What's on-trend in home improvement this year?
Home technology was a leading must-have among homeowners last year and will continue to be in 2017. Same with outdoor living spaces, pops of color, old looks making new comebacks, and a continued drive toward customization.
Millennials entering the housing market in increasing numbers are driving the changes, but so are baby boomers wanting to stay in their upgraded homes for as long as possible.
Cooking is a social activity, and homeowners want spacious, open kitchens and seamlessly connected outdoor living spaces.
"Traditionally, we see outdoor landscaping as the most popular project undertaken by homeowners," said Matt Craig, research insight analyst for the Home Improvement Research Institute.
Pizza ovens are increasingly becoming part of the outdoor living landscape. So are easy-clean, smooth-top grills.
"According to the National Assn. of the Remodeling Industry, homeowners get a 130% return on their outdoor kitchen projects," said Erin Gallagher, chief of insights for the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence. "We feel that if that figure was more widely known, more homeowners would find money for these projects."
White is so boring. Farmhouse sinks, faucets, tubs and bathroom vanities are coming in a range of colors that pop.
"We are also seeing the new sleek look of the black stainless finish has become extremely popular in both free-standing and built-in appliances," said Kelly Ciulla, senior director of merchandising for Pacific Sales.
There are already Internet-connected refrigerators, and that's just the start.
"In the past 18 months, there has been more urgency about connectivity in the kitchen, and the belief is that the Wi-Fi chip will be standard in appliances in the next 10 years," Gallagher said.
Consumers are gravitating toward such products for their convenience; many can adjust home lighting, temperature and entertainment.
"The biggest trend for 2016 was voice-controlled speakers and their ability to control home automation," said Dave Pedigo, vice president of emerging technologies for CEDIA, a home technology professionals association.
He pointed to Amazon Echo as the dominant player but sees the Google Home speaker as an up-and-comer.
Like to cook?
Home improvement experts are seeing a move toward cooktop modules that enable homeowners to customize their surface cooking options.
"Single-module cooktops allow for a personalized space based on your cooking habits. Induction, gas, grill, teppanyaki and steamer options can be combined to meet individual preferences," said Emily Svidal, assistant store director of the Pirch showroom in San Diego.
Easy to clean
We get it — you don't like to spend a lot of time cleaning.
To cut down on cleaning time, experts suggest replacing natural stone countertops with quartz and installing touchless faucets, which have a sleeker look and cut down on water mess.
Non-odor-retaining stainless-steel tubs in dishwashers and laundry machines with overnight washing and drying cycles are also popular options.
Gold is an independent designer in San Diego. She's the author of "New Kitchen Ideas That Work" and the upcoming "New Bathroom Idea Book."
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