Universal Design Key Trend: AIA

by Autumn McGarr

WASHINGTON — Despite the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s design and construction sector, custom residential architects are reporting continued homeowner demand throughout 2020 for a wide range of kitchen and bathroom features, as well as an overall increase in both the size and the number of kitchen and bath spaces.

That’s the key finding in the latest in a quarterly series of Home Design Trends Surveys conducted by the American Institute of Architects among a panel of more than 500 architecture firms that concentrate their practice in the residential sector. The AIA’s latest survey, whose results were released last month, focused on trends in kitchens and bathrooms in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the fourth quarter the previous year.   

According to the Washington, DC-based AIA, survey results showed continued demand during 2020 for kitchen and bathroom design features that are accessible to all people regardless of age or ability – a universal-design trend that’s consistent with the growing popularity of multigenerational homes.

The share of architectural firms reporting an increase in the number of kitchens and secondary food storage/food prep areas continued to rise significantly in the fourth quarter of 2020, as did the number of firms noting an increase in the overall size of kitchens compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, according to the AIA.

In a similar vein, bathrooms also remain a popular focus in homes, with more architectural firms reporting that the number of baths per home is increasing as of the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to the fourth quarter of the previous year. In a departure from kitchens, however, the size of baths generally remained stable or even declined slightly, according to the AIA.

Outdoor cooking spaces continued to be the leading kitchen trend for the fourth year in a row, according to the AIA, which also reported increasing popularity for butler’s pantries/working pantries/prep pantries, natural lighting, computer work/recharge areas, hands-free/sensor faucets and storage/refrigeration for wine and similar beverages.

“Features like larger pantry space to accommodate more food storage and hands-free faucets are likely part of the long-term impact of the pandemic on home design,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker. “While the pandemic has created sluggish conditions in the nonresidential sector, residential architects are optimistic as project backlogs remain healthy.”

In terms of kitchen products, upper-end and undercounter appliances continue to top the list of in-demand items, the AIA said. Other kitchen products experiencing consistently high demand include induction cooking appliances, concealed and disguised lighting, drinking water filtration, a mixture of countertop materials, hands-free faucets and antimicrobial surfaces.

In the bathroom, doorless/no threshold and larger, walk-in showers continue to be reported as the leading consideration in terms of design, while hands-free/sensor faucets and smart toilets remain among the most sought-after features and products. ▪

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