10 ‘gifts’ for homeowners

You can deck your own halls by adding amenities and design elements that fit with your lifestyle and taste.

Few gifts are one-size-fits-all and appropriate for everyone on your list. It’s the same with home preferences, with some homeowners seeking a light, contemporary look and others envisioning homes with ornate details and dark palettes.

“It seems that every buyer has their own distinct wants and needs,” said Charles Heiser Jr., president and CEO of Stonecrest Homes, which builds new homes in metro Atlanta communities.

Builders and renovation firms, however, are keeping their eye on trends as 2013 ends and 2014 begins. These 10 design details and features help fulfill different homeowners’ wish lists for their new or renovated residences.

1. New, light kitchens

White and light gray are key hues for countertops and cabinets. In fact, 75 percent of homeowners with kitchen remodeling plans prefer a light, soft and neutral color scheme, according to the Houzz.com Fall 2013 Kitchen Trends Study, which surveyed 7,812 homeowners. Countertops are major changes (94 percent), and of those, 50 percent chose granite and 36 percent preferred quartz. A white marble such as Carrara or quartzite, a natural stone that looks like marble, works well in that color scheme, said Angelique Baez, director of design for Atlanta Kitchen, which is part of Construction Resources Inc. Also, 61 percent plan to add an island, and could have a different countertop material and color than the rest of the kitchen.

2. Screened-in spaces

Screened porches are part of builders’ plans or being added onto existing homes. Enclosures such as lanais are common in Florida, but some Atlanta area homeowners have invested in coverings over pool areas to further connect the indoors to the outdoors. Some people choose a lanai to keep bugs, pine straw, leaves and debris out of their pools, said Tamara DeSantis of DC Enclosures, based in Kennesaw. “A lot of people have moved here from Florida, and when they move here, they want the same type of thing,” she said. Her company has added the enclosures to homes in neighborhoods including Canton’s Governors Preserve, where a pool home and lanai is on the market for $574,500 (represented by Brenda Laird with Prudential Georgia Realty). Lanais can range from $25,000 to more than $75,000, depending on the shape and size of the pool and structure; they typically are from 8 feet to 14 feet tall, but can reach up to 20 feet, DeSantis said.

3. Updated floors

Homeowners prefer hardwood (35 percent), followed by tile (32 percent) and engineered wood (8 percent), according to the Houzz.com kitchen trends survey. Engineered wood is a more affordable option, and the choices are growing, especially for homeowners seeking a distressed appearance, say builders and renovators. “You can get reclaimed looks that just are gorgeous for a fraction of the price of the true reclaimed plank,” Baez said. Laminated vinyl plank floors give the look of hardwood and have improved over the past five years, said Michael Rosenberg, vice president of operations for Acadia Homes & Neighborhoods, a homebuilder in metro Atlanta.

4. Larger outdoor areas

Some homeowners are happy to have a porch that fits a couple of rocking chairs or a patio with a fire pit. In its floor plans, FrontDoor Communities is creating “generous porches” on the front and side of homes. The layout is designed so the great room is extended outside to the screened porch, said Mike Langella, president of FrontDoor Communities, which is building Traditions, in Forsyth County.

5. More simple trim details

Ornate trim detail may be gorgeous, but some homeowners prefer the simpler the better, or no trim at all. Instead of using ornate three-piece crown molding in every room, the trim is designed to highlight a particular area, such as distinguishing between rooms in an open floor plan, Langella said.

6. Clean, contemporary features

In the Houzz.com survey, 26.1 percent of homeowners aged 25 to 34 chose contemporary over traditional or eclectic. Manufacturers are creating more contemporary-styled items, too. Products include MTI Baths’ “Counter-Sinks,” which are integrated with countertops as an alternative to vessel, semi-recessed and under-mounted sinks. The “Counter-Sinks” are made of engineered solid stone and have a variety of shapes, according to Sugar Hill-based MTI Baths.

7. Home automation systems

Keeping tabs on your home is getting easier with the growth of home automation systems. Thirty-six percent of remodelers identified home automation as the second biggest trend (behind energy-efficient products/construction) over the next five to 10 years, according to a study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Home security companies such as ADT are creating new products with smartphone apps such as the ADT Pulse, which the company says enables homeowners to adjust the temperature, turn lights off and on, lock and unlock doors, and check out their security cameras. Text and email updates can alert homeowners when there’s activity, such as a child arriving from school.

8. Flexible setups

One area where builders are giving homeowners what they want is in creating usable spaces based on their lifestyles. Odd configurations or dead spaces that collect dust aren’t appealing. Instead, what Langella calls a “flop space” could be a small study with a workstation for one homeowner or a sitting area or den for another, depending on how they will use the room. Features such as French doors can be added, if more privacy is needed, said Langella, whose company also builds in Naples, Fla., and Charleston, S.C.

9. 9-foot ceilings — at least

New homes and renovated properties should have high ceilings. Minimum ceiling heights are 9 feet, builders say, while foyers can be 12 feet or higher. Not adding crown molding appeals to those seeking a clean look, but also emphasizes the height of the room.

10. Raised height vanities

Higher vanities continue to be appealing in bathrooms and kitchens, whether homeowners are raising the height of an old vanity or purchasing new vanities. Making room for a 36-inch-high vanity (instead of a traditional 29-inch-high vanity) can make it easier to reach for items and are among updates that homeowners notice. “Even in the kids’ rooms, everyone seems to want these,” Acadia’s Rosenberg said.