The key to creating a kitchen or bath that wows clients and sells product is to design around the way people really use their space. "It's about how they live," says Sarah Fishburne, manager of innovation and design at The Home Depot.
Fishburne offers this list of suggestions and considerations for the aspiring "lifestyle designer":
In the Kitchen
- Bakers and gourmet chefs have differing needs. For one thing, they want different types of stoves. The baker doesn't care so much about the range but wants an upgraded oven. The baker also needs a pop-up mixing stand for the heavy-duty mixer. On the other hand, the chef wants a wok, a griddle or a slow-simmer burner for cooking specialty dishes.
- Choosing the right appliances gives the kitchen a custom look. As people move toward healthier lifestyles, steamers are becoming more popular. New ideas include convection ovens and induction cooktops, and they're coming down in price, which makes them accessible to a wider market.
- Refrigeration has gone vertical. Twenty-four-inch refrigerators and freezers allow much more design flexibility—they can be placed where they're needed. And they're moderate on energy use.
- If a homeowner entertains a lot and has multiple serving platters and dinner plates that are larger than the standard 12 inches, customize a space for them. Older cabinets just don't have the width to accommodate them.
- You can go light in terms of add-ons, or you can go to the extreme. Raising and lowering countertop heights can provide optimal access for kids and for adults who require different levels for maximum comfort.
- For those limited to small changes, keep the cabinets and change out the countertops. Use different finishes on the island and the perimeter. For a baker, try marble in one area and quartz surfacing everywhere else.
In the Bath
- At the extreme end of luxury, couples are carving out his-and-her bath suites that include dual vanities. His might be in a darker wood tone, while hers is lighter and more feminine.
- Many new and remodeled master baths include fully tiled walls and floors, often outfitted with in-floor radiant heat. This additional amenity can be programmed to turn on and off at certain times of the day, minimizing the amount of energy required.
- Some homeowners prefer showers, and the new power assemblies feature multiple showerheads. These can be grouped in a tower or arranged on the walls and ceiling. Some require upgraded plumbing.
- Soaking tubs, some with water-overflow features, create the ultimate indulgence. Today's soakers are better-designed and have more features, including air jets, aromatherapy and chromatherapy. And in most cases, people are really using them.
- Little changes can make a big difference. Use more ambient lighting, or add towel warmers. Both create a spa-like atmosphere and add a pampering touch.
Linda Kast is a freelance writer who specializes in home design and construction. She is the former editor-in-chief for Meredith Publishing's special-interest publications related to remodeling.