Among the trends for 2014, according to highly rated remodelers and interior designers:
Open space between the kitchen and other rooms. Removing walls to create flow between rooms makes smaller homes seem larger. It also creates a warm atmosphere in which household members can do many things, from cooking and eating to homework and socializing.
Options include placing an island between two previously separate rooms and creating continuity between spaces by using hardwood flooring instead of tile in the kitchen.
Customization. Projects include turning unused rooms into places for specific purposes, such as dens, offices, hobby spaces and playrooms.
Also, remodelers report increased requests for custom charging stations for phones and computers. Ideas include adding stations to existing cabinets so wires and gadgets are hidden or installing electrical outlets with built-in USB charging ports.
Eclectic combinations. A shiny stainless-steel fridge might pair with an antique farmhouse sink.
Or a modern bookcase may be lit with a vintage light fixture. Remodelers also report increased demand for incorporating recycled building materials into newer spaces.
Efficient eco-friendliness. Projects aimed at reducing energy waste include installing home automation systems and replacing outdated light bulbs with LED lights, shower heads and toilets, windows and doors. Reupholstering rather than replacing furniture can help preserve natural resources.
Universal design. This concept aims to make homes usable by people of all ages and ability levels. Projects include widening halls, enlarging doorways and keeping appliances at countertop height.
Bathroom-specific ideas include zero-threshold showers, comfort-height toilets and safety grab bars that increasingly feature less-utilitarian designs.
Boosting the bathroom. The emphasis is on comfort and luxury, with heated radiant flooring, music systems, furniture-grade cabinets, standalone tubs, and stand-up showers that feature multiple water options, including rain heads, handheld sprayers, jets and stationary heads.
Before moving ahead on a project, talk to several well-regarded contractors. Provide each with identical information so you have an apples-to-apples comparison of estimates.
Clarify whether subcontractors will be used and get proof of insurance, bonding and any necessary licensing.
When checking references or reading online reviews, note whether customers report delays or problems, including with communication and site cleanup.
Your contract should include a detailed project description as well as specifics about who’ll pull permits and submit paperwork for any necessary inspections, start and finish dates for phases and overall, payment amounts and due dates, and warranties and guarantees.
Also, ask for lien waivers so you aren’t held responsible if the contractor doesn’t pay subcontractors or suppliers.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care; www.angieslist.com/.
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