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Feels Like Home
To celebrate National Remodeling Month, area pros talk what’s trending.


May 2019

“In kitchens and living spaces, things are warming up a little bit more, getting away from the cool grays,” says Matthew Retzak, a project designer and coordinator at Bartelt. The Remodeling Resource. “Warm wood tones … [and] reclaimed material are very popular.”
Photo courtesy of Bartelt. The Remodeling Resource

Classic. Sleek. Modern.

These are the most common words designers use when discussing remodeling trends here in the metro Milwaukee area. In other words: when it comes to rethinking our homes, we are proud to like whatever we like.

In recent years, HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines made the all-white farmhouse trend ubiquitous, and local pros say that look is here to stay — but color is making a comeback.

“Most of my clients are looking to incorporate a white and gray color scheme into their home,” says Courtney Hengst, cabinetry designer at Zuern Building Products. “To me, white cabinetry is timeless, but it’s not for everyone. More colors are starting to enter the mix. Blues and greens are my favorite, and there are so many fun tones to choose from.”

Nonetheless, cautions Russ Waters, a veteran designer and salesperson at Wisconsin Kitchen Mart, keep in mind how long you plan to stay in your home before adopting a trend.

“The classic neutrals, white and off-white and oatmeal colors are popular — and then the darks,” Waters says. “We’re still selling a good deal of the mocha and espresso dark finishes on all the different woods. Walnut is actually making a big inroad. It’s a beautiful wood and it’s become more available on more styles. Navy and black as paint colors are being looked at, and we’re going to hear about dark green ... But again, that’s not terribly practical if you’re looking at, ‘I want to do this kitchen, but I need it to be saleable. Homes are now all about investment, not just living and family.”

If you can’t resist a bit of trendy of color in your kitchen appliances too, Waters advises against opting for the entire suite. “If you need to replace an appliance that dies unexpectedly early, in seven years that color’s gone,” he says. “So it’s risky to do a whole suite. Stainless steel is classic. Black — classic. White comes and goes, but that’ll never go away completely.

Hectic lifestyles have given rise to larger, more luxurious showers and small but artful soaking tubs.
Photo courtesy of Bartelt. The Remodeling Resource

One trend that is decidedly not gaining traction in this area: replacing kitchen cabinetry with full tile walls and decorative, open shelving.

“When we put something like that to rendering and show a picture of it, it’s like, ‘Where am I going to put my stuff?” Waters chuckles. “The kitchens that are put up on Houzz and Pinterest, too many times they’re condos, they’re East Coast/West Coast, where people really don’t cook. Practicality goes out the window when you’re looking at something for beauty, and you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to put your food or your plates or your spices. In the five-county region that we’re dealing with, [it’s] ‘find me a way to do tall pantries with pullout racks and pullout shelves. I go to Aldi and Costco and I buy large quantities so I don’t have to go back for a while and I get a good deal, and I need a place to put all of that.’”

When it comes to updated flooring — in kitchens and beyond — durability and personality are key.

“[Homeowners] are getting creative with tile patterns, doing herringbone patterns or chevron patterns in the wood,” says Mary Sweet, an interior designer and project coordinator at Bartelt. The Remodeling Resource.

“We’re seeing wood floors being replaced by luxury vinyl plank,” Waters says, noting the treatment’s infinite color and pattern possibilities. “People are really gravitating towards luxury vinyl because it is so easy maintenance and easy clean, because it can go down over underlayments, and you don’t have to do a lot of rebuilding of floor structure to put it in. It’s fairly waterproof and chemicals don’t affect it too much.”

Bathroom remodels in the Milwaukee region continue to favor roomy, glass-walled showers, and soaking bathtubs in place of outdated, jetted monstrosities.

“Often, we go into the master bathroom and the tubs are in a giant tile deck that takes up a lot of real estate in a bathroom,” Sweet explains. “People are now going in with more free-standing bathtubs that have [sculptural] elements to them. It makes it more of a focal point in the bathroom.”

And where open-concept floor plans have been all the rage for some time now, Waters admits he’s “curious to see that walls are coming back.”

“People have realized that taking every wall out and making these open plans can be distracting and smelly for the rest of the family,” he says. “Man caves and ‘she sheds’ evolved because there was nowhere to hide. You couldn’t escape the TV, the kitchen noise or smells, or the conversation because there were no walls. [People are realizing] it’s not bad to have walls.

“We’re doing much more remodeling than we ever have,” Waters continues. “Kitchens aren’t just being replaced, we’re remodeling whole houses. A lot of wall changes, a lot of window changes. Sometimes we’re moving a kitchen from one side of the house to the other and creating a whole different first-floor plan.”  

This story ran in the May 2019  issue of: