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.”
KITCHEN AMENITIES FOR EVERYONE
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.”
DESIGN WITH A SPLASH OF PANACHE
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. ”
A BATHROOM OASIS
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. ◆