some pampering of their own. Arvida, a homebuilder based in Boca Raton, Fla., is offering a $30,000 "pet suite" option at SouthWood, a master-planned community in Tallahassee where prices run from $165,000 to over $280,000. Conveniently located by the back door, the pet suite includes an automatic pet feeder, doggie door, pet drinking fountain, and a shower for a quick rinse after a romp outdoors. Talk about creature comforts.
If you want to get the maximum value from your remodel when you sell your home, you need to pay attention to trends. But not just today's fads: what's more important is what will be hot when it's time to put your house on the market.
Home improvements, after all, start to date the moment they're completed. How fast their value slides may depend on your ability to forecast what will appeal to future buyers. Guess right, and the remodel you do today can look almost as cutting edge five or even 10 years from now. Guess wrong, and you've just spent thousands on the avocado-green, shag-carpeted, conversation pit turn-off of the future.
***To navigate this minefield, keep in mind the following:
High-end homes drive the remodeling market. About 90% of the growth in remodeling industry over the last decade was, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, fueled by high-end homeowners (defined as those with houses worth $400,000 or more in 2003 dollars). The trends hatched in this market tend to percolate down to the middle market, said remodeling expert Jim Lapides of the National Association of Home Builders' Remodelors Council, and eventually are incorporated into the new-home market. So, if you want to know what will be in vogue in your neighborhood five years out, tour some open houses in more affluent communities to see what's happening there now.
Boomers are big, but GenXers are growing. Boomers own more of the housing stock and spend more on remodeling than other groups. But the cohort just behind them -- those born from 1965 to 1974 -- is coming on fast, according to Harvard's housing center. While aging boomers may be looking to downsize and make their lives easier, midlife GenXers might be looking for more space to handle growing families. If you want your house to appeal to the largest number of buyers, you may have to think about features that appeal to both groups.
Durability is key. Investing in quality materials can pay off if they hold up well over the years, said interior designer Juliana Catlin, past president of the American Society of Interior Designers and owner of Catlin Interiors in Jacksonville, Fla. A cheap surface might show so many gouges and dings after five years that a buyer will insist you pay for replacing it, while a well-chosen stone or tile surface could still be adding value a decade from now.
Consider the next buyer. One of the big trends in remodeling, particularly among GenXers, is making a personal statement, said Joan Stephens, chairman of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and owner of Stronghold Remodeling in Boise, Idaho. These homeowners don't want their kitchens or baths to look like anyone else's; they might invest big bucks in, say, custom glass-tile designs or bold-colored countertops.
But Catlin worries these personal statements will date quickly and alienate future buyers.
"You have to think how it's going to translate for the next owners," Catlin said. "You may love your dark green countertop, but the next owner's favorite color could be yellow."
That's why Catlin advises homeowners who care about resale to choose more neutral colors for floors, countertops and other hard surfaces, using easily changeable paint and accessories to infuse personality.
Catlin also cautions against structural changes that can permanently devalue your home, like eliminating a bedroom or removing a tub from a bathroom (thus converting it from an all-important "full" bath to a three-quarters version).
Another tip: make your remodel more timeless by matching it to the style of your home. "A cottage-style home looks better with a cottage-style kitchen," Catlin said. "A Mediterranean kitchen looks better in a Mediterranean home." Be particularly cautious of any remodel that's a sharp contrast; an ultra-modern kitchen can look great if the rest of your house is sleek and uncluttered, but can look like a space ship landed if the rest of your home is shabby chic.
In the Kitchen
Highly polished granite and stainless steel were the hot trends in the 1990s -- so much so that now there's a backlash among high-end homeowners. Instead of gleam, remodelers are going for warmth, Stephens said
Color is hot right now, as in bright-red enameled stoves. But color trends are tricky to navigate, so a more conservative but still trendy choice might be panels that help refrigerators and dishwashers blend in with the cabinetry.
Higher-end appliances are also in big demand, Lapides said. Remodelers may not spend $6,000 on commercial-grade appliances, but they certainly want an upgrade from the entry level.
Stone countertops are still popular of course, but more homeowners are becoming wary of the drawbacks, said Vince Butler, chairman of the Remodelors Council. (Granite and other natural stones can be permanently stained by cooking oils and etched by common cleaners.) Butler said he is installing more synthetic or engineered stone countertops and seeing renewed interest in "solid surfaces" like Corian.
