New Trends in Home Additions
By PAMELA DITTMER MCKUEN
After nearly four years of economic turmoil, the residential resale
market remains mostly in a slump. The remodeling industry, however, is
showing signs of revival—a trend driven by the same forces.
Before the recession interceded, long-time homeowners, usually Baby
Boomers, planned to use their equity and move into a condo or other
single-level residence. Now they can’t get the price they expected. So
they stay where they are and modify the home to meet their longer-term
needs, perhaps by adding a master bedroom suite on
the first floor.
One of Roberts’ clients was a new widow when she came to him about
four years ago. Her friends encouraged her to move to a retirement
community, but she had other ideas. She commissioned him to design and
build a family-room addition that could someday be turned into a bedroom
and an extra-large bath that could accommodate a wheelchair. Later, she
fell and fractured a leg.
“The wonderful part was she could move back into her home after
rehab and be with her dog and her neighbors and friends, instead of
going to an interim facility,” said Roberts. “Her forward thinking
allowed her to do that.”
Architect Richard Becker of Highland Park has designed first-floor
showers and stacked closets that someday can be turned into elevator
shafts. New hallways are wide enough for wheelchair and walker
Aging-in-place is only one of the scenarios sending the BuildFax
Remodeling Index upward. The index, which is based on construction
permits filed across the country, was up 22.8 percent year-over-year in
2011. In the Midwest, the index moved 13.8 percent higher.
Shape-shifting families also need space, said residential remodeling
specialist Don Van Cura Sr. of Chicago. Children go off to college, but
they often return to live. Elderly grandparents may join them.
“There is a very definite trend to use spaces for multiple
purposes,” he said. “People will say, ‘We want a recreational area and
an office, but we want the office to also be a guest bedroom.’”
Work-at-home spaces are popular, he said. For one family, Van Cura
built a tech area with four side-by-side computer stations so everyone
could be together and online at the same time.
Many homeowners are enlightened about green building and
sustainability, but price usually drives their choices of product and material when expanding their living quarters. Utility conservation is
huge. Clients gladly pay extra for better windows, LED lighting and
heavier walls to hold thicker insulation. After all, energy costs are
not going down.
As for those beautiful-but-pricey recycled glass counters? Maybe. Maybe not.
Overall, clients are choosing quality over quantity, Becker noted.
Some are scaling down their plans because of cost. Others are influenced
by the small-house movement, which was initiated by architect Sarah
Susanka and author of “The Not So Big House” book series.
“It’s a different gestalt,” he said. “People are not living so large today.”
Agreed Van Cura: “People seem less conscious of building monster
things to impress other people and putting more focus on building what
will work for them.”
Published: April 14, 2012
Issue: Spring 2012 Issue