Gimme Shelter

Photos: Courtesy Dena Brody Interiors

Outdoor kitchens continue to evolve beyond grill-plus-table. Places to cook outside are being designed with a full roof over them, so the cooking area can be used rain or shine. What’s surprising is where these kitchens are most often being built: not in California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Florida, but in cooler climates. “In northern places, outdoor kitchens are growing more rapidly than in warm climates, where the market is mature,” says Russ Faulk of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet in Chicago, Ill. “In this soft housing market, an outdoor kitchen is a good investment because it’s a ‘memory point’ that can make the difference between selling your home and not.” When done right, says Faulk, “an outdoor kitchen is at least on par with an indoor kitchen remodel.”

Think Small, Live Large

Photos: Courtesy The Bernstein Companies

Apartments are shrinking, yet they’re living bigger. “I call it the Mini Cooper phenomenon,” says John Torti, principal at Torti Gallas and Partners in greater Washington, DC, who’s seeing a call for better, but not bigger. The firm is answering back with multifamily rental units that have higher ceilings, more and bigger windows, better appliances, and finely built kitchen work islands that are nice enough to function as a dining table. “Essentially, it’s about interior architecture and using every square foot to maximum efficiency,” Torti observes. By shrinking a one-bedroom apartment from 760 square feet to 580 square feet and situating the bedroom in the back, “you go from 12 linear feet of window in the living room to 20, and you feel like you’re in a much bigger place,” says Torti, who adds that this way of designing is right in line with all that’s sustainable. Torti noticed the smaller-as-bigger trend in Vancouver about a decade ago; architects there, he said, were responding to the great influx of immigrants who were entering Canada from Hong Kong and asking for higher-value, smaller apartments. “Not wanting to be left behind,” he admits, “we went to school on what the Canadians did.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC, Los Angeles, CA, St. Louis, MO.