The real estate recovery continues to progress at a snail’s pace, but remodeling activity is chugging along just fine, thank you very much. At least that’s the word from American Institute of Architects, who conducts a quarterly survey of such numbers, particularly as they relate to building activity. Bathrooms and kitchens have always been a priority for homeowners, and that's especially true for those who have resigned to improving their current domicile instead of trying to sell it. Due to their importance, kitchens and baths are the last rooms to see a decline in spending, and the first to recover when spending makes a comeback. Far from being strictly functional, here’s the latest trends in bathroom and kitchen design.
According to the survey, the size of kitchens has been increasing in the past few quarters. This room continues to grow in importance as the “nerve center” of the home, and the decade-long trend of integrating kitchen and living space hasn’t subsided. A few overreaching themes are playing into the dominance of kitchens. First, food and cooking culture has really taken off in the past few years. Everyone and their mother is now a “foodie,” and the Food Network has spawned a whole new set of celebrities each with books, product lines, and special appearances.
Second, technology’s becoming omnipresent in almost everyone’s life, and that’s making its way into kitchen design. We’re not the Jetsons quite yet, but that’s not to say we’re not closer than we’ve ever been. Computer and electronic stations are now the number one most requested kitchen feature; homeowners are also snapping up “smart” appliances such as refrigerators with built-in computer screens where one can create grocery lists and look up recipes. The other biggie for kitchens is the continuing interest in sustainable design: think renewable floor materials like cork, composite material countertops, advanced drinking water filtration systems, and recycling centers. Other findings from the survey include increased requests for larger pantries and wine storage.
Bathroom remodeling has maintained its preeminence, but its numbers have remained stable instead of increasing like that of kitchens. Interestingly, the number one requested feature for water closets has been LED lighting. Maybe it’s related to the growing popularity of chromotherapy? The green movement is at play in this room with water conservation being the goal of low flow toilets and more efficient shower heads. The aging population means that accessibility has become a greater concern in bathrooms, doorless showers being a key sign of this phenomenon.
Although it’s no surprise that the survey found weak conditions nationwide, it’s a small comfort to find that the South and West had better numbers than the rest of the country. Every bit of good news helps! The new construction segment closest to recovery appears to be the luxury/custom set; this group usually has the best bet in attaining financing.