Thursday, July 1, 2004

Whether you’re planning to renovate your current home or build a new one, it helps to know what’s in style. It is especially important when remodeling to avoid spending thousands of dollars on features and designs that are no longer considered up to date.

A home’s interior is a reflection of its owner, which explains the myriad design options. But fashions come and go. It might just be time to breathe new life into that room with the orange shag carpet.

Achieving a home design that is stylish and up to date means getting the latest scoop on everything from paint colors to appliances.

Sue Pelley of Interiors by Decorating Den in Montgomery Village says she can usually determine when a homeowner last renovated with just one look.

“Colors change in eight- to 10-year cycles, and as a decorator I can tell how long ago you remodeled,” says Mrs. Pelley, who adds that trends for home designs and furnishings usually follow the women’s fashion industry.

For interior paint schemes, she says that while the avocado greens and harvest golds of the ‘70s are gone, a lot of colors are just moving into new shades.

“We’re moving into warm peaches and warm oranges; the hue is different,” Mrs. Pelley says. She adds that cool shades of opal blue to very light blue are popular, as well as chocolate browns and cappuccino colors.

Linda Reimer, president of Design Basics, a national home-plan-design firm, agrees that off-white walls are being replaced by much warmer hues.

Home buyers today are as likely to select a house for size as for the details that provide character and make it look like home.

“Homeowners in the past chose a larger square footage over amenities, but now its pretty evenly divided with half of the people selecting smaller, well-appointed homes with unique architectural details, oversized molding, rich finishes and distinctive windows,” Mrs. Reimer says.

Hardwood and ceramic remain popular floor coverings, but the use of bamboo is very big right now. So is textured Berber carpet, Mrs. Pelley says.

She also says she’s seen a huge influx of area rugs of varying shapes and textures to accent hardwood or ceramic floors.

Celeste Parker, design consultant with Van Metre Homes Design Center in Ashburn, says tile seems to be the most popular selection for kitchen floors.

“People are still doing the traditional hardwoods in the foyers and powder rooms and, if budget permits, on as much of their first floor as possible,” she says. “Hardwood, especially exotic selections such as Brazilian cherry, are very popular.”

Industry professionals say the kitchen is one of the most admired rooms in the home, which is why builders and remodelers focus so much attention on kitchen features and amenities.

Kitchens today offer a great mix of function and fashion, with many homeowners using the kitchen as the central family gathering space. These multifunctional kitchens have become grander and offer many design options.

“Forty-two-inch cabinets and work islands add convenience, while dressed-up cabinetry with bead and rope trim, thick crown-molding glass door and decorative base legs add style,” Mrs. Reimer says.

Most people are looking for a raised-panel cabinet for their kitchens, Mrs. Parker says. Lately, people have tended to go for lighter colors, she notes.

“However, you still have a fair number of people picking the traditional brown or cherry-colored cabinets,” she says. “Almost everyone goes for maple, since the look of the grainy woods like oak seem to have a dated ‘80s look to many people.”

Oak cabinetry is “definitely considered dated and not big for resale as far as our typical buyer is concerned,” Mrs. Parker says.

Decorative kitchen tiles are also big, Mrs. Pelley says. So are large, solid surfaces.

Granite seems to be all the rage for topping counters.

“The trend today in kitchens is for some type of natural countertop, such as granite, or Corian,” says Patricia Szego, chairman of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and a Realtor with Elite Realty Group.

“Although there are a large number of laminate counter selections available, people like the prestige of granite. I would say that almost all our buyers are doing granite, with the remainder choosing Corian,” Mrs. Parker says.

Kitchen appliances have evolved into well-thought-out parts of the design scheme. Although some still camouflage them with panels to match the cabinetry, many homeowners now seek to draw attention to their appliances by choosing stainless-steel finishes for refrigerators, dishwashers and ovens, Mrs. Pelley says.

The designers say restaurant-quality stoves and refrigerators, double ovens, dishwashers, warming drawers, and wine coolers are among the high-tech appliances likely to be installed in today’s kitchens.

Bathrooms are another big focal point for remodelers and home builders. They say the master bathroom is starting to resemble a mini-spa. More homeowners are opting for steam showers, Jacuzzi tubs, marble counters, heated floors and dressing rooms.

For a brighter home, owners are turning to strategically placed windows for natural lighting.

Professionals say that larger windows, stacked windows, skylights and interior windows help turn dark rooms into more desirable spaces and allow daylight to come in from more than one direction.

Creatively placed light fixtures can add new dimensions, too.

“In the master bedroom, rope lighting concealed by soffits or crown molding creates an intimate atmosphere,” Mrs. Reimer says. “It is also used inside bookcases, china cabinets and above and below kitchen cabinets. ‘Eyeball’ recessed lights make kitchens bright and cheery while directing beams of light to work areas.”

The Realtors say kitchen and bathroom updates will give you the most return for your money when it comes time to sell.

“In the master suite, buyers will admire sparkling superbaths with Jacuzzi tubs and separate showers. They will also admire spacious kitchens with an island,” says Michelle Vessels, a Realtor with Long & Foster in College Park.

“In the bathroom, new fixtures, wall tile and flooring can make a big difference,” Mrs. Vessels says.

“If the bathtub is in poor shape, you can replace it, but a less expensive option may be to re-enamel it,” she says.

When considering an update with an eye on eventual resale, remember that certain colors and even wallpaper make your home look out of date. Despite the current popularity of brighter paints, neutral colors don’t hurt.

“The trend today is to not use as much wallpaper,” says Mrs. Szego, who suggests removing wallpaper in larger rooms, such as the kitchen and dining room.

She also advises homeowners to select neutral carpeting and paint.

“It doesn’t have to be beige, but softer colors,” she says.

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