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Welcome Mat Out for Home Remodels

If you’ve recently watched a transformational “reno” on cable shows like HGTV’s “Property Brothers” and decided it was time to update your vintage home, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans, inspired by Cinderella makeovers, catch home improvement fever and scour websites like Houzz, DIY Network or This Old House.

Marketwatch reports that this “renewed mania for home renovation” – expected to reach $325 billion by early 2017 – can be attributed to two key factors. First, prospective home buyers don’t have many choices today – especially for properties $500,000 or less. Affordable single family, condo or town home inventories have shrunk to record lows, leaving few options. This spring the Pikes Peak Multiple Listing Service reported that the number of all active, for-sale listings was down 48 percent from last year. The result: many of us will stay put and remodel. 

In addition, a post-recession home equity rebound has spurred home improvement. Home equity line of credit loans (HELOCs) and cash-out transactions are at their highest levels since 2008. CoreLogic has also reported more than 60 million homes now have at least 25 percent equity – allowing owners to reinvest in their castles. 

Kitchen and bath remodels still top the list of improvements that add to a home’s value and are reflected in this year’s Houzz.com “Top 25 Design Trends.” The site showcases new, updated and innovative home improvement ideas from builders and remodeling contractors, interior designers and retailers. 

Hot this year: replacing lower cabinets with convenient deep drawers, adding statement mirrors in bathrooms, pairing “surprising” backsplashes with countertops and installing bold powder room wall coverings.  

More trends include “barely there” kitchens that frame or adjoin open living spaces. There are also new “niche” appliances like induction cooktops, steam ovens and kimchi refrigerators.  Workhorse kitchen islands now multitask by incorporating sinks and rollout cabinets surrounded by a combination of granite, quartz or wood block cutting surfaces. And islands with casters on table-like legs are gaining popularity. 

In addition to fewer walls and an open concept, new kitchen surface options include popular raw, organic materials. “We’ve built counter or island surfaces out of a slab of wood – and have left a live edge that follows the shape of the tree or may even preserve the tree’s bark,” says Mark Plush, owner of Plush Kitchens and Bath Designs. 

Because of Colorado’s climate, new outdoor kitchen and entertaining areas – popular in warmer states – are not often requested, he explains. Instead, older home kitchens are being opened up to outdoor spaces. These renovations may include installation of a folding glass Nanawall system. Kitchen work areas may also be flip-flopped with a dining room to bring in more light from outside.

Bathrooms, too, are getting a makeover. Some are confined to an original footprint, but in larger, older homes, a smaller bath may be joined with an adjacent bedroom, he says. The result is a more appealing master suite with walk-in closet space, large walk-in showers and sitting areas. 

Like Plush, commercial and residential general contractor Bob McGrath has seen a residential remodeling upswing since 2014. Their two companies frequently work together, and the remodeling boom has been great for business. At the same time, renovation is often accompanied by high expectations – especially when it comes to budget. “I really enjoy working with homeowners, but it takes careful listening and attention to detail,” McGrath explains. That’s because while phenomena like HGTV and Houzz are great for stimulating ideas, there’s no discussion of costs of materials, upgraded finishes and the labor in extra-complex projects.

“It helps us when an owner consults with an architect or designer first to determine what they can afford,” he says.

Rich Schell, owner of Rich Designs Home also collaborates with other firms on remodels. The local designer works primarily on existing home interiors. Current projects range from a $3 million-plus Broadmoor beauty to a mountain home near the Tarryall Reservoir.  

“Many of my clients are like me. What I could afford years ago in a fixer-upper, I’m now going back to refine and upgrade,” he explains.

Schell sees adopting hot trends as just one element in the remodeling process. First, it’s important to get to know your clients and become familiar with their preferences, he advises. One couple, for example, recently purchased a large Tuscan-inspired home. Because they preferred contemporary, open living, the designer recommended they discard traditional oriental rugs, heavy window coverings and concrete stairwell balusters. New surfaces, textures and finishes replaced the old. 

And good design doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, he points out. A simple switch to quartz kitchen counters from dated granite or freshening up living spaces by simply painting all interior trims white can create a whole new look and feel.