These days, the old adage of “keeping up with the Joneses” is hardly the case, as homeowners are seeking ways to do exactly the opposite — differentiate themselves from the Joneses. Not only are homeowners asking for unique, individual designs, but they are personalizing their spaces to better suit their needs. Unlike the cookie-cutter world of building, remodelers are faced with a different set of challenges and must be flexible, creative and always on top of the next “It” thing in design.
Kitchen and bath remodels are still the top contenders in terms of what homeowners are requesting and continue to produce a favorable ROI in a slower housing market. With those encouraging facts, the following showcase of 2006 Master Design Award winners represents the latest trends popping up in homes across America.
Layouts that incorporate multiple zones within the kitchen are still gaining ground in the kitchen. These zones are designed to meet the needs of each family member. For instance, cooking stations are being designed for multiple users, including space for entire families to cook together. These cooking stations can include a baking zone, food prep zone, etc. In addition, homeowners are requesting nontraditional zones that truly represent the technology-savvy era that we now live. These include specific areas for charging cellular phones, MP3 docking stations and laptop plug-ins.
Many times, older homes don’t have the footprint that is required for these additional amenities. Remodelers such as Grossmueller’s Design Consultants, Inc. of Washington, D.C., however, made the difficult look easy. They took an impossibly small 83-sq.-ft. space in a Silver Spring, Md. home and, by redoing the configuration of the first floor, expanded it to 120 sq. ft. Then they loaded the space with lots of thoughtful detail that met the clients’ goals, namely to update the kitchen, include a dishwasher and gain a bit more space. The kitchen floor plan allows both homeowners to cook together comfortably.
Adding to the trend of multiple cooks in the kitchen – dual appliances, placed at the point of use are also gaining traction. These appliances include dual cooktops, sinks, ovens, etc. Many of these products now include drawer appliances — warming drawers, refrigerator drawers, microwaves hidden in a drawer in the oven. This design element is a way to streamline the appearance of the space and provide point-of-use function.
The designers at Arclinea Boston used dual units in their Weston kitchen project, a Silver winner in the Master Design Awards (photo on cover). The owners of this traditional home sought a minimal and sleek space that would complement, yet expand, the home’s traditional design. Originally conceived as a closed and contained space, the kitchen evolved through the design process, first developing as an accent and ultimately becoming the home’s protagonist. The end result is a uniquely integrated kitchen that flows seamlessly with the home’s dining and living spaces.
Great consideration was given to the home’s existing architecture in the design of the kitchen. Perspectives as seen from the home’s entrance as well as from the living area were carefully considered. Materials chosen for the kitchen — lacquer and stainless steel — provide elegant simplicity and are respectful to the monochromatic white and hardwood floors that are consistent throughout the home.
The unifying linearity in the design of the kitchen elements carries the views directly toward the strong professional statement offered by the cooking area’s two 36-in. ovens, six professional Wolf Appliance burners and a 60-in. hood. The island plays a critical role, accommodating both a work/prep and dining area. The prep station on one side of the island features two Sub-Zero drawers for immediate support and ample storage. The length of the island reinforces the lines of movement and views within the space. The cleanup area faces the window, standing independent from the prep and cooking stations so as not to interfere with the ritual of cooking.
The kitchen is designed to keep the major functions at waist level. In fact, the only elements used at a greater height are the refrigerator and aluminum shelving, a material chosen because of its reflective qualities and perceived lightness.
Homeowners are also asking for their spaces to represent their individual personalities. When Kitchens Direct, Hillsborough, N.J., sat down with a client in Princeton, N.J., the kitchen design they envisioned accurately embodied the homeowner’s passion – a baby grand piano. According to this Silver Master Design Award winner in the Kitchens under $50,000 category, Kitchens Direct decided to take the piano theme and re-create it in the kitchen to pay homage to the baby grand sitting 10 ft. away. They opted for a black and white color palate and added a custom soapstone countertop which was contoured to emulate the piano top of the baby grand.
Mention the word “green” and all ears perk up. For many years, remodelers have been educating their clients on the many positive aspects of green remodeling. That persistence has slowly paid off as homeowners are much more aware of this building practice and are even asking for it. With that said, green design is huge right now.
Goode & Murray Construction, Renton, Wash., and Silver winners in the Whole-House $200,000 to $500,000 category, custom fabricated bamboo cabinets, reflecting the Asian tone of the kitchen. An added benefit, the bamboo grass is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet. It only takes five years to grow to maturity, and can provide 25 times the bio mass of a comparable stand of trees.
Choosing eco-friendly flooring is another hot trend in the home. Doug Walter Architects, Denver, Colo., installed cork flooring in this contemporary kitchen that took home a Gold Master Design Award. The material is actually harvested bark from the Cork Oak tree, which is not destroyed.
Other green elements to consider when remodeling include low-VOC paint, better ventilation systems and maximizing natural lighting.
With the many fashionable universal design products on the market, homeowners that remodel today are incorporating these items, even if they might not need it just yet. Whether they have children or aging relatives with accessibility needs, remodeling with universal design in mind is a huge trend right now.
An example of this trend comes from Abbie Joan Enterprises, Naples, Fla., a Silver winner in the Universal Design category. Their clients requested a “bathroom that is beautiful and functional for the whole family, including their children and visiting family members,” according to their Master Design Award entry.
The project involved increasing storage space by placing large armoires on either side of the tub (also allowing for more access to the tub) as well as adding separate vanities that are more accommodating to their height. An accessible shower was built with a thermostatic control to ensure no scalding, additional lighting by cutting back the wall and adding glass panels for more natural light, and task lighting inside the shower for better overall visibility.
To add a bit of design to the room, stylish grab bars were installed and placed near the handheld shower and seat. A new stone floor with many grout joints was also added to minimize slipping and more natural materials were used to update the entire look.
The luxurious bath
Bathrooms continue to be a place of relaxation and homeowners are requesting all of the amenities a spa has to offer, with most of the design reflecting high-end luxury. As we are seeing in the kitchen, technology is beginning to gain ground in the bathroom with mirrors that double as televisions and lighted faucets, with the water acting as a design element.
Now that whirlpool tubs are becoming the standard in most homes, attention is now being paid to the shower. These “super showers” are equipped with multiple body sprays, strategically placed to spray in every direction imaginable, including aromatherapy and chromatherapy for the senses. And to house all of these items, the square footage of the shower is also increasing dramatically.
When some well-traveled home-owners approached Excel Interior Concepts, Lemoyne, Pa., with a vision based on the hotel rooms and upscale spas they encountered on their trips, one of these super showers was created. A major challenge that needed immediate attention was the inadequate water supply. To accommodate the nine showerheads, a new well was dug, ensuring 25 gal. a minute if needed. This also required reworking the home’s boiler system and some additional components in the basement to the water heating system.
The shower features a frameless glass enclosure around it to showcase the onyx tile that covers its walls and floors. The glass goes floor to ceiling to properly accommodate a steam shower system. A custom system using volume and thermostatic controls allows the body sprays, showerheads and rain shower to all be individually controlled.
Added to this bathroom was a two-person overflowing tub with a spout that fills the tub from the ceiling.