"It may not have the eye appeal [of granite] but I think as people live with it, it may be easier to take care of," Butler said. Some, though, wonder if the monster/gourmet kitchen trend might begin to peter out, particularly among homes designed to appeal to older boomers.
For the frugal: The good news is that minor kitchen remodels actually seem to pay off better at resale time than major redos, at least according to Remodeling Magazine's annual Cost vs. Value survey (you can read about my reservations about this survey in "Remodeling risks often outweigh rewards"). Someone who spent an average $14,913 refacing cabinets, replacing laminate countertops and installing new cook top, oven and sink in 2005 would recoup an estimated 98.5% of the cost on average if the home sold within a year, whereas someone who spent $81,552 on an upscale, tear-everything-out-and-replace-it remodel would recoup 84.8% on average.
The bath Utilitarian is out. Think spa -- as in lots of space, big soaking or whirlpool tubs, multiple shower heads or even steam attachments in the shower. Dual sinks are a given in master baths, and luxuries like heated floors and towel warmers are popular with upscale renovators. Many renovators are putting the toilet in a separate room or partitioned area.
Remodelers are also shelling out, big time, for custom tile, said Butler, who runs Butler Bros. remodeling company in Clifton, Va.
"It's the place where people are really expressing themselves," he said. "We've seen some master bathrooms where they spent $20,000 just on tile, and these are not extremely expensive homes. These are middle-class homes."
Be careful about going overboard if your primary goal is boosting resale value, however. The remodeling survey found a midrange remodel costing $10,499 would recoup 102.2% of its cost if the house sold within a year, while a more-elaborate $26,052 renovation would bring back 93.2%.
Contractors polled by the National Association of Home Builders said universal design -- making homes more accessible for the elderly and disabled -- would be one of the top future trends in remodeling (second only to the ever-rising cost of labor). Since most folks want to "age in place," making sure they can get around their homes as they age will be increasingly important.bb
Of course, baby boomers don't want to be reminded they're getting old, so one way to tout accessible design is to point out how their parents can benefit when they visit.bb
"When you're selling to that demographic, you kind of skirt the issue," Stephens said.
Fortunately, most aspects of universal design involve fairly subtle changes that add little if any cost to a remodeling project. Wider hallways and doorways, for example, are aesthetically pleasing as well as more functional when you're maneuvering a wheelchair, walker or even a big piece of furniture. (Ever try to get a king-sized bed or monster couch through a narrow door?)
Step-in showers, with no lip or tub wall separating them from the rest of the bathroom, can add to that spa feeling, while the extra lighting that can help aged eyes also makes the house feel brighter and more desirable.
Open is still in and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, design experts agree. Cooks don't want to be isolated in the kitchen, and open floor plans make even smaller homes feel roomier.bbb
By contrast, the value of additions appears to be waning, at least according to the survey, which showed most projects that added square footage didn't pay off as well as other remodels. Carter, for one, expects that trend to continue if energy prices remain high. bbb
"The cost to heat and cool a home in the future is going to be staggering," Carter predicted. "If we don't have any major improvements in insulation, the only way you're going to save money on heating and cooling is by having a smaller home."
For the frugal: Knocking down a few walls costs a lot less than adding square footage. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, though, make sure you're not destroying load-bearing walls.
Carter thinks retired baby boomers are going to want workshops and hobby rooms to pursue their leisure-time passions. Lapides suggests that "Costco rooms" may be on the rise, as homeowners look for ways to store "all the 10-pound bags of pretzels they bought at Costco." The extra storage might be incorporated into a space that also serves as the laundry and mud rooms, Lapides said.
In fact, incorporating more storage throughout the house is likely to pay off, since our propensity to acquire stuff is unlikely to abate in the next decade.
Catlin also sees more houses incorporating home offices, which traditionally haven't added as much value as other remodeling projects. One solution is to build the office into the closet of a guest room, so later occupants have the flexibility to use the space the way they want.
The High Tech Home
Movies, video games and other content increasingly will be delivered via broadband, so Carter recommends installing conduit that can help future electricians run wires from wherever the cable or satellite enters to your house to the rooms where you have your computers and entertainment centers.
He also likes the idea of "electronics closets" to house all the home entertainment gear and minimize visual clutter. Sensors can be built into the wall above the TV screen to transmit your remote controls' signals to the gear in the closet.
SOURCES: MSN Real Estate (By Liz Pulliam Weston) AND Realtor.org