Re­mod­el­ing Adds Lux­u­ries and Ameni­ties for 21st Cen­tury Liv­ing


To­day, more and more Amer­i­cans are stay­ing in their ex­ist­ing homes. Rather than buy­ing a new house, they’re choos­ing to do home im­prove­ments and re­mod­el­ing projects, or ex­pand their cur­rent home with an ad­di­tion.

“Home­own­ers are re­mod­el­ing specif­i­cally to suit their needs and make their home a place they ab­so­lutely love,” says Diane Wel­house, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mil­wau­kee chap­ter of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of the Re­mod­el­ing In­dus­try (NARI). “They are weigh­ing the pros and cons of mov­ing and are mak­ing the de­ci­sion to re­main but are im­ple­ment­ing im­prove­ments to cre­ate the home they’ve al­ways dreamed of.”


When plan­ning a kitchen re­model, to­day’s home­own­ers con­sider the needs of the en­tire fam­ily and in­clude de­sign el­e­ments that ac­com­mo­date every­one – even pets.

“There are no hard-and-fast rules any­more,” says Greg Perkins, a NARI Mil­wau­kee mem­ber, Cer­ti­fied Re­mod­eler (CR) and pres­i­dent of GMH Con­struc­tion Inc. “Our floor plans and de­signs are cre­ated to match the life­style and spe­cific in­ter­ests of each in­di­vid­ual home­owner.”

Ac­cord­ing to Perkins, cof­fee bars, bev­er­age cen­ters, bak­ing nooks and pet sta­tions are just some of the cus­tomiza­tion re­quests from clients. They’re also build­ing easy-to-ac­cess ap­pli­ance “garages” that are in­cor­po­rated right into the cab­i­netry.

“For those who love to cook and bake, larger com­mer­cial ap­pli­ances, dou­ble ovens, pot-fillers, warm­ing draw­ers and ded­i­cated counter space that is used as a serv­ing buf­fet are im­por­tant,” says Perkins.

Of course, there’s also the tech­nol­ogy that mod­ern kitchens need to ad­dress.

“Since kitchens are the gath­er­ing place where stuff of­ten gets dropped off, we’re cre­at­ing tech­nol­ogy cab­i­nets so cell phones, tablets, lap­tops and other de­vices can be charged and con­ve­niently stowed away,” ex­plains Perkins. “Our clients ap­pre­ci­ate a cen­tral stor­age area that’s con­cealed so de­vices don’t clut­ter up the kitchen

en­vi­ron­ment they’ve cre­ated.”

In terms of kitchen tech­nol­ogy, ap­pli­ances have be­come in­tel­li­gent de­vices that make life eas­ier and more con­ve­nient. Gone are the days when a re­frig­er­a­tor just kept your food cold – or when only the wealthy could af­ford th­ese con­ve­niences.

“Even at a mod­er­ate price point, you can get ap­pli­ances with built-in tech­nol­ogy. For ex­am­ple, there are re­frig­er­a­tors that will find and read recipes to you or add items to your gro­cery list,” ex­plains Nicole Raf­fensperger from De­sign Tech Re­mod­el­ing, also a mem­ber of NARI Mil­wau­kee. “Other kitchen tech­nol­ogy in­cludes ovens you can op­er­ate with a phone app.”


Be­yond func­tion­al­ity and tech­nol­ogy, there’s de­sign. White cab­i­netry is still a pop­u­lar choice by home­own­ers. How­ever, stained wood fin­ishes re­main a clas­sic.

“In Wis­con­sin, be­cause of our long win­ters, home­own­ers def­i­nitely grav­i­tate to warmer hues. Many are se­lect­ing a warm painted gray fin­ish, a medium wood tone or even a soft drift­wood fin­ish. Drift­wood gives you that aged, worn, cozy look that many peo­ple re­ally en­joy,” says Raf­fensperger.

Even if home­own­ers have se­lected white cab­i­netry, they’re of­ten in­cor­po­rat­ing ac­cents of color and per­son­al­ity through other de­sign el­e­ments.

“You can add a touch of color with a dec­o­ra­tive back­splash, con­trast­ing coun­ter­top or pat­terned wall­pa­per,” says Louis Wei­her, CR, owner of Carmel Builders and a NARI Mil­wau­kee board mem­ber. “We’re ac­tu­ally do­ing a lot of walls in the kitchen and bath­room that uti­lize bold wall­pa­per.”

Light­ing also can in­fuse panache into a kitchen and en­ter­tain­ing space.

Pen­dant lights are no longer a task light over the is­land, din­ing table or bar; they’re now art­ful ad­di­tions to the room. There are thou­sands of choices, from retro-in­dus­trial to hand-blown glass to geo­met­ric shapes.

