Call it deliberate optimism. That's one way to look at the quiet improvement in consumer sentiment that is accompanying the housing recovery, especially when it comes to kitchen and bath products.

“People are tired of minding tight budgets,” said David Lingafelter, president of Moen, during  the  Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in New Orleans recently. “They are now spending out of choice, not just necessity."

In terms of the kitchen and bath, new-home buyers are spending differently. More than half of smartphone users research prices as they shop, and 25% look up product reviews before they purchase. “People are now more careful,” Lingafelter notes. “It’s the age of why versus why not.”

But there’s a gold lining in these evolved shoppers. According to a survey by Deloitte, consumers who use more than one channel before making a purchase spend 80% more per transaction than those who shop in only one store.

So how are these deliberate spenders doling out their dollars? Lingafelter’s team sees budgets going toward products that make the most out of small spaces. They expect products to deliver surprise, efficiency, and a “cool” factor.

Other splurges go toward the “jewelry of the home,” as Sam Rose, director of showrooms at Newport News, Va.–based Ferguson Enterprises, calls the big-ticket items that are starting to move again. A freestanding master bathtub, mid-to-premium kitchen appliances, fashion-forward lighting fixtures, and a kitchen faucet with a wow design all meet the needs of discerning buyers.