Consumers are keen on green kitchen and bath products, but demand for high-end appliances and many luxury features appears to be waning in the face of less than exuberant market conditions, according to the most recent Home Design Trends survey by the American Institute of Architects.
AIA members weighing into the organization's fourth quarter 2007 architectural billings index reported the weakest business conditions in the three year history of the survey, suggesting the sluggish housing market is unlikely to rebound any time soon. The billings index fell from 47 to 42 points in a year over year comparison (any score above 50 is positive). Client inquiries for new projects fell from 50 to 40 points in that same time frame.
Those consumers who are buying new or renovating their homes appear to be more budget conscious and environmentally minded than in years past. Renewable flooring and countertop materials ranked among most popular kitchen features in the latest poll (at 61 percent and 49 percent respectively), along with drinking water filtration systems (44 percent), and recycling centers (45 percent).
"There is a growing interest in eco-friendly features for kitchens such as bamboo and cork flooring, and concrete and bamboo countertops," AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said in a release.
Large pantries and high-end appliances held their longstanding position in the top 10 list, but their popularity fell noticeably over the same time last year, with appliances dropping from 65 percent to 47 percent, and pantry storage falling from 64 percent to 51 percent, a likely reflection of wallet-tightening and floor plan downsizing.
Kitchen-adjacent computer niches and electronic recharging stations--a new addition to the survey--scored particularly high, with 56 percent of residential architects reporting that clients had asked for such features in the past year.
On the bathroom side, radiant heat flooring topped consumers' wish lists (at 60 percent), followed by multi-head showers (59 percent), doorless showers (59 percent), universal design elements (58 percent), low flow toilets (57 percent), hand showers (42 percent), and LED lighting (39 percent). These preferences indicate a similar greening of bathroom spaces, as well as mounting currency for accessible design features, no doubt fueled by the aging boomer population.
"Water saving toilets and LED lighting options have become more popular in bathrooms, along with continued strong demand for radiant heated flooring," Baker said. "Conversely, there has been a drop-off among homeowners looking for high-end features including towel warming drawers, double-sink vanities, and whirlpool baths."