Remodels offer the perfect opportunity for homeowners not only to create a more functional space for their families, but also to beautify the home. Once they decide exactly what they need (more storage, an additional bedroom, a place for the dog to sleep), they turn to their remodeler to help craft the dream home and make the space uniquely theirs. What are homeowners looking for when they customize the home? It’s much more than just a pretty snapshot to share on Houzz.
“It strikes me how, today, people want more and more things customized,” says Daniel Hurst, owner/general manager of Hurst Design Build Remodel in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Hurst attributes this to the fact that he thinks his clients are more open to ideas now that they were in the past. The advent of the internet and idea websites like Houzz and Pinterest has made it easier for homeowners to expose themselves to new ideas.
“Never before in history could you look up ‘mudroom locker ideas’ and get 1,000 different ideas in three seconds,” he says.
Homeowners are looking to customize a home’s function in addition to its finishes, which is why they need the help of a highly skilled remodeler to walk them through the design process.
“People have kind of an idea, but they’re not sure what’s possible … sometimes it’s just a little bit of inspiration and we help them find the best options,” Hurst says.
Erik Block, founder/owner of Block Design|Build, Hadlyme, Conn., agrees. “Typically, everything we do is custom,” he says. “We start with ‘What are you looking for? What gets you excited?’ Then, we go from there and find the product that matches that.”
Block’s team has certain products and companies they recommend, but there are a few times where he lets the homeowners explore their options on their own.
“For bathrooms, a lot of the time, we have the homeowner do the homework. We’ll recommend certain fixtures we’ve had good luck with in the past and then they take it from there so that they can get exactly what they’re looking for.”
Those homeowners scrutinize their decisions. Block says that homeowners have analyzed the chrome finishes on flush handles and bathroom fixtures from different manufacturers to make sure that both are the same shade.
Homeowners can find as many options as they please, but the end result of the project still needs to mesh with their needs. Jason Walsh, lead industrial designer at Masonite’s Innovation Center, says that the one difference between a millennial and a baby boomer remodeling their homes is the functional requirements. Baby boomers, for example, often are remodeling their homes so they can age in place.
“The connecting feature [for all homeowners] is something with an updated design,” Walsh says. “They’re looking for something that fits their functional requirements, but is on-trend.”
Cool, Warm, or Neutral?
One easy and fairly painless way homeowners can customize a home and keep it on-trend is through color. (Though, we’ll admit, the 1970s avocado trend was slightly painful.) Neutrals, such as grays, remain popular for both inside and outside of the home, but homeowners seem to be customizing their colors even further than a single shade.
“We have noticed that there’s a greater desire on the parts of builders and homeowners to have more specifically correct colors,” says Kate Smith, chief color maven at Sensational Color. “Rather than slapping on a gray roof, people want the specific gray that best matches their home.”
While companies are offering their products in a wide range of neutrals, many are also offering bolder hues. Tando’s all-new line of polypropylene exterior shake and stone is available in a variety of colors. TandoShake comes in three different collections: SignatureStain, Color, and Natural. SignatureStain comes in six colors. The Color Series offers 19 shades ranging from neutrals to bold colors like reds, yellows, and greens. The Natural Series features eight dark, earthy tones.
Instead of a fully colorful house, some homeowners are adding a touch of color to the exterior via the front door. John Gerhardt, associate product line manager for interior doors at Jeld-Wen, says that blues, greens, and yellows have been popular front door choices recently.
Walsh agrees that there’s more interest in color. He notes that turquoise and warmer colors like reds and yellows, inspired by the tropical regions, are popular choices for exterior doors. “Black continues to be popular,” Walsh says. “It’s a pretty bold statement.”
“We’re seeing more and more people interested in black,” Hurst agrees. “Black cabinetry, black trim, black doors, or some version of that in a charcoal color.”
The interior door is another story. Walsh observes that many homeowners want to stay neutral with their interior doors, only occasionally adding pops of color.
Smith warns that homeowners are willing to incorporate color, but they won’t step too far out of their comfort zones. Homeowners want to be educated about color and how to make color choices, she adds. They want to be told what they should know about color in order to make an informed decision.
Create a Clear Picture
Many of Block’s projects are remodeling and restoring historic homes, so a number of his jobs are focused on crafting a beautiful space that meshes with the architecture and design of the rest of the home.
“Everything has to match; everything has to be related somehow, whether it’s hues or colors or textures. We’ll push for certain looks,” Block says. “They’re not going to have a kitchen that’s all white and clean with nice marble countertops and then have the rest of the house be all black.”
Carrying a design throughout the home seems like a no-brainer
"It always seems to start with kitchens and baths and then homeowners take the rest of the home to that level. ...It's always kitchens and baths. Nobody ever says, 'I want to remodel my dining room.'" - Erik Block
for a remodeler, and product manufacturers are picking up on the trend. Jeld-Wen’s new Studio collection is a series of contemporary-style doors for both the interior and the exterior.
“We wanted to bring the whole home design together,” Gerhardt says. They settled on a contemporary style because not only have product manufacturers been shifting to a more modern aesthetic, but more homeowners are looking for the clean lines contemporary offers.
The craftsman style also has been popular, though it has been modernized with a “cleaner, simpler design,” Walsh says. For those clients who like the craftsman style and are looking to create a design throughout their entire home, Masonite has released an exterior door to coordinate with its craftsman line, Heritage.
“We don’t see people wanting to directly match the doors, but they want to coordinate,” Walsh says. “If they have a craftsman-style front door and they choose a craftsman interior, the panel layout on both doors might be different.”
Give a Little Bit
Customization doesn’t end at interior function and exterior style. It can also extend to the structure itself.
“We see people being more interested in the integrity of the build than the actual photoshoot at the end,” Block says. He says that for some remodels, homeowners are willing to spend money on the “behind the scenes” products, such as rain screens, that will protect the home, instead of spending that money on flashy, upgraded rooms or fixtures.
“I’m guessing it’s probably more common in [New England],” Block says. “It’s good to see that people care about that.”
Not every homeowner will need or want to spend money on structural components, but will instead want something customized in an unusual way. For those instances, Hurst advises remodelers to have an open mind.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity for inspiration out there and you just have to be flexible with some of your ideas,” Hurst says. “People are looking for custom options for everything. … Any chance we get to provide those options, that’s what we want to do, and I think that’s what people are drawn to today.”