Architects Report Continued Focus on Kitchens, Baths

WASHINGTON, DC — Kitchens and bathrooms have traditionally been the areas in homes that get the most design attention – and that trend is unlikely to change anytime soon.

That’s the conclusion of the latest in a quarterly series of surveys conducted among a panel of 600 architecture firms that concentrate their practice in the residential sector. The “Home Design Trend Surveys,” conducted by the Washington, DC-based American Institute of Architects (AIA), identify popular home features and products, as well as emerging design trends and overall business conditions. The latest survey results were released last month.

According to the AIA, a striking number of residential architecture firms participating in the AIA Home Design Survey indicate that the size and number of kitchens, as well as the size and number of bathrooms, are increasing in American homes (see related Graphs 1-4). At the same time, households are adding additional features to both spaces, as homeowner emphasis on kitchens and baths continues to remain strong.

“With the added attention on kitchens and baths, residential architects report added features, with kitchens having more pantry space, more upper-end appliances, and increased integration with family space for younger children and other family members, as kitchens have become the focal point in many homes,” said AIA chief economist Kermit Baker. “With more space, bathrooms, likewise, have more features and typically include more upscale products such as multi-head showers, hand showers, and even steam showers,” Baker added.

Functions Spreading
According to the AIA, 41% of surveyed residential architecture firms report that the size of kitchen areas is increasing in the spaces they design. In contrast, only 6% reported the size of kitchens is decreasing, while 53% reported it is remaining about the same.

Kitchens are not only increasing in size, but kitchen functions are also spreading throughout the house – and to the exterior of the house, as well – according to AIA survey respondents.

In fact, a quarter of the architectural firms surveyed indicate that the number of kitchens is increasing in homes, when “kitchens” are defined as separate kitchen facilities or secondary food storage or food preparation areas.

Explains Baker: “These may be separate cooking facilities in an au pair suite; secondary food storage or food prep areas in the home; or they may be outdoor kitchens, a feature that is increasingly popular in many areas of the country.”

As kitchens grow in size, households are adding more and more features, the AIA noted. At the top of the list is added pantry space, followed closely by increased popularity of upper-end appliances.

“Residential architects also report that kitchens are becoming more integrated into living areas of the home by adding family space onto kitchen areas, adding work stations, and generally making them more accessible to other areas in the home,” Baker observed.

Given the extra attention being paid to kitchens, there is also an added emphasis on the products that are being used, the AIA survey stated.

“Countertops are increasingly a fashion area in kitchens, and panelists report that natural stone is significantly increasing in popularity, concrete (or other nontraditional material) countertops have caught on only to a limited degree, while synthetic solid-surface countertops are declining in popularity according to many members of our panel,” Baker said. “Natural wood cabinets and drinking water filtration systems are also increasing in popularity.”

More & Larger Baths
To a greater degree than even kitchens, households continue to want more and larger bathrooms in their homes, the AIA noted.

The latest survey reveals, for example, that 41% of the residential architects polled by the AIA report that the number of bathrooms in the homes they design is increasing, while only 2% said that number is declining.

An even larger share of architects (44%) report that bathrooms are getting larger, the AIA noted. Hardly any (1%) report a decrease in the size of bathrooms.

“Residential architects report more multi-head showers, hand showers, steam showers and separate [his-and-her] showers,” Baker commented. “In an effort to increase accessibility, walk-in showers without doors are increasing in popularity. To allow separate use, double-sink vanities or multiple vanities are more popular.

“Although most respondents indicate that heat lamps are becoming less popular in bathrooms, many respondents indicated that radiant heated floors, heated towel racks, towel-warming drawers or even fireplaces in baths are becoming more common,” Baker added.

He concluded that, while there are signs that the home building market is beginning to ease, and several residential market sectors are weakening, the two remodeling sectors covered in the latest AIA survey – additions and alterations to existing homes and kitchen and bath remodeling projects – both “are reported to be very healthy at present.”