Excerpted from Yahoo! Homes article from Zillow by Catherine Sherman, April 29, 2013
According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) quarterly survey of more than 500 residential firms, home renovations are outpacing new construction projects this year. With the housing recovery, homeowners are revisiting kitchen and bathroom projects that were previously put on hold.
AIA Chief Economist Kermit F. Baker says kitchen and bath remodels are often the last to be downsized when a recession strikes, and the first to rebound after a lull. The survey found the size of kitchens and bathrooms is increasing in U.S. homes, after staying relatively flat in recent years.
This may not come as a surprise, with many viewing the kitchen as the heart of the home. It’s one of the places that gets the most foot traffic and activity. It’s also increasingly seen as the command center for the home’s technology and green features.
According to the AIA, bathrooms are among the first spaces to be upgraded in newly owned homes. Homeowners looking to sell are thinking about what will attract a buyer. Homeowners looking to stay in their homes for retirement are also paying more attention to the accessibility of their bathrooms.
Some of the most popular kitchen and bathroom upgrades this year:
Universal design is a big movement in bathrooms, with 54 percent of architects getting requests for wheelchair-accessible features. But, making an existing shower flush with the floor can be a costly upgrade.
His and Hers Shower Options
An easier (and cheaper) accessibility request is a handheld showerhead. Per an architect surveyed, many people are looking for larger showers with options for couples. “A lot of guys love deluge showerheads, but a lot of women prefer to have a handheld. We’ve done a lot of showers where you have both in one large space.”
“What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is architects telling us kitchens are the nerve center of the home,” said Baker of AIA. “Increasingly, people need room for computers in their kitchen for home-office or cooking-related tasks. It’s becoming a drop area for recharging iPads and cellphones, too.”
While building sustainably is nothing new, an architect surveyed says the trend is causing more traditional materials to come back in style. In 1950, Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. started using concrete block to make the famous Dorland House, a “low-cost home of quality.” Concrete is now coming back as a design trend for kitchen counters and flooring because of its affordability and durability.
And, going green doesn’t stop at the floor. The survey found 36 percent of architects recently received requests for a home recycling center. Baker, who has conducted the AIA survey since 2005, says the focus on green and energy-efficient products is no longer just a regional trend — it’s a top design priority across the U.S. “People are requesting compost bins instead of having a disposal,” an architect surveyed said. “It’s almost like a disposal lid built into the counter, but you can remove the container to take out the compost.”
While the survey focused more on single showers, an architect surveyed said he’s had three instances recently where clients requested Japanese-style soaking tubs. “It was very interesting to me that they wanted a traditional soaking tub in contrast to what I’d been seeing for years: jetted tubs, which are definitely on the way out.”