Location may be the most important element to selling a home, but don't underestimate the significance of cool kitchens and bathrooms. Truth be told, these rooms are the real money-makers. Of course, consumers are a finicky lot, so figuring out what's hot and what's not can be tricky. Never fear: We asked the experts to help us come up with the five hottest kitchen and bath product trends. Each one is sure to dazzle your buyers and add sizzle to your homes.
So what are home buyers looking for? They still want professional-style appliances but now prefer softer curves to the angular lines of yesterday's industrial-looking behemoths. Remember when butcher-block countertops were popular? They're back. This time around, however, buyers are mixing wood with other surfacing materials such as granite or quartz. Furniture-style cabinets are still hot, but fancy embellishments are giving way to clean lines and modern influences.
You may not always get to build in enviable locations, but one thing you do have control over is the cool products you offer your buyers. Choose wisely.
Trend 1: Heavy Metal Modern (or a softer version of it, anyway) is alive and well. With the explosion of lofts and urban infill projects, buyers are grabbing up products that fit these spaces. One way home buyers are doing this is with metal tiles. Used appropriately, metal adds flair to the kitchen and lends character to the bathroom. It is a surefire sign of an occupant with modern sensibilities, but used strategically, it can also be appropriate in a traditional space. “A lot of people are using nickel tile accent strips that pick up the finishes of the knobs and other hardware,” says Mark Leahy, president of Pinnacle Design & Consulting, a kitchen and bath designer in Fairfax, Va. It is water resistant, highly durable, and can be used in most places where traditional tiles can be set.
Neo Time: Neo-Tile is manufactured from 14-gauge stainless steel and is appropriate for floors, walls, and decorative applications. Durable, maintenance free, and naturally resistant to water, the tiles are easy to clean and resist bacterial buildup. They are available in five types of finishes, including satin (shown), honeycomb, and geo-metrix, and in 4-, 6-, 8-, and 12-inch-square sizes. Custom sizes also are available. Neo-Metro. 800-591-9050. www.neo-metro.com.
Steel This: Metallismo is the first metal mosaic tile collection available in the United States, the manufacturer claims. The tiles are made from stainless steel and brass and molded into a mix of shapes, sizes, and finishes. Each tile has a rubber backing that prevents conductivity. Mounted on 12-inch mesh, the tiles are available in mini squares, ovals, rhomboids, and herringbone patterns in stainless steel, dotted stainless steel, and brass finishes. Walker Zanger. 877-611-0199. www.walkerzanger.com.
Trend 2: Back on the Block Butcher-block countertops used to be a mainstay in many kitchens. Susceptible to moisture problems around sinks, however, wood lost ground to such maintenance-free options as solid surfacing, laminate, and stone. But wood is in vogue again, says kitchen designer Ellen Cheever, principal of Ellen Cheever & Associates in Wilmington, Del. This time, though, it is being used in conjunction with, not instead of, other surfacing material. “You see it being used for an island or as an accent surface,” Leahy says. Today, it is common to see a kitchen with granite around the sink, stainless steel on an island, and wood on a raised bar. And instead of traditional maple, home buyers are opting for such unexpected species as walnut, cherry, and mahogany.
Walk In The Woods: Because this wood countertop is enhanced with a Waterlox sealer and finisher, moisture will not harm it, the manufacturer says. Any type of sink installation is available, including drop-in, farmhouse, and undermount. The company offers 20 species to choose from, including American types such as maple and oak and such exotic varieties as zebrawood, paudauk, wenge, and teak (shown here). Countertops are available in various thicknesses. Craft-Art. 404-352-5625. www.craftart.com.
Hard Rock: The manufacturer says butcher-block countertops are a perfect melding of beauty and function. Made from hard rock maple or Appalachian red oak, the company's premium countertops come in a variety of depths and lengths measuring 1 1/2 inches thick. Tops measuring 38 inches wide come in 13/4-inch thickness.
