Remodeling trend: Aging
in place, with style
Ask experts what types of home-remodeling projects
are hot now, and they wax philosophical.
these architects, decorators and self-help gurus will get around to telling you
that outdoor living spaces are all the rage right now. But they would rather talk
about why people renovate. It's not to enhance property values. That motive garners
nary a mention.
Instead, these experts say that home
renovators are driven by the desire to connect. Homeowners want to commune, not
to cocoon -- to welcome visitors into open spaces, not to retreat into private
places. Remember the movie "Panic Room," which ignited a brief flame
of fascination with interior refuges? That fad burned out quickly. Safe rooms
are so 2002.
As the years advance, people grow older. Aging
is another driver of home renovations, and not only to make houses more accessible.
Older people want to make room to accommodate visits from their grandchildren
and their grandchildren's parents.
big for better homes
Remodeling is a big industry, accounting for an
estimated $176 billion in 2003 for owner-occupied units, according to the Harvard
Joint Center for Housing Studies. About 80 percent of that is spent on improvements
and the rest is spent on maintenance and repairs. The line between those two categories
can be arbitrary; a roof replacement is considered an improvement, not maintenance
In a recently published report, the Joint Center
said that almost half of homeowners had accomplished "significant" upgrades
in the last decade. A significant upgrade is defined as a project that cost at
least 10 percent of the home's value in 1995.
People are still
upgrading kitchens and bathrooms. Those projects always will be popular. But lately
the buzz has been about outdoor remodeling -- decks, patios, outdoor kitchens,
backyard fireplaces, spas, sitting areas. These amenities enable homeowners to
entertain family, friends and neighbors.
"Living inside-out," is what Steven Kleber calls
it. Kleber is an advertising exec who smoothly drops the brand names of his clients
while describing what people aspire to in their home makeovers. One is WeatherBest,
an "upscale flooring product" used in outdoor decks that's "guaranteed
not to rot."
Kleber says his company conducted an ethnographic
study -- that's when you visit people's homes and, like an anthropologist, observe
and ask questions to find out what makes individuals and families tick -- "and
we uncovered what people were looking for in their deck. What we found is that
people wanted their deck to be an extension to their indoor living space, as opposed
to what's typically considered as an add-on to the house."