From closets the size of bedrooms to TV screens you can roll up to refrigerators that tell your smart phone when you need milk, here’s where people will be putting their big home-improvement bucks this spring.
With March comes spring. And, as far as the home goes, “spring” has always gone hand-in-glove with “cleaning.”
But spring is also a time for home renovations, expansions, upgrades – and for going out into the marketplace in search of the dream house to buy. So, what are today’s big-ticket renovation and building trends? Which home features top people’s wish lists?
We’ve asked a bunch of industry experts. If money were no object, how are the money-is-no-object consumers feathering their nests?
As one contracter said: “Sure, we can do that. How much money do you want to throw at it?”
Dream along with them.
Home, Sweet Home
Maybe spring is the time for buying a home.
“Our clients today are interested in uniqueness,” says John Stough, co-founder and principle broker at Kentucky Select Properties. “They don’t want their house to look like everybody else’s in the neighborhood.”
For $2 to $3 million, says Stough, they’ll probably look in Anchorage, Mockingbird Valley or Glenview, where there’s more land. Oldham and Shelby counties also offer lots of options in that regard, he says. And as sizable tracts are becoming harder to find in Oldham County, people are even looking at Henry County.
“That’s a minimum of five acres,” says Stough. “Land means privacy.”
In-town, he says, his clients focus on Cherokee Triangle, Alta Vista, Village Drive, Sulgrave, Castleberry – “formal gardens, lots of acres, the grand country houses of their era.”
At the high end in the really best neighborhoods, says Stough, a good house costs $200-$300-per-square-foot.
Old houses often mean “fixer-uppers,” and Stough says the cost of renovation may equal the purchase price itself.
“The first money always goes to the roof and the mechanical systems – plumbing, wiring,” he says. “It’s not the fun and exciting stuff, but it’s being a good steward of the property, and also a wise investor.”
Okay, so where does that renovation dollar go?
To the floor, says Perry Lyons, head of PL Lyons Architectural Builders in Middletown. “There is a lot more attention being paid to floor coverings,” he says, “and a lot of new products on the market.”
He says he recently put a high-end ceramic tile on the entire main floor of a $1.5 million new ranch house. That was the second project like that in two years. (“The first time in 43 years that I’m using all ceramic tile on first floors of high-end new construction ranch homes.”)
Why? Ease of clean, and durability.
$7.40 to $8.60 per square foot for ceramic tile; $16.54 a foot for luxury vinyl tile (LVT), a softer warmer tile. “If you drop a glass on ceramic tile, it will break,” Lyons explains.
Among the trends in both remodels and new home builds, says Lyons, is mixing reclaimed barnwood into finished products like bookcases and cabinetry. “We used a little barnwood sidings in the 1970s, in the basement and on maybe on walls,” he says. “Now we’re incorporating it extensively into the main living areas.”
It looks vintage, he says, which is what a lot of people like today. And it’s durable. “Barnwood will withstand grandchildren, dogs, even a tornado.”
Sometimes he’ll emulate a barn door for an interior doorway. But often, he’ll use actual barn doors, sliding along a track at the top. “We can fabricate something that looks like a door in your home,” he says, “or something that looks like the door on the Chew Mail pouch tobacco barn you pass on the highway – even, in some cases, keeping the signs that were painted on the original door.”
Also, he says, there’s a lot of emphasis put on cabinetry and countertops – especially kitchen islands, which are getting bigger, more elegant and more functional.
He says he recently completed a 96-square-foot kitchen island – 4x24 – with a high-end quartz top that starts at $100-$115-per-square-foot. Do the math.
SAFE AND SECURE
Not surprisingly, says Lyons, another point of emphasis is home security: cameras, locks, sensors, fire alarms, smoke detectors, glass break-in detectors, all integrated into complete systems that coordinate with the app on the homeowner’s smart phone.
“I’m working on a security installation approaching $55,000,” he says. “Everything is integrated, even to the point the homeowner can tell if the refrigerator goes off; or the electricity quits and the generator comes on; or the hot water temperature fluctuates; or, if the shower was used in the master bathroom while they were away – what day, what time, at what water temperature.”
