What’s the Hottest New Remodeling Trend?

In the wake of the housing market crisis, we started remodeling with less pretention and more functionality, says Kermit Baker, the chief economist for the American Institute of Architects.

Based on what he’s seeing in the AIA’s quarterly Home Design Trends Survey, home owners and home builders are putting their money into open designs, multi-functional rooms, and homes that age with us. At the same time, we’re moving away from luxury bathrooms and kitchens.

“There have been some pretty significant changes over the past six years and housing preferences may have changed permanently,” says Baker. “The day of the grandiose master bath may have passed us by, and the trend of integrating the kitchen into the family space accelerated during the downturn, along with multi-use spaces and informality.”

The other trends Baker sees in the remodeling data:

Special purpose rooms

If you’re telecommuting, you need a home office. Even if you’re not officially working from home, you’re probably setting up a side business, or consulting out of your home while the economy is weak.

When the job market improves, you can turn that home office into something else that works for you, such as a craft room or a guest bedroom.

Smaller homes

When the economy downsized, so did home buyers, and builders responded by constructing smaller homes. That flies in the face of the past four decades’ history of Americans building bigger homes yet having smaller families.

We’ll just have to wait and see if rising incomes lead to rising home sizes, or whether the tiny house trend sticks around, Baker says.

I suspect that once the economy picks up, so will home sizes. It’s only when you see your neighbors lose their jobs that flashing your over-the-top lifestyle by building a ginormous house loses its luster.


In the past, we’ve not altered our homes to accommodate the challenges of aging until we really had no other choice. Lately, though, home owners are taking accessibility and aging in place into consideration when they’re doing remodels.

I suspect this is because we Baby Boomers have witnessed our parents making updates so they could stay in their own homes as they aged. After you see what it cost Mom to widen the doorways so her wheelchair would fit through them, you’re a lot more likely to put wider doors in when you remodel your home.

Green and sustainable projects

Green materials and sustainability have finally gone mainstream. And by green, Baker means insulation in the attic, an HVAC upgrade, and sealing air leaks, more so than niche market alternative energy sources, such as geothermal heating systems. Going green always looks good when it saves you green.

Polishing our tiny yards

All those smaller houses are being built on smaller lots. “We’re seeing people spending more money on the yard, but it’s not vast open space,” Baker says.

Low-maintenance exteriors and lawn alternatives are growing in popularity. (Personally, I’m working such ridiculous hours that it’s not like I have the time or the energy to do any yardwork in my spare time anyway.)

Have you seen these same trends in your area?

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