Whether you’re taking on an entire renovation or just a small upgrade, the choices are daunting. Here, a few things to keep in mind.
By Christa Gala
For New Homes & Ideas, Jodi Sauerbier, Publisher
Pat and Jim White’s split-level home in Durham is undergoing a major transformation. How major? Remember when avocado appliances were in? They were all the rage when the Whites bought their home in 1973. But they’ll be trading that avocado green for stainless steel, and that’s just the beginning.
Although the couple made some changes to the home during the past 40 years, most of them were minor. So this renovation, undertaken by Corbett Design Build, is a big deal.
“My first request when we did the kitchen was two ovens,” says Pat White. “The kids are all raised, but I have a large family and trying to make dinners was a challenge. I also wanted a larger kitchen so they added a small addition on the back. My husband had a request to have a small porch off of that.”
That part of the house was completely gutted and rebuilt — roof, walls, everything. Even if you’re not undergoing a major home renovation like the Whites, the choices for kitchens and baths can still be overwhelming. What’s popular now? What’s on its way out? Most importantly, what’s going to have true staying power? And then, there’s always cost and quality to consider.
New Homes & Ideas asked some of the Triangle’s leading designers and remodelers. Here’s what we found:
Still going strong
Granite and quartz countertops still reign supreme in both kitchens and baths. While some folks explore other options like concrete and recycled glass, for most the cost and maintenance issues are heftier than granite or quartz.
“For me, granite’s like the new Formica™,” says Chris Martin, owner/president of Aspirations Building Company, Inc., working on several renovations across the Triangle. “I’ve done a couple of jobs with quartz though. People are starting to ask about quartz. It’s more expensive.”
And stainless steel appliances are still topping the charts in the kitchen over black or white appliances, says Kitchen & Bath Galleries designer Megan Poteat. If budget permits, however, built-in appliances (those disguised with cabinetry panels) are a big hit. That’s what Pat White wanted for her Durham kitchen.
“Stainless wasn’t my number one choice, but it’s what fits in the house with the cherry cabinets and granite countertops,” White says. “My first choice was built-in, but the cost on putting those in was very high.”
A shift in cabinet choices
If countertops and appliances are somewhat static, what’s changing?
“It seems like people are opting for clean lines instead of the Tuscan designs when it comes to cabinetry,” says Poteat. Shaker and raised-panel designs are more popular today than the stacked crown and rope designs of the Tuscan style popular five or six years ago. More people are opting for painted cabinetry too in light neutrals, which has surprised some designers and remodelers.
“There are a lot more islands today that are different colors,” says Poteat. “I’ve been seeing a lot of gray islands with white perimeters. But we still do a ton of stained perimeters as well.”
“Perimeter” is a term that describes the cabinetry on the outer edge of the kitchen; basically anything but the island. Islands are often done in different colors. It’s a trend that started a few years ago that’s still going strong.
And we can’t forget the cabinet accessories. You know what we’re talking about: quiet-close drawers, pull-outs for trash cans and spice racks. Remember the old “Lazy Susans,” the corner cabinet that you practically had to crawl into to find anything?
“You can still have that corner cabinet but it pulls all the way out so you can see everything that’s in the cabinet,” says Poteat. Most accessories can be added to any cabinet line so you pay only for what you want and need.
Understandably, the Whites wanted a larger kitchen than the one designed in 1973. But Elliot Kanarek, president of EMK Construction, Inc., thinks one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when designing a kitchen is thinking it has to be so big. “I think people often don’t use their space efficiently,” he says. Kanarek is currently working on five projects in the Triangle — in North Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Angier and Garner.
Kanarek’s concerns echo author and architect Sarah Susanka, whose Not So Big House series revolutionized the design industry more than ten years ago when space was king and “McMansions” reigned. New innovations and technology can truly help homeowners maximize the space they have and keep costs down.
Likewise, Poteat thinks one of the biggest design mistakes people make is trying to squeeze too much into a kitchen. “I feel like people try to fit too much in the kitchen sometimes, stuffing in an island,” Poteat says. “It’s not always going to work. You need to make sure you have enough clearance.”
Wood is good
When the Whites first bought their house in 1973, everything but the kitchen was carpeted, even the bathrooms. Thirty-nine years later, hardwood flooring throughout most of the house is one of the things Pat White is most excited about. “They tend to stay looking good forever and they don’t go out of style. They last for such a long time,” she says.
Martin says he’s doing more hardwoods in the kitchen now than tile. Homeowners often can’t decide between pre-finished hardwood and hardwood finished on site. What’s the difference?
“The biggest thing with site-finished is that on the job you get to sand them so any imperfections you find can be sanded out of the wood,” says Martin. “With pre-finished, it’s a milled wood so you get what you get. If there are gaps, there’s not much you can do.”
Martin admits site-finished can be more of an inconvenience because you will have to be out of the house when workers are sanding and finishing. So, really, it just depends on the homeowner. Pre-finished floors go in quickly with little downtime for the homeowner.
So, what do homeowners want in a bathroom these days? Space, for one thing. Not to mention a large tiled shower, good counter space and lots of storage.
One of the surprises lately for Megan Poteat, of Kitchen& Bath Galleries, is that customers are requesting cabinet accessories for the bath that are usually reserved for the kitchen. “I’ve seen a lot of people do spice pull-outs in their bathroom for hairspray and curling irons, to keep things organized,” Poteat says.
When it comes to countertops, most homeowners are opting for granite or marble. Free-standing tubs are seeing a comeback and cool spa-like colors, including grays, blues and whites, are still very popular. Sinks, however, are trending back toward the traditional.
“We’re not doing vessel sinks much anymore; those are on their way out,” Poteat says. “It’s the same with pedestal sinks. I’ve been in the industry four years, and I’ve never sold a pedestal sink. I think they’re great for a small bathroom; I just don’t sell them.”
When it comes to flooring and shower materials, Poteat says homeowners are choosing more porcelain tile lately and not as much natural stone, in large part due to both maintenance and cost issues. “It’s really the same look for less,” says Poteat.
“We’re using lots of glass tile in the bathroom,” adds Kanarek. “And I’m seeing chrome coming back. People are also concerned with having openness in the bathroom.”
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