LED un­der-cab­i­net light­ing is a must for task work but when dimmed adds sub­tle am­bi­ence by pro­duc­ing a soft glow that ac­cen­tu­ates coun­ter­tops. Not so sub­tle are smart bulbs that can amp up a party or Packer game since they change col­ors and can be synced to mu­sic.

Ac­cord­ing to Christo­pher Wittmann, CR, who spe­cial­izes in ex­te­ri­ors for Callen Con­struc­tion, bring­ing in nat­u­ral light is an­other fre­quent re­model re­quest.

“Win­dow walls, sky­lights and bay win­dows de­liver nat­u­ral light while open­ing up the home to the out­doors. I tell clients, for­get their out­dated per­cep­tions of sky­lights! They’ve re­ally ad­vanced over the years and now op­er­ate at the touch of a but­ton. Some even have rain sen­sors and close au­to­mat­i­cally in case of in­clement weather. ”


Af­ter a long day, who doesn’t want to un­wind and ex­pe­ri­ence pam­per­ing in their own home?

“Clients are look­ing for a respite from daily life, so hav­ing a lux­u­ri­ous bath­room where they can re­lax and de-stress is a com­mon re­quest,” says Raf­fensperger.

Walk-in show­ers, steam show­ers, free­stand­ing soak­ing tubs, ra­di­ant floors, towel warm­ers and chan­de­liers are just some of the lux­u­ries com­ing to mas­ter bath­rooms.

As part of a re­model, home­own­ers are elim­i­nat­ing the old com­bi­na­tion shower and tub and switch­ing to a spa­cious walk-in shower. For added lux­ury, they’re in­cor­po­rat­ing mul­ti­ple spray heads at vary­ing heights that drench the en­tire body.

With walk-ins, glass en­clo­sures are pop­u­lar since they bring a bright, open and airy feel­ing to the bath­room. A tran­som win­dow or sky­light de­liv­ers even more light to the shower area.

“We’re pair­ing glass en­clo­sures with re­ally spec­tac­u­lar tile that’s tex­tured or has an in­ter­est­ing tone or col­oration to it,” says Perkins. “We have crafts­peo­ple who cre­ate amaz­ing de­signs with tile so there’s a beau­ti­ful fo­cal point in the mas­ter bath.”

Home­own­ers are also in­cor­po­rat­ing steam show­ers into their spa-like en­vi­ron­ment. Steam is said to re­lax mus­cles, pro­mote healthy skin and help breath­ing.

“Over the past few years, we de­signed sev­eral ‘wet rooms’ where a tub is ac­tu­ally placed within a walk-in shower,” says Wei­her. “It’s a wa­ter en­vi­ron­ment that clients can com­pletely im­merse them­selves in.”

Many home­own­ers are em­brac­ing free­stand­ing tubs be­cause they of­fer a deep, lux­u­ri­ous soak­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The tubs are of­ten placed in a prom­i­nent lo­ca­tion and un­der an im­pres­sive chan­de­lier to make a state­ment.


While there’s a lot go­ing on in­side, home­own­ers are also in­vest­ing in the ex­te­rior and tak­ing ad­van­tage of new prod­ucts that have been reengi­neered to pro­vide more ben­e­fits and dura­bil­ity.

In the past 25 years, sid­ing has seen a num­ber of in­no­va­tions. Com­pos­ite sid­ing that’s made with fi­brous ma­te­ri­als can re­place tra­di­tional vinyl or cedar sid­ing. Specif­i­cally, cedar is no­to­ri­ously sus­cep­ti­ble to in­sects and birds, plus it re­quires re­fin­ish­ing.

“To­day’s com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als stand up to Wis­con­sin weather. The com­pos­ite sid­ing has a thick coat­ing that adds to its dura­bil­ity and re­quires very lit­tle main­te­nance,” ex­plains Wittmann. “For home­own­ers in­ter­ested in stay­ing with a vinyl op­tion, new tech­nol­ogy now pro­vides ma­te­ri­als that help re­flect the heat from the sun so it isn’t ab­sorbed into the sid­ing.”

Home­own­ers also have more color choices for their ex­te­rior. In the past, vinyl and com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als were lim­ited to light or clas­sic col­ors. Darker, richer col­ors such as deep grays, blues, reds, greens and browns were lim­ited to painted wood sid­ing.

“Be­cause of fab­ri­ca­tion changes, con­sumers can now have a wood grain look that’s been fac­tory-stained in darker, richer col­ors. You’re see­ing garage doors, en­try doors and even cer­tain sid­ing el­e­ments in a wider range of col­ors,” says Wittmann.

To make their homes more con­tem­po­rary, home­own­ers are re­mov­ing or­nate fea­tures like turned spin­dles and balus­ters. In­stead, sleeker, cleaner lines and con­trast­ing col­ors are used.

“With the new col­ors, prod­ucts and en­hance­ments, home­own­ers can give their ex­te­rior a to­tally new, fresh look,” says Wittmann. ◆

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