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Multitude of Design Choices Make a House a Home

Photo by Shelley Hanson Becky Kessler, a kitchen designer at the Lowe’s in Wheeling, stands in one of the model kitchen at the store.

When it comes remodeling a kitchen, bath or even deciding to build another new dwelling altogether, a variety of products and trends can help make a house feel more like home, according to local designers and builders.

∫ Alana Hendershot, sales manager with Wayne Homes in Belmont, said open-concept living spaces continue to top her customers’ lists in popular home designs. Craftsman-style exteriors and interior trim, spacious master baths with large showers and sliding barn doors also are some of the latest trends being sought after by people wanting to build new homes, she said.

New amenities people are looking for include “large tile showers, painted cabinetry, vinyl tile flooring, mudroom designs (drop-zones), and a universal design,” Hendershot added.

Must-have amenities for the kitchen include farmhouse sinks, walk-in pantries and an island with seating. In the bathroom, people often want double-bowl vanities, a sitting area at the vanity and plenty of storage.

“Customization isn’t just about fixtures, finishes and personal taste. It’s about how you will live day to day. Think about how the design will work for your family and design it accordingly. None of our homes are ever created the same — because none of our families are,” Hendershot said.

∫ At the Lowe’s in Wheeling, kitchen designer Becky Kessler said she helps people who are building new homes or who are wanting to remodel an existing kitchen in an older home. She said for either project, one must consider their budget and also take into account the value of their property.

For example, she said lately she has been working with a lot of “house flippers,” or people who buy a home, remodel it and resell it immediately. Kessler’s other customers are homeowners who want to do simple upgrades, such as replacing cabinets or countertops.

“Lighting also is becoming part of the kitchen design. It’s important for a multitude of reasons,” Kessler said, noting good lighting is needed for performing cooking tasks and accent lighting above or underneath cabinets dresses up the room.

“LEDs have really come a long way. … When laying out a kitchen people need to have a lighting plan,” she added.

Kessler said there are so many products for consumers to choose from these days, which makes it easy to customize the look of one’s kitchen.

“There are finishes available now that are so unique, they can mimic the look of old wood. Barnwood is a very popular design, and grays are a trend now. They are more of a neutral color and can work in any design concept. It’s something different other than white or cream colored cabinets,” she said.

She noted many customers are choosing more contemporary-looking cabinets with clean lines. The look of the more modern cabinets can be changed easily with different hardware. Farm-style sinks also continue to be a popular choice in the kitchen and come in stainless steel, fired clay and porcelain, she added.

“I try to get know my customers … For some it’s hard for them to describe what they want — they can’t visualize it. But I use a lot tools to help them. I use the internet and show them pictures. I tell them to bring in magazine clippings … to help understand exactly what they want,” she said.

In terms of kitchen appliances, Kessler said a new trend being chosen by families with children is those with a gray finish that hides fingerprints that looks much like stainless steel. Other popular finishes include a shiny black steel, and the traditional stainless steel also continues to be popular.

Kessler said she can also help people choose cabinetry for bathrooms, but Lowe’s has specialists for other aspects of bathroom design.

“It’s crazy what’s available for bathrooms now. You wouldn’t think a bathroom could as customized as it is now,” Kessler said, noting people are installing walk-in showers, Jacuzzis and even TVs.

Kessler added for those who are thinking about making changes to their kitchen or bathroom can simply come into the store and talk about their ideas. Lowe’s offers installation services and also works with people installing on their own and customers with contractors.

“No matter the budget we can help make your dream kitchen come true,” she said.

∫ Paul Schumacher, president of Schumacher Homes in Belmont, also said open-floor plans continue to be popular among his customers. Other trends include split bedroom designs, which when a master suite is situated either downstairs or at the opposing end of a home, separate from the other bedrooms. Other interior trends include small workspaces, known as “pocket offices,” mud rooms or “drop zones” to keep shoes, jackets and bags organized, and in the kitchen large pantries are favored.

People also are opting for floor plans that can accommodate families with multiple generations, such as families where the parents, grandparents and children all live together. This also can lead to customers choosing “futureproofing features.”

“Adding aging-in-place features to a custom home allows homeowners to live in their home much longer. It is much more cost effective to build a home with wider doorways, raised countertops, lever-style door handles, zero-threshold showers, and more, than to retrofit these essentials into an existing home when they are needed,” Schumacher said.

Before settling on a concept, schumacher advises people do some homework first: “People should walk their current home and, based on what they see, make three lists labeled ‘change,’ ‘need’ and ‘want.’ Then they should visit a variety of model homes to see the flow of different floor plans. It’s an easy way to identify what’s comfortable for their family,” he said.

Consumers should also pay close attention to the quality of materials to be used in the home. “Quality products and materials will factor in as a return on your investment. People should ask what warranty level their builder is willing to provide on the home. The National Housing Quality Award is the benchmark for quality in the building business. Builders who receive this award are honored for their excellence in construction standards and customer satisfaction. Be sure to ask prospective builders if they’ve received this designation,” he added.

Getting an accurate price for the new home also is important. “The pricing format should put you in the drivers’ seat. It should be completely transparent, with no surprises. Building a home is a huge investment. Your pricing appointment should be free, with no obligation. You should leave with a comprehensive printout — room by room — rooftop to countertop and everything in between — with pictures and descriptions. All of the choices made by you for your new home. 100 percent itemized. So you’ll know where every dollar is spent in your new home,” Schumacher said.

“You should know the price of everything down to your shower head. The people you work be knowledgeable to work within your budget, getting you the most home for your dollar. When you leave, you should feel in total control of your investment.”

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