When Bainbridge Island home designer Molly McCabe huddles with clients who are contemplating remodeling their home, she’s finding there is less talk these days about colorful bathroom tiles and farmhouse sinks. These days, the talk is about concepts and philosophies pertaining to comfortable and practical living, now and in the future.
McCabe, co-owner and principal designer of A Kitchen That Works LLC, said people are returning to their roots in ways that would surprise followers of home ownership trends in the ’90s and the first decade of this century.
Instead of searching for a “move-up” home with added touches and more square footage, homeowners increasingly say they plan to stay rooted in their current home for the long haul.
“People want to stay in their homes as long as they can,” she said.
Two or three decades ago, homeowners typically felt compelled to pick up roots and find another house, either due to changing circumstances — or out of boredom.
“When I talk with people trying to decide whether to move, I ask them: ‘Do you like your neighbors? Do you like the schools your kids go to? Do you find shopping and entertainment within a reasonable distance from you?’ If their answer is ‘yes,’ then why would they want to?
“They look at me and say, ‘Oh, yeah, why would I move? I want to renovate!’”
McCabe said homeowners have begun to realize that who your neighbors are is important, as is having a sense of community.
Many who have decided to renovate also want to invest in future-proofing their home.
“I’m talking about my 30-year-old clients and I’m talking about my 60-year-old clients,” McCabe said of her customers. While older clients will typically consider equipping their homes with safety features like grab bars and wide shower stalls, younger people decades away from experiencing the inevitable effects of aging are nonetheless taking into consideration potential mobility issues brought on by an unexpected debilitating illness or an accident.
That’s why more are looking to future-proof their master bathrooms by having blocking added to studded walls so grab bars can be added in the future if needed.
Another concept slowly making headway nationally is multi-generational living, in which grandparents, parents and children all live under one roof. It’s common in Asia and some parts of Europe, but much less so in North America — particularly in homogeneous Kitsap County.
“It works in the Asian community and the Russian community, but not in the Caucasian community,” McCabe admitted. “But it makes a whole lot of sense in so many ways. When we think what health care and assisted-living care costs do to a family’s total wealth — it destroys it.”
When folks consider taking on a kitchen remodel, they also factor in ways their design will help them better maintain their health. Those who cook meals are buying more expensive organic food and produce and fruit grown locally from farmers markets. Consequently, the kitchen designer said homeowners are looking for refrigerators that will preserve their food longer.
“They want to know where their food comes from and are becoming more discerning,” she said. “So, they’re investing in better refrigerators.”
Steam ovens also have become “a huge thing,” McCabe said. “A lot of our clients have them — and love them. It’s just a more healthful way of cooking.”
She also said something called an urban cultivator is becoming more commonplace. It’s a hydroponic, or water-based, plant-growing box where salad greens and herbs can be grown.
Connectivity technology also is a new trend in the kitchen. What was once seen as a curiosity for geeks has become something of a necessity for homeowners routinely stuck for hours on their commute to and from work.
New products hitting showrooms include refrigerators equipped with interior cameras that can be accessed remotely to see what’s for dinner — and ovens that can be programmed by a finger touch to a smartphone.
New remodeling trends
Other new trends for people buying new-construction homes or looking to remodel:
- Colorful kitchen appliances are also a “thing,” especially so in Europe. McCabe said it was all the rage at a Milan, Italy trade show late last year. So are colorful sinks and faucets. Matte white and matte black finishes are popular, too. And the old favorite — stainless steel — is still popular and not going away.
- Quartz countertops have become popular, eclipsing granite. “Quartz is basically the same price as granite. It is less maintenance and has a little more uniformity to it,” the designer said.
- It’s worth noting that some of the cheaper lines of granite come from China — and are dyed (“It’s not real, and a lot of people don’t know that.”).
- When choosing flooring materials, homeowners are opting for wood over carpeting. That’s due to a variety of factors, including allergies and pets. Engineered wood is popular because it provides homeowners with the look of wood species that is unavailable or difficult and expensive to acquire. And luxury vinyl tile and planking have gained popularity because of their sophisticated designs, durability and replaceability. If one of the pieces becomes damaged, it can easily be pulled up and replaced.
- New-construction home buyers are seeking affordability and — surprise — less square footage than before. “People don’t want to furnish [a large house], don’t want to heat it, don’t want to maintain it,” McCabe noted. “I think people are pretty happy with 2,000 to 2,500 square feet. They don’t want a house that’s too big.”
Molly McCabe, principal designer and co-owner of Bainbridge Island-based A Kitchen That Works LLC, is an award-winning designer, author, presenter and educator. She will present a seminar at the Peninsula Home & Remodel Expo on Saturday, Oct. 6, at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.