Despite a strengthening economy, homeowners are opting to invest in their homes via new kitchen and bathroom features that aid aging-in-place or add resale value rather than invest in a new home, according to the quarterly AIA Home Design Trends Survey released last week. This iteration of the survey delves into kitchen and bath design activity during the fourth quarter of 2016, based on responses from more than 500 residential architecture firms.

Bathroom Design Trends

According to the survey, bathrooms are still a "popular focus" in homes, but homeowners are placing less importance on the number and size of bathrooms in homes than they did a year prior. Instead, homeowners are opting to enhance existing bathrooms with universal design or luxury features, a trend the AIA expects to continue in coming years as droves of boomers prepare for retirement.

Preference for Increase in Number/Size of Bathrooms

Interior design elements meant to aid aging-in-place continue to top the list for high-demand bathroom features, with doorless showers, adaptable design elements, and stall–only showers making the top five list of requested fixtures. Luxury features like radiant heated flooring, water–saving toilets, and upscale showers are still in demand, although to a lesser degree than in the fourth quarter of 2015.

“Bathroom adaptability and accessibility continue to be the primary focus for homeowners,” said AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release. “Increasing numbers of homeowners with disability concerns will drive trends in bath design for the foreseeable future.”

Popular Bathroom Products and Design Features

Kitchen Design Trends

While the desired size of kitchens has remained the same since the fourth quarter of 2015, demand for outdoor kitchens is on the rise, echoing findings from the AIA's third quarter survey, when seven in 10 firms reported more activity around the design and construction of outdoor living spaces.

“Homeowners continue to find new ways to add value to their homes by creating more functional space, which is apparent in the rise in popularity of outdoor kitchens,” Baker added. “Kitchens have become a hub for the home, now homeowners want to bring some of that activity to their outside space.”

Preference for Increase in Number/Size of Kitchen Areas

In addition to outdoor kitchens, other luxury features in demand by homeowners include wine refrigerator and storage options, butler's pantries, double islands, upper-end appliances, and undercounter appliances. Technology and energy-efficiency are also behind many in–demand kitchen features, including sensor faucets, induction cooking appliances, device recharging stations, drinking water filtration systems, and smart appliances.

Popular Kitchen Products and Design Features

Business Conditions

Amid the sectors responsible for the majority of work during the fourth quarter, remodeling still accounts for the largest share of business activity, with home additions and alterations accounting for the largest share of design activity, followed by bath and kitchen remodels. In the wake of rising interest rates and tight home inventory, many homeowners are following the trend of upgrading their current home rather than moving up, which the survey indicates is down year-over-year. Demand for second homes and vacation homes continues to decline, down -10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, compared to -8 percent a year prior.

Business Conditions by Construction Segment

As ARCHITECT reported last week, the Architecture Billings Index posted a healthy score of 57.1 in February, with project inquiries at 58.3; scores below 50 represent a contraction in the market, while those above indicate growth. Following a disappointing reading in January, Baker remained optimistic that the slower start to 2017 should pave the way to stronger design activity in coming months. "New project inquiries have been very strong through the first two months of the year, and in February new design contracts at architecture firms posted their largest monthly gain in over two years.”

Read the full report here.