The New Buzz Around the Kitchen

The kitchen is still the "hot spot" in remodeling, but a newly labeled American lifestyle trend is having more of an impact than ever on kitchen design.

That’s the word from the Remodelors Council of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), which says that the remodeling industry’s new buzz word -- hiving -- has supplanted "cocooning," which rose to a greater-than-ever level of prominence after September 11, 2001.

Cocooning, a term coined by popular futurist Faith Popcorn, referred to the trend toward staying at home and creating a serene nest from the outside world. In contrast, "hiving" connotes a more active lifestyle in the midst of a busy world, the Washington, DC-based Remodelors Council observes.

"While our lives will never be the same, people have gotten back into working, hanging out with friends, taking vacations and other activities, and now want to create homes that match this more active, on-the-go lifestyle," the NAHB Remodelors Council notes.

According to remodeler Chuck Russell, CGR, CAPS, of Westhill, Inc., in Woodinville, WA, homeowners "now want rooms in their homes to have a purpose.

"They want to create spaces that are dedicated to more than one use," Russell explains. "For example, they want a room where mom can do her crafting while dad watches television and the kids play on the computer."

Many of today’s homeowners "are not only opening up their space in the kitchen but opening up their minds to new ideas," the Remodelors Council points out, adding that homeowners have become more open to the use of new materials, color blends, "and no longer sweat the details of cabinet construction and appliances."

"Kitchen remodeling has grown so much in the past few years, and has inevitably become more mass produced, that trends in kitchens today put more emphasis on originality by using creative materials," the trade association said. Examples of that buying trend include unique faucet and fixture shapes, a concrete counter casted in the homeowner’s favorite color or pattern, glass tile and solid wood countertops.

In the Northeast, remodelers have seen a blend of traditional materials used with urban accents to create an elegant, modern feel. "For one project, we used painted white raised-panel doors for kitchen cabinets and mahogany on the flooring as well as the casings for the windows and doors for an elegant look," says Paul Sullivan, of the Sullivan Co., in Newton Heights, MA.

"Also, adjacent to the kitchen, we installed mahogany wainscot paneling to encompass the perimeter of the dining room. We then used a random color pattern of glass tiles as the backsplash and accented the cabinet doors with custom hand-blown glass hardware," he adds.

Homeowners are not just mixing woods and glass, but are also using stone -- including limestone, slate and granite -- in their kitchens, the Remodelors Council says.

The trend of bringing cabinets up to the ceiling has also made a comeback. Doing this not only allows more space for the cabinets but also provides a cleaner, sleeker look in the kitchen, notes Michael Strong, a Houston-based remodeler.

To top these cabinets, home-owners in the Northwest like mixing two and three colors in the kitchen, especially on lower and upper cabinets. "Many homeowners are going for the ‘energized’ look where they mix techno-bright and metallic colors with calming earthtones," Russell adds.

Another way to help family members interconnect with each other, but still maintain privacy, is through interior glass doors and walls, the Remodelors Council says, noting that a growing number of people have added French doors with glass panes in the inside of their house.

One of the most significant trends in the remodeling industry does not have anything to do with design or products, the Remodelors Council points out. Instead, it has to do with the availability of a creative financing option that allows homeowners to finance large projects.

"The financing option works by basing the appraisal on the future value of the improvements and dispersing the loan proceeds in draws during construction, with the final roll-over to a permanent loan occurring after completion," the trade association reports. "This keeps payments lower during construction and allows for some flexibility for changes and extras after the project."

"The new financing options facilitate larger projects than ever before and, I believe, will have the most significant impact on the industry in the years ahead," says Vince Butler, of Butler Brothers Corp., in Clifton, VA.

With these new financing options, "more homeowners will want to utilize all options to create the home of their dreams," the Remodelors Council concludes.