As two of the busiest areas in a home, kitchens and bathrooms are prime candidates for complete makeovers or even light freshening up from time to time.
Home builders, sellers and remodelers say there’s a trend toward making these spaces simple, functional and stylish, without going overboard. Everything should be easy to use, easy to clean and look welcoming yet simple.
The kitchen, they say, deserves special attention because more people are spending more time in it.
“People are eating out less and like cooking. It’s become more interesting. And the biggest thing people are looking for is simplicity,” said Daryl Frost, a design and sales manager at Wakefield Kitchen and Bath on Old Tower Hill Road. “Today it’s all about having the kitchens function well.”
Gone are the days of fancy edging on counter tops and cabinets with elaborate carved doors. Clean lines and smooth surfaces are in, and for a good reason.
“Everybody’s goal is that it be very easy to clean,” Frost said. “That’s the big thing.”
It’s evident in changes, such as using deep, bottom-mounted sink basins, which blend into the counter better than traditional steel sinks with raised edges.
Another convenience being added is roll-out storage trays inside cabinets, especially below the counters. As homeowners get older, they’re less inclined to want to crouch down or get on their knees to dig through a cabinet for something. The roll-outs make storage and access a breeze.
Roll-out waste baskets are another go-to item for modern kitchens. They keep the trash out of sight, but are also easy to open and close.
“The electronic ones close on their own,” Frost said. Just a nudge will move the waste basket back into its hidden spot under the counter.
Frost said another unique add-on is toe-kick heaters near the very bottom of a kitchen counter area. She has them in her own kitchen.
“It comes out at the toe-kick. If you think about it, there’s not always heat in a kitchen,” Frost said.
Within the kitchen, appliances have taken on new importance as well, with ‘smart’ technologies built into ovens, dishwashers and refrigerators to give them greater functionality. These appliances now can typically be controlled and monitored from anywhere by using cell phone applications.
“You have refrigerators with cameras inside them now,” Frost said. The high-tech bells and whistles come with a price, though. Refrigerators in that category can sell for $1,500 to $2,000, while a fully decked-out stove could cost $3,000 to $5,000, she said.
The colors used in these kitchens tend to be grays and white, or “lighter and brighter,” Frost said. And for flooring, durable laminate tiles are becoming more popular than the often-used ceramic tiles.
And young homeowners are favoring larger, open kitchens rather than enclosed areas to give a greater sense of spaciousness. Formal eating rooms, such as an adjoining dining room, are less popular than in past eras.
“They don’t want a dining room, they want a kitchen with a big island,” Frost said.
In the bathroom, changes are being made to accommodate aging Baby Boomers. Earlier in life, they might have opted for a bathtub for kids.
But now, the biggest change is replacing that old tub with a walk-in shower, according to remodelers like Wakefield Kitchen and Bath owner James Maine. Maine owns and operates Online Builders Home Improvement, and runs the Wakefield Kitchen and Bath showroom with Ernie Folcarelli.
“They’re all asking for zero-clearance showers,” Maine said, meaning a walk-in that doesn’t have a threshold or other barrier along the floor at its entrance that the user has to step over to get into the shower.
Under-mount sinks and tile flooring, sometimes heated, are also popular in bathrooms, as are grab bars and seats in the shower.
“It’s more for the older people,” Maine said. “A lot of it is meant to help handicapped people, too.”
In keeping with the simple and easy-to-clean theme, the showers are typically all tile, with a glass door that swings outward rather than a sliding door on a track. Track doors are harder to maintain and clean.
“It all comes back to wanting a room to be easy to clean, and being functional,” Frost said.