Trend Watch '06

As kitchens and baths evolve into fashion centers, homeowners and manufacturers alike are racing to become the trendiest on the block. Over the next several pages we match the key trends popping up these days with Qualified Remodeler’s recent Master Design Award winners in the Kitchen and Bath categories. They epitomize many of the fashion-forward trends, reflective new consumer attitudes towards these important rooms.

More than consumers of the past, today’s remodeling customers are devoted to creating spaces of their own — with their own unique styles that provide a place of self-expression. Today’s homeowners are also “trading up,” as some analysts say. Increasingly, homeowners are deciding to spend more on key luxury items, and are willing to get them at any cost. In the kitchen and bath market, higher end Viking ranges and Sub-Zero refrigerators are often installed in middle-market homes.

So, to keep remodelers in the loop of all that is it in kitchens and baths, following are some trends to investigate and possibly incorporate into your next remodel (hopefully avoiding any tragic fashion faux-pas).

The Zone Approach
With kitchens doubling as the central station in most homes, homeowners are seeking and remodelers are designing several activity and work zones within a single kitchen footprint. Zones for the different aspects of cooking are prepping, cooking, baking, cleaning; zones for children; zones for work; and zones for storage. So, today each member of the household has a place in the kitchen. Kitchens have moved far beyond the place for one person to prepare meals.

“We have been designing kitchens with zones for quite some time now,” says Patricia Davis Brown, PDB Fine Cabinetry, Vero Beach, Fla. “The traditional work triangle has been out for years and zones have replaced this due to its user-friendly appeal.”

Robin Burill, Allied ASID, CAPS, with Curb Appeal Renovations in Fort Worth, Texas indicates that children are often involved in a lot of the cooking activities. “We are now making things accessible for the little ones, such as making sure the microwave is reachable either by placing it on a lower countertop, or in the island.”

Prompting another trend, homeowners are also requesting “multiples” — two of just about everything and the kitchen sink. (See “Double Take” on pg 60.)

Everything from bar sinks and dishwasher drawers in the butler’s pantry to undercounter refrigeration and second stovetops in the ever-popular island are popping up in homes across America.

Simple, Yet Functional Cabinetry
Cabinetry can consume a good part of a project budget. However, cabinetry also is the backbone to the kitchen or bath and can set the tone for the entire design. Small Carpenters at Large, from Atlanta, Ga. creatively designed an 8- by 15-ft. kitchen with Shaker-style cabinetry to set the simplistic tone for this small room, pictured above.

The appeal of Shaker, Mission and Prairie décor is spurring requests for a return to cleaner cabinet lines, richer glazed finishes and simple doors that enable the blending of contemporary and traditional into transitional-style kitchens.

“The trend towards the Old-World-look is going away after many years,” says Brown. “We are going back to a simple kitchen with Euro-style cabinetry with a high level of focus on the hardware.”

According to Burill, home-owners are also interested in what’s going on inside the cabinets. Storage solutions for everything from hidden spice racks to places reserved pots and pans are frequently requested by her clientele.

“People really want their cabinetry to fit their needs, both in the kitchen and the bath,” says Burill. “Many of our clients are big into recycling and we are starting to incorporate a space just for this purpose. Purposeful design is a huge trend right now.”

Universal Design
Just in time to meet the needs of aging baby boomers, the next trend hinges on aging-in-place. Among the many professional certification programs offered by the National Association of Home Builders, the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program, (which teaches the technical, management and customer service skills required in accessible design) is the association’s fastest growing designation.

Aging-in-place means remaining in one’s home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level. It means the pleasure of living in a familiar environment throughout one’s maturing years, and the ability to enjoy the familiar daily rituals and the special events that enrich all our lives. It means the reassurance of being able to call a house a “home” for a lifetime.

Burill is seeing a huge demand in her market for universal design. Winning a first place merit in the Master Design Awards, Burill showcased her work with a bathroom remodel to aid a wheelchair-bound home-owner. The challenge she faced was remodeling this bathroom to allow rolling access to the shower, commode and sink, while looking stylish and modern. “Ever mindful of rising property taxes, and the possibility that they may be forced to move in the future, our homeowners wanted to make sure that the bathroom was tasteful and welcoming and did not appear to be ‘handicapped’ to a future homeowner,” says Burill.

Her team at Curb Appeal designed an inviting bathroom for any homeowner, tasteful regardless of universal design aspects. To provide barrier-free access to the shower, the floor had to be jack-hammered to eliminate the lip leading into the shower enclosure. Further work was required to relocate the toilet. It had previously been in a spot where the new shower was to be located. The the new toilet was situated in such a away that a commode chair could be rolled over it without providing any negative trappings or an institutional look and feel.

Other universal-design-friendly applications in this project included an anti-scald shower; shampoo and soap boxes were built into the wall at a lower levels; grab bars were installed; and a door leading into the bathroom and closet are folding doors which are easier to navigate around.

With most of their clientele in the 40- to 60-year old range, Burill says incorporating some aspect of universal design is always suggested. “Depending on the scale of adding a universal design element, most homeowners will accept the idea,” says Burill. “We typically will suggest getting rid of their curbs in the bathroom, and adding bigger shower doors is usually a no-brainer.”

The Spa-Inspired Bath
The bathroom still exists as the place to relax and rejuvenate, and this trend is only getting hotter. Plumbing fixtures from steam showers, whirlpools, body sprays and saunas are still the it amenities that homeowners are requesting.

With a fitting example of a spa-like bath remodel, Bob Fleming, Classic Remodeling, Charleston, S.C., designed this third-place Master Design Award winner with harmonious colors and textures, which were enhanced with clean lines, creating the illusion of additional space.

“The scope of the project was to transform the master bathroom into a sleek, contemporary space,” says Fleming. “The end result of this bathroom remodel was the creation of a space that is more than ‘just’ your average bathroom.”

Fleming employed a frameless shower door to continue the contemporary theme while the addition of a skylight and pendant lighting added warmth.

Adding a touch of luxury to a Wynnewood, Pa. bathroom (photo on pg. 35), Stimmel Consulting, Ambler, Pa., focused on a gas-burning fireplace set off by palladium glass tile. Glass tiles are becoming a popular choice for homeowners due to its increase in texture and color options, says Dave Stimmel, owner of Stimmel Consulting. “Homeowners are looking to create their own unique space, and the options in tiles are allowing them to design something totally different than their neighbors.”

When the team from Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build interviewed a potential client for a master bath addition, they agreed on a design that was the definition of the word unique — a unique use of design and budget.

The crew conceived a master bath floor plan that did not completely close itself off from the rest of the large bedroom. A curving, angled wall provided most of the privacy for a new jetted bath, a separate shower, a fully enclosed toilet room along with a stunning lavatory with granite surround.

The focal point of most bathrooms is the tub, explains Burill. “People are crazy about bathtubs,” and it seems the bigger they are, the better. “Homeowners are more educated than ever and are asking a lot of questions about all the features of bathtubs, down to very fine details.” Keeping up on the benefits and attributes of air baths vs. jetted baths, soaking tubs and the many others options is important, says Burill, because clients do ask.

Stay on Top of What is Hot
Staying on top of every trend in the kitchen and bath remodeling market is an overwhelming and perhaps impossible task. However, being knowledgeble and aware of what’s going on in the marketplace can help improve a remodeler’s credibility with his or her clients.

“This is a fast-pace market and it is only going to get faster,” says Brown.