Even with new homes, more Americans are opting for the Value Menu instead of supersized McMansions. Between 2007 and 2010, the average size of a new, single family home fell from 2,504 sq. ft. to 2,381 sq. ft., according to U.S. census data. Yet, these homes don’t necessarily feel smaller. The idea, builders say, is to design for maximum efficiency and open space. While decades ago homeowners wanted separate formal rooms and walled-off kitchens, today’s buyers place a priority on visual connections between most main-level rooms. Many of these new-home design themes can be applied to renovating or remodeling existing homes.
What are the latest renovating and remodeling trends?
* Driving the market will be midsize kitchen and bath projects, style upgrades to countertops, and new flooring. Homeowners are shifting from wall cabinets, which can block views to a living area, toward walk-in pantries for storage.
* Outdoor orientation. Homeowners are craving to be connected to the outdoors, via larger windows, decks or porches – all upgrades easily incorporated into remodeling jobs.
* More open-floor plans. Many homeowners want kitchens that connect not only to a living room but also to a dining area and the outdoors.
* Smaller master baths. Kitchens may be opening up, but many master baths are shrinking. Homeowners now focus more on quality, timeless finishes and less on size, reclaiming space for larger vanities and classic showers and tubs..
* Better use of space. Rather than expanding their living space, homeowners are looking to reconfigure existing space to make it work better. Readers surveyed last year by Better Homes and Gardens said they wished for a home with 1,856 square feet – down from 1,914 square feet in 2010.
* Energy efficiency. “Windows, insulation and doors were the 1, 2, 3 for energy efficiency” upgrades requested by clients in the last quarter of 2011, says Melman of the NAHB. A close fourth was more efficient heating and cooling, or HVAC, equipment. Architects say consumers want retrofits, as long as they pay for themselves within 10 years. Federal tax credits for more efficient doors, windows, roofs and HVAC systems expired in December, but they remain in effect through 2016 for solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, small wind turbines and fuel cells.
* Mudrooms or dedicated areas for shoes, coats and other outdoor gear.
* Universal design, also known as “Aging in Place.” As Baby Boomers age, they’re seeking to stay in their homes by building wheelchair-accessible ramps, wider hallways and step-free showers. In a recent interview, Henry Cisneros, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton, emphasized “all builders need to be aware of the basic physical realities that an aging population implies. Right now, there’s often a mismatch between the physical capabilities of people as they age, and their physical environment:
Such universal design ranked as the fifth-most-popular feature in kitchen remodels and the third in bathrooms, according to a fourth-quarter 2011 survey of consumer interests by the American Institute of Architects.
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