Customers may choose a food-safe standard penetrating oil finish or an optional semi-gloss finish. John Boos & Co. 217-347-7701. www.johnboos.com. Trend 3: Plain Not Fancy Today's cabinets do more than just store your stuff—they are an essential part of the architecture. With more consumers choosing contemporary designs, unadorned cabinet doors in warm wood tones such as maple, cherry, and alder are becoming more popular. “People are into simple door styles with not much detail,” says Bill Smithers, a partner at University Homes in Purcellville, Va., and chairman of the Northern Virginia Custom Builders Council. Craftsman and Shaker styles are hot, as are cabinets that can brook both contemporary and traditional home design. “I like to call it organic contemporary,” says Connie Edwards, director of design at Timberlake Cabinet Co. in Winchester, Va. “It's based on natural materials and is very livable and warm. To be sure, says Edwards, the Old World look is still popular in some regions, but more people are looking for simplicity in their lives and choosing cabinets to reflect that.
Shaker Heights: With its clean lines and recessed door panels, the Sonoma Collection is a true Shaker-style door that will appeal to contemporary as well as traditional tastes, the manufacturer says. The full overlay door has a recessed veneer panel and a warm finish. It is available in maple with a natural or spice finish and in cherry with a spice finish or a deep-tone Bordeaux stain. Timberlake Cabinet Co. 540-665-9100. www.timberlake.com.
Mod Mod World: Regency has the modern styling that home buyers have been embracing lately. It has an elegant yet unexpected routed scoopedbowl recess in the drawer front and complementary Metro door-pull. Instead of wooden legs, the base unit has contemporary tapered steel legs and matching Metro door-pulls. The full overlay door is available in cherry with a dark coffee bean-colored finish. Quality Custom Cabinetry. 800-909-6006. www.qcc.com.
Mission Possible: The Mission oak cabinetry in espresso is ideal for the homeowner who wants to achieve the look of a contemporary, high-end kitchen, the manufacturer says. Doors feature a recessed flat panel, and the line includes such options and accessories as pullout storage, maple wood interiors, and steel drawer boxes. It also comes in a chestnut finish. Canac. 905-881-2153. www.canackitchens.com.
Trend 4: Alternative Flooring The kitchen floor has always been a source of frustration for home buyers: It has to be durable and look good, but it also needs to be comfortable underfoot. For some consumers, the old standbys do not fit the bill. “Buyers just aren't using much ceramic on the floor anymore,” says University Homes' Smithers. More consumers are opting for wood, but intrepid buyers are going for such alternative options as cork and bamboo, Smithers explains. That these flooring options are environmentally friendly is an added bonus. Bamboo, a rapidly renewable grass, is harder than oak and more dimensionally stable than maple. Cork is resilient underfoot and comfortable to stand on, and it is durable enough for use in commercial applications, manufacturers claim.
Bamboo Lam: This product is made from laminated strips of bamboo, which results in a floor that is twice as stable as red oak so it will not warp or move as much, says the manufacturer. Available in finished and unfinished versions with horizontal or vertical grain, the flooring comes in 3-by-72-inch strips in natural and amber colors. Smith & Fong. 866-835-9859. www.plyboo.com.
Cork It: Cork flooring may be more than l00 years old, but it is currently a popular choice for the home. Available in 12-inch-square tiles and 4-by-36- inch planks, the product consists of various sizes of cork granules compressed together with special binders under high pressure. Durable and sound absorbent, cork is comfortable underfoot and has insulative properties, the company says. It is available in various colors and finishes. WE Cork. 800-666-2675. www.wecork.com.
Green Grass:TimberGrass wide-plank floating floor is made from renewable bamboo that grows to maturity in less than six years. Measuring 8 1/4 inches wide and almost 87 inches long, the planks feature a self-locking mechanical installation system that makes glue unnecessary. It is harder than white oak and rock maple and is available in natural or caramelized colors. Teragren. 800- 929-6333. www.teragren.com.
Trend 5: Polished and Refined Product trends come and go (some more quickly than others), but few have lasted as long as the professional-style appliance craze. Whether it's high-output ranges or refrigerators that can hold enough rations to feed a small village, home buyers can't get enough of them. What has waned, however, is their love of bulky looking products. To be sure, consumers still want pro features, but they want products that look as if they belong in the home. “Buyers are looking for softer-styled appliances that are refined and sleek—not clunky,” says Leahy of Pinnacle Design & Consulting. “They want a sense of refined elegance.”
For more product information, visit ebuild, Hanley Wood.s interactive product catalog.