“If these people are spending $1.5-$2 million to build a house,” he says, “they clearly have something valuable in the house that they want to protect.”
WHAT THE WELL DRESSED ROOM IS WEARING
“The trend,” says Jan Davisson, a designer at Cherry House Furniture Gallery in LaGrange, “is less formal, more comfortable and relaxed. Also, more mixing of colors and incorporating of unusual materials, like metal and stone.”
Everyone’s different, she says, but too many people become paralyzed with indecision. Where to start? What to choose? “We don’t want to make it hard for them and we don’t want them to think it can all be done in an afternoon – or that it should take a month.
At what cost?
“I recently did a 5,000-square-foot home for $60,000, plus art, accessories,” she says. “You can easily spend $40,000 on a room, filled with high-end furniture.”
In the Cherry House showroom:
a $5,000 sofa – silk-looking with high-end leather trim;
a $4,000 chair – red leather, with nailheads and gold leaf
a $3,000 chair – high-end silk floral patterned
fabrics that cost $300 a yard – but also fabric at $20 a yard
a $2,500 cocktail table – imported exotic wood, gold leaf, thick glass top
$600 table lamps – heavy, stone or marble or metal, or with crystals; cream linen shade.
“Are you a heavy-duty hands-on chef,” asks David Wilson, president of Charlie Wilson’s Appliance & TV in Clarksville, Ind., “or are you looking for efficiency, convenience and gadgetry?”
They’re both trending today, in terms of kitchen appliances, and Wilson’s can fill either trend.
For serious cooks, the hottest new trend is the Beko family of appliances from Turkey – the Number One brand in Europe.
“It’s a high-end product,” notes Wilson.
For instance, Beko’s 30-inch, 5.7-cubic-foot, pro-style self-clean induction oven can go for $3,299. The French-door refrigerator with a blue-light system to keep food fresher longer, is $2,499. The Beko dishwasher, with a hidden control-top panel and a third rack for cutlery, is $749.
(Wilson is careful to point out that these prices are as of mid-February, subject to change.)
But, he says, these are heavy-duty, sturdy, stable appliances designed to European standards, where people roll up their sleeves for intense, hands-on cooking.
The other part of the market is those who like to control and communicate with their appliances from their smart phones. And there are plenty of apps for that. Such as:
$466 Whirlpool over-the-range microwave that allows you to scan in the codes from your smartphone on the meal you’re planning on cooking. The microwave will find it and set itself up for right time and process. Swipe the UPC code, and the microwave will know what you’re cooking and how to prepare it.
$2,699 Samsung Family Hub refrigerator with cameras that take a photo and can show you your supplies on your smartphone, while you’re at the supermarket. It will also notify you when perishable items are reaching their expiration dates.
Jeff Speedy, vice president and manager of Closet by Design in Westport Village has organized laundry rooms for clients that cost in the $8,000-$9,000 range.
storage cabinets above the washer/dryer
fold-out ironing boards, concealed in special drawers
decorative doors and drawers
extra cabinets around the sink basin
And what do you buy for all that time you’re freeing up?
The technology for smart TVs keeps getting better. Two of the state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line sets at Wilson’s, from the top go-to TV brands:
the 75-inch, curved-screen Samsung QLED - $4,799
the 77-inch LG Thin Q OLED - $15,000. So thin, says store general manager Chad Milholland, “it can be folded up like a roll of wallpaper.”
Digital technology won’t change the pool table. “It will always be six pockets and 16 balls,” says Gunnar Graven, vice president at Steepleton in St. Matthews. “Even the ball colors remain unchanged.”
So, what do you get for $30,000, Steepleton’s most expensive table?
“Intricate carvings on the wood base.”
You can also add $400 for the store’s best cover, sticks and balls, and chalk.
A variety of cloth colors, away from the traditional green. (“Gray is hot,” says Graven. “There’s also blue, red, camel, khaki, taupe.”)
A Parson’s-style table, instead of the customary wood pedestal base.
A dining top that can go over the table, for double-duty.
A decline in those cool over-the-table light fixtures. “People often want a pool table that converts to a ping-pong table, and you can’t have a hanging fixture for that game,” Graven explains. “Besides, today most people have plenty of canned lights in the basement ceiling.”
