The last few years have seen an unprecedented
remodeling craze sweep the country.
According to the National Association
of Home Builders, homeowners spent $180
billion improving their homes in 2003 – a
figure expected to be even higher for 2004.
Thanks to low interest rates, around-theclock
remodeling television shows and an
industry that is constantly creating new looks
for once-permanent fixtures, homeowners
are ripping out and redesigning as never
before. So, Her Home spoke to Joan
Stephens, president of the National Association
of the Remodeling Industry, and owner
of Stronghold Remodeling, Inc., in Boise,
Idaho, for her take on the latest trends
According to Joan, the two rooms most
commonly remodeled are kitchens and
baths, followed by master suites. “A lot of our
clients are couples who have gotten their
kids through college and are now ready to
spend money on their own comfort,” Joan
comments. “So they either build a new
master suite, or more commonly, they incorporate
an unused extra bedroom to create
a large, very open master suite.
“We also do quite a few home theaters or
media rooms. For some couples, it becomes a
trade-off. The wife gets a new kitchen; the
husband gets a room for his audio/visual toys.
Exercise rooms are common as well.”
Joan notes that the whites and beiges
prevalent in the mid to late 80’s are being
replaced by a wider color palette. “Thanks to
shows like ‘Trading Spaces,’ people are willing
to experiment with color,” she elaborates.
“They’re more adventurous not only in
paint, but also in carpet and countertops.
“Some people actually decorate with an
idea of planned obsolescence. They may use
neutral tones in most of their more permanent
surfaces, but use a bright, trendy color
in a limited application – such as a red
countertop on a kitchen island. From the
beginning, they plan to change that piece
out every three years to give the room
a whole new look.”
Joan notes a dichotomy in trends toward
using more natural materials, including
hardwood floors, stone tiles, granite and
quartz countertops, and another trend toward
“green” remodeling, using recycled products
such as wood and plastic combination decking
materials which last a lifetime and don’t
have to be painted or stained.
“One of the ironies in trends is a mindset
to not follow them,” Joan continues. “People
seem to be rebelling against the concept of
buying something mass marketed, knowing
there are probably hundreds of thousands of
the same exact item across the country.
I even have homeowners tell me they don’t
want a granite countertop because ‘everyone
has one.’ So they may opt for stainless steel
or stained concrete.”
The desire for more light seems to be
universal. “As homes age, many homeowners
need to replace windows,” Joan remarks.
“When they do, they often upgrade to bigger
windows or trade a few small windows for
one large one. Adding a bay or bow window
is a popular way to flood a room with light
and add a charming seating area.
“In addition to incorporating an abundance
of natural light, homeowners are paying
more attention to the effect lighting has in
creating atmosphere. Aging baby boomers
also need more light. So we’re seeing a wide
variety of lighting applications from recessed
ceiling lights, task lighting, under cabinet
lights, accent lighting and lighting in molding
and the toe kick area of cabinets. And, of
course, there are more choices available with dimmer switches and lighting keyboards that
allow homeowners to adjust individual lights
without having to walk around to each one.
Joan has also noticed a move toward
personal spaces. “Couples prefer their own
vanities in the bath and his-and-her closets
over one, big walk-in,” she says.
“And when it comes to closets,” Joan
continues, “we’re doing more organized
systems. A few years ago, master bedrooms
often had built-in dressers, but today people
are opting to keep a lot of that storage in the
closet. It gives the bedroom a cleaner,
A whole article could be written about
kitchens. Joan sees more duplicate appliances
– a second oven or dishwasher, warming
drawers, wine coolers and refrigerator drawers
– and second sinks. Homeowners are mixing
different types of woods and countertops.
The furniture look in cabinetry is big.
Armoires are being used for pantries with
baking centers inside. These cabinets have
two double doors and a working surface
which can be pulled out (similar to a pull-out
cutting board) for rolling out cookies or pie
crust. In rooms with high ceilings, upper
cabinets are often 42-inches high. Backsplashes
are making a splash with attractive
designs made of mixed tiles.
Overall, homes have become a place of
refuge for families in a post 9-11 world.
Homeowners are showing an increased level
of confidence in making remodeling
decisions and are defining home makeovers
in a way that provides them with a sense
of comfort, privacy and self expression. The
latest trends reflect how individualized –
yet universal – these remodeling decisions