The two rooms that consistently make the biggest impression on buyers are—without a doubt—kitchens and bathrooms. Even in today’s uncertain economic times, home owners and buyers are willing to spend on upgrades to these two essential rooms. Their goal: Create that polished high-end look they’ve seen in magazines and on TV.

“We’re seeing more of a ‘save and splurge’ mentality in kitchen and bath remodels,” says Linda Eggerss, editor of Kitchen and Bath Ideas magazine. “Home owners may give up the granite countertops to get the island, or vice versa, but they still want a certain look.”

The growing importance of the kitchen as a living space, not just as a cooking and eating space, has added to a desire for quality, she adds.

We spoke with Eggerss and a host of other industry experts, designers, manufacturers, and stagers to give you a preview of what’s hot today and what will be hot tomorrow.

With this knowledge, you can help sellers spruce up their kitchens and bathrooms to increase the likelihood of a sale. On the buy side, knowing the new styles and how to incorporate them into a dated room will open buyers’ eyes to the possibilities.

Light and Bright
In good housing markets and bad, a cheerful kitchen will get buyers past a multitude of other issues, which may explain why white is still the kitchen color of choice for many, according to Eggerss. “It’s a classic and always looks good,” she says.

4 Rehab Must-Dos

Universal bath design.  Roll-in showers and decorative grab bars that match other bath fixtures.
A kitchen island.  Ideally one that’s not a boring square and that incorporates lots of storage.
A sealed shower.  Multiple shower heads and outside vent to cut down on mold build up on grout and behind walls.
Stainless steel appliances. Essential today at almost every home price point.
In California’s wine country, designer Jan Kepler, principal of Kepler Design Group in San Luis Obispo, Calif., also favors white. “Beach houses along the central coasts are often done in fresh white Shaker style cabinets and white soapstone or marble countertops. On the other side of the foothills, in wine country, home owners tend to prefer a more rustic look with soft glazed creamy whites, cherry and recycled copper accents, and antiqued granite countertops,” she says.

For accents, many designers prefer strong saturated colors as well as warm grays. A little bit of shimmer also is a good thing. Coppery metallics and glass tiles in a rainbow of hues are a perfect way to add “that pop of color” in a kitchen, says Kathleen Garvey of Enhanced Interiors & Home Staging in Fort Myers, Fla.

Interestingly, one place that bright colors are popular is the laundry room, say Marc Hottenroth, industrial design leader for GE Appliances in Louisville, Ky. “Maybe it’s because the laundry is a work area where people need a lift, or maybe it’s because you can shut the door and not see the color all the time,” he says.

Lighting—natural and manmade—”is huge” in kitchens and even more essential in bathrooms, says Christina Trauthwein, editor in chief of K+BB Magazine. Baths, she says, are notorious for bad lighting. Ideally, bathroom lighting should come from both above and the side to prevent shadows.

In kitchens and baths, manufacturers and designers are incorporating energy-efficient LED lighting under countertops, around glass doors, and in cabinet shelving for illumination and ambiance, especially at night, says Duval Acker of Kitchen by Design in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Another easy and dramatic way to add extra illumination: Place inexpensive fixtures above cabinets that don’t reach all the way to the ceiling, suggests Barry Tuttle, manager of Absolute Kitchen and Bath in Surry, Maine.

In showers and baths, chromotherapy lighting lets bathers use different colors of light to set the mood or enhance their energy, says Trauthwein.

Easy Lighting Upgrade: Add dimmers to all lighting so that you can adjust the light to the job and the mood.

Storage Galore
Let’s face it, no matter how big the kitchen and bath get, there’s always a need for more storage space.

In the kitchen, a walk-in pantry is the amenity buyers drool over. If a home owner can steal a little space from a neighboring laundry room or eating area, a big pantry is a sure way to wow buyers, says Julie Loehner, president of Kitchens by Julie in Cary, Ill.

Kitchen islands are also turning into storage centers as they grow in size and take on more irregular shapes. Built-in wine racks, undercounter refrigerator drawers, and appliance storage all add to the island’s versatility, says Loehner.

5 Retrofits Buyers Love

Tile a backsplash. Use a bright color or a bronzelike metallic.
Add undercounter lighting. Improve safety and ambience.
Paint the upper kitchen cabinets. Choose a different color for a custom look.
Add doors with glass panels to some cabinets. or create open shelves to display a few lovely dishes.
Change the hardware. For a fresh look, install new knobs and pulls, or reface the cabinet doors.
In bathrooms, it’s all about built-ins and decluttering, a technique any good home stager will tell you increases buyer appeal. Electrical outlets inside drawers keep electric shavers out of sight, and wall-mounted faucets with single-lever controls take up less visual space, says Lynn Schrage, marketing manager of the Kohler Store in Chicago.

And if you thought refrigerators were just for the kitchen, think again. Refrigerated drawers and cabinets in the bathroom can store cosmetics, medicines, and even some orange juice for a quick morning treat. Warming drawers are equally as popular, keeping towels toasty without the bulk of a heated towel rack, says Trauthwein.

Just as kitchens are becoming more of a living space, bathrooms are expanding their role. Some bathrooms are now accommodating exercise equipment, reading nooks, ventless fireplaces, and multiple TVs, says Lenora Campos, manager of public relations for fixture manufacturer Toto USA.

Easy Storage Upgrade: Add roll-out shelves in kitchen cabinets and drawers in bath vanities for easy access and better organization.


Rob Longo, Sales Representative    ABR, GREEN, RSPS    Magic Realty Inc.    805 N. Christina Street    Sarnia, Ontario