ORGANIZE IT ALL
“People are looking to organize their homes, to make spaces more functional,” says Jeff Speedy, vice-president and general manager of Closets by Design in Westport Village. “That means any area of the home that needs storage and organization – garages, pantries, mud rooms, laundry rooms, craft rooms.
Turning an extra bedroom into a walk-in closet.
“I did one that was 840 square feet,” says Speedy. “My first home was 950 square feet.”
His most expensive closet: $44,000.
“It had a library ladder around the entire closet; a granite-top island with 20 drawers; specialty hardware, royal crown moldings, custom door patterns, raised panels.
Some trendy options:
Removing the dresser from the bedroom and building modern, customized cabinetry in the closet;
Accessories: tilt-out hampers; double jewelry trays; valet rods; tie racks, tie butlers, belt racks;
Tie butlers that can hold 52 neckties. “One bank executive we worked with had us install three butlers – that’s about 150 ties – and he had an equal amount of suits.”
Handles and pulls: polished chrome, brushed chrome, satin nickel, bronze. “Also, brass is coming back.”
His most interesting hardware installation: a closet with Olde English gate hardware. Crystal is also coming back.
How much can a door pull cost? Says Speedy: “Willis Klein has a piece of closet and cabinet hardware that’s $995 per handle.”
Builder Perry Lyons also does a lot of closet remodeling. “The amount of money spent on closet organization is tremendous,” he says.
“I did one in which the shelving and cabinetry alone cost $35,000.” Glass doors, shoe shelves, benches, drawers, hanging space. “I thought I’d walked into Von Maur.”
Organizing the garage
One three-car garage that Speedy did cost $12,000 to remodel and reorganize.
“It has a decorative Porsche vinyl overlay on the inside cabinets, A recycled PVC floor, and special parking pads.”
90-inch tall garage boxes, for field hockey or lacrosse sticks, and golf clubs.
A whole bank of cabinets on the backwall for dinnerware – China, crystal, silverware.
Among the newest remodeling trends is turning a spare bedroom into a crafts room, says Speedy, for scrapbooking, quilting, sewing, etc.
“We did a 12x20-inch space with an L-shaped area and a large work island for $15,000.”
These custom craft rooms might include:
a drawer for ribbons, with a rod that allows you to pull the ribbon out and cut it as needed
special rods for wrapping papers hooks and baskets.
CRACKING THE EGG
The Big Green Egg is Steepleton’s most popular outdoor grill. The ceramic cooker, based on Kamado-style cooking an American GI had seen in Vietnam, has settings from 225 degrees (“low and slow”) to 1,200 degrees (for searing a steak).
The largest (23 inches in diameter, enough for 24 steaks or burgers) costs $1,399 at Steepleton, plus accessories (like special racks for ribs or wings; a heat gun to light the charcoal; gloves, pans and utensils).
Just don’t ask for it in your favorite color. “It comes only in green,” says Graven.
The most popular new accessory is the BBQ Guru, a WiFi-capable app that measures and regulates the heat, depending on what you’re cooking. That’s an extra $399.
The trend, says builder Perry Lyons, is away from full body-wash showers and whirlpool tubs.
“Today, people want to get in and get out,” he says. “They don’t want to spend the time to enjoy the full spa experience. We just don’t unplug anymore like we used to.”
That’s not to say today’s installations aren’t elaborate. Lyons built a steam shower in Shelby County – 8-foot by 60-foot, with a 10-foot ceiling – that, with all the special tiles and finishes, a larger generator to push the steam out, a sloped ceiling so the steam dripped off properly, and waterproofing, cost $35,000.
Today’s top-of-the-line Jacuzzi at Steepleton in St. Matthews is $25,000.
Which contains, explains Gunnar Graven, the store’s vice-president: “European styling; a woven-look exterior that can match the outdoor furniture; 60 jets and top-of-the-line pumps; dial-controlled powers and speeds, custom-fit to individual needs.”
There’s also smart-tub technology (of course), connected to an app. “It can tell you when to add chemicals, it regulates the water temperature, and it will highlight service issues,” says Graven.