the cost of fuel makes travel increasingly expensive, there’s a
growing tendency among homeowners to stay put and add some new
features to their homes. Call it a "staycation" or call it
cocooning, but the focus is changing. "People are definitely
turning inward, paying more attention to their homes and their quality
of life," says Ed Miller of E. Miller & Associates in
Cedarburg, and chairman of the Metropolitan Builders Association (MBA)
That can mean a variety of things, from the continually popular
kitchen and bathroom upgrades, to a new master suite, to a lavish
"outdoor room" with a well-equipped kitchen and built-in
fireplace. Some of these ideas and more will be represented in the
24th Annual MBA Fall Remodelers Tour slated for Oct. 11-12.
Quality, Not Quantity
For some time, kitchens were expanding into the grandest rooms in
the house. But, bigger is not necessarily better, according to Miller.
He notes that homeowners are more willing to consider foregoing actual
square footage to concentrate more on quality per square foot. That
translates into higher quality cabinetry, countertops and high-end
appliances, mechanical systems and exterior trims. It’s also a way
to cope with the high cost of heating and air-conditioning larger
spaces — an expense that is not going to drop any time soon.
As kitchens are decreasing in size, they are becoming more
functional, Miller says. "For a while, we were seeing things like
two islands in the kitchen with two sinks and even two ovens," he
says. "Now, the rooms are smaller, but with higher quality
materials and designed to make the maximum use of space. People are
realizing that they don’t really use all that extra stuff very often
and they want their house to serve their daily needs."
Joining the kitchen and family room as the preferred hangouts in
the home, the backyard is another favorite gathering space for
cooking, entertaining and relaxation — at least in the warmer months
of the year. More homeowners are bringing all the comforts of their
indoor rooms to the outside by creating multi-purpose outdoor living
spaces that function as inviting extensions of their home.
"Spending time outdoors entertaining is a way to reconnect with
our families and our neighbors," Miller says. Opening up the back
of the house with new French doors or adding a three-season room that
opens to a patio has grown in popularity. "There’s a desire to
create an outdoor space that integrates with indoor spaces,"
Miller says. "People are asking for more screened porches and
outdoor fireplaces, places where they can entertain and spend time
Fortunately, the old days of picnic tables and portable grills are
long gone. New technology has brought a new level of comfort to
outdoor living. Outdoor furnishings are sleek and soft, made from
high-tech treated metals and woods along with water and
mildew-resistant fabrics. Outdoor grills can tackle anything from
hamburgers to vegetables, featuring portable woks, pizza ovens and
attachable sushi bars. Joining them are stainless steel sinks,
mini-fridges and wine coolers.
A Little Bit of Luxury
Wine cellars, home theaters and other features are turning
basements into entertainment hubs. The standard basement used to come
with low ceilings and little light, but now, homeowners are converting
basements into much more usable and beautiful spaces.
Mark Brick of B&E General Contractors Inc. is receiving more
requests for indoor pools. "One of our clients asked us to
convert a garage into an indoor pool room, including an ‘endless’
pool or lap pool," he says. "The key thing is that people
are making upgrades that add to their enjoyment of their homes."
Some of the trends popular in the last couple of years are back
again, says Chellee Siewert, chief operating officer of the MBA in
Waukesha. For example, the concept of "aging in place"
supports the notion that older persons should be able to live in their
own homes for as long as confidently and comfortably possible.
Livability can be extended through the incorporation of universal
design principles and other assistive technologies. Modifications to
bathrooms and changes to accommodate a wheelchair are common.
This idea of aging in place has become so popular that the MBA now
offers a certification in it, according to Siewert. "What we
heard from our members is that there is the need to respond to
consumer demands. So, we developed this CAP (Certified Aging in Place)
designation for our members who complete a series of seminars,"
Another trend has designers and builders paying more attention to
the environment. "There has been an increase in the use of
natural materials because of their beauty as well as ease of
care," Siewert says. "MBA members use green materials
Ed Miller comments that "going green" is not always as
simple as it seems. "Everyone wants to be environmentally
conscious. We try to use wood from renewable sources and other
materials that are environmentally friendly, but it can be
confusing," he says. "The term ‘green’ is overused and
sometimes it’s difficult to determine what is truly a green
product," he says. "You need to do some homework before you
Remodeling an entire house has also grown in popularity, says
Siewert. "People are rearranging the layout of their rooms,
eliminating walls, making big changes," she says. "If people
really like their neighbors and schools, instead of trying to sell
their house, they may choose to update and renovate," she says.