SHEATS: Kitchen, bath remodels add value, appeal

When homeowners ponder a renovation of their kitchen or bathroom, the discussion invariably leads to cost versus the return on investment for these types of projects.

Remodeling Magazine’s latest report on U.S. remodeling shows there is a widening gap between dollars spent on kitchen and bathroom remodeling versus the dollars recouped. This comes as no surprise, of course, and follows the trends in home sales, new construction and remodeling, which continue falling after the Great Recession.

Current research shows in the central U.S. market, upscale kitchen or bathroom remodeling projects initially add about 48 to 52 cents in value to a home for each dollar spent. If done wisely, a well-designed kitchen and bathroom not only add value, but they also make life more convenient. Real estate agents say that even in the most severely depressed housing market, keeping kitchens and baths current will set your home apart when it is time to sell. Buyers today want a home that is “move-in ready.”

When tackling remodeling, it is wise to keep an eye on national trends for both inspiration and function. Following are fresh ideas and observations on current trends in kitchen and bathroom interior design:

Naturally beautiful

The use of natural materials in the kitchen and bath continues to be a strong leading trend. From apron sinks made completely of granite in kitchens to above-counter vessel bath sinks hand carved in wood or cast in bronze, the idea here is natural materials soften rooms, create a warm, relaxing atmosphere and balance spaces against chrome faucets or satin nickel hardware.

Ergonomic work zones

The standard floor plan of a work triangle to create limited foot paths between the refrigerator, food prep/sink area and the cooktop is being replaced by ergonomic work zones. Areas to prep and cook food, for eating and to clean up after a meal, are being designed in a zone format, with appliances and cabinetry to facilitate less body movement. This is accomplished with multiple and strategically placed sinks, more drawers in cabinets, appliances that require less bending like dishwasher drawers, and counter heights to reduce strain, especially on older or physically challenged homeowners.

Proportional changes

Designers are changing planes in kitchens and baths with the clever use of wall and base cabinets that jut in and out, then up and down on both the wall and base units. Stacking wall cabinets with glass doors on top and using taller exposed pantries create tiered proportions and balance in kitchens and baths. Coupled with elements such as laminated edge thick countertops, these effects create great visual sophistication and interest.

Detailed ceilings

From wood-finished ceilings to coffering and more, ceiling treatments are the forgotten plane of space in any room. Kitchens and baths are prime candidates to create special design statements and integrate lighting plans to highlight cabinetry below. Ceiling treatments can expand and warm the space plus tie design elements together.

Color my world

Bold, daring color continues to reach kitchens and baths everywhere as a personal statement. Few clients will approve of cobalt blue lacquered cabinets, but color can be injected many ways, including paint schemes that are easily changed, a few accent cabinets in color, textiles on chairs or window treatments, artwork and accessories. Another great way to inject color is backsplashes with vibrant tile work in glass, stone or porcelain. Gloss finishes continue to be strong now with durable chrome having made a comeback in metal finishes everywhere.

Seeing clearly now

Glass is in use everywhere, including countertops, eating areas and work surfaces, recycled glass tiles for backsplashes and accents, ceramic glass on cooktops, glass refrigerator doors, glass light fixtures, and translucent glass vessel sinks in addition to traditional roles such as inserts in cabinet doors. The application for glass objects appears to be limitless.


From soft close drawers and doors, to drawer divider systems and exquisite hardware, including oversized and coordinated appliance pulls, accessorizing continues to play great importantance in kitchen and bath design. Hardware materials that include brushed nickel, stainless steel, polished chrome and hand-rubbed finishes such as bronze and pewter tones are everywhere. Concealed cabinet hinges vs. traditional face-mount cabinet hinges are important. Beautiful cabinet hardware continues to be an outlet for a homeowner’s self-expression.

Clever appliances

French-door refrigerators, freezer drawers, drawers that are microwaves or dishwashers, and in-wall coffee makers are all in vogue. There is growth in the request for outdoor appliances, including refrigerators and BBQs as people are staying home and enjoying the outdoor kitchen concept more these days. The continued use of integrated appliances (with a matching cabinet door panel applied) to blend in with cabinetry remains important in kitchen design as well. Specialty indoor appliances such as wine coolers are being added in pantries and bar areas. The most popular appliance finish continues to be stainless steel, with commercial grade appliances properly scaled for residential applications also popular.

Emphasis on storage

Today’s interior environments provide personalized and maximized storage solutions, including exposed and open storage shelving with fun dishes or collectibles displayed, a wall of cubby holes, horizontal kitchen cabinets with doors that flip up or retract, counter-level cupboards to reduce bending and roll-out trays in vanity-base bathroom cabinets.

Sustainable and healthy design

Eco-friendly and healthy materials are not going out of style anytime soon. There are more ways than ever to go green and healthy in kitchens and baths. From energy-efficient appliances, to formaldehyde-free cabinetry, you can add value to your home, live a healthier lifestyle and reduce your carbon footprint all at the same time.•


Jeff Sheats is principal interior designer of Jeff Sheats Designs Inc., a high-end residential interior design firm based in Indianapolis. Views expressed here are the writer’s.

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