Topic: Outdoor Kitchens

Date Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Posted by: Tanya Zanfa (Master Admin)

Home renovations reflect modern lifestyles

Home renovations reflect modern lifestyles


Steven Kaplan said he wasn't looking to save on his utility bills when he added an outdoor cooking space to his Demarest home.

Inspired by his family's love for the food they tasted on a trip to Italy, followed by repeated trips to a restaurant that featured a traditional wood-fired oven, Kaplan wanted an outdoor kitchen with his own traditional pizza oven. A large counter with high stools for seating was installed with a wood-burning oven on one end and a grill on the other.

"It might have been possible to have this type of oven indoors, but we would have had to rebuild the kitchen around it," he said. "We didn't focus on future resale value, but did it for our family's enjoyment."

As the housing market improves, an increased interest in home design has renewed demand for enhancements and renovations that reflect today's varied lifestyles. Whether building a new home, or updating an existing one, a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects indicated that homeowners want products that use technology and promote sustainability, often incorporating indoor and outdoor living.

"Home buyers are looking for well-built, well-designed homes that make their lives more efficient," said Steven Melman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders.

"Improvements are not necessarily being made for resale value but for daily living. In fact, a laundry room is always at the top of the list for what consumers really want."

Melman said an NAHB survey indicated that 49 percent of buyers were favorably influenced by an outdoor grill but that not all buyers preferred an outdoor kitchen. Almost one third of respondents were opposed to the amenity, but buyers looking at houses over $500,000 considered an outdoor kitchen to be essential. Exterior lighting was consistently the most desirable outdoor feature.

"Many clients want to extend their outdoor season and engage with the landscape," said David Lawrence Brown, an architect based in Alpine.

In his own home, Brown softened the separation between indoors and outdoors by installing a bar adjacent to his kitchen that opens on two sides. The bar is always accessible inside the house, and glass doors that fold up into the ceiling create a pass-through when entertaining guests in the back yard.

Outdoor entertaining spaces may attract some buyers, but NAHB's national surveys indicate that living space is the most important consideration in a home buying decision, followed closely by a desire for energy-saving features. Aside from wanting ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, and regardless of home price ranges, buyers want better insulation, he added.

"When homeowners do add on a room, they seek to benefit from advanced ways to keep hot air in, in winter, and out in summer," said Brown. "Insulation is the key to green, but installing solar or wind power is not always suitable for houses in this area."

In a recent survey, many builders said that spray foam insulation has a greater impact on energy efficiency than other energy upgrades, and indicated they were willing to pay more for this alternative.

The survey by the Home Innovation Research Lab, however, indicated a trend away from its use with builders stating that they are using fiberglass as the most cost-effective, easy-to-install insulation material for most homes.

Home designs that promote increased energy efficiency can be incorporated into renovations of any size. In addition to replacing older windows and adding insulation, many homeowners may decide to upgrade their heating or cooling systems.

High-efficiency heating and air-conditioning systems can pay for themselves, said architect William J. Martin, a spokesman for the New Jersey Society of Architects.

"The additional cost of a well-designed system is usually recovered within five to 10 years," he added.

'Smart' thermostats

While renovations present an opportunity to use a more efficient system, additions actually require an additional energy-efficient system to heat or cool the new areas, explained Jay Fogel, owner of Air Medic, a heating and air conditioning company serving Bergen County.

Fogel and others point to the advantages of "smart" thermostats that use Wi-Fi to set alerts for heating or cooling systems.

Smartphone apps, for example, allow homeowners to adjust temperatures remotely when they are returning home from a vacation, or a day out. They also can provide peace of mind to the homeowner who leaves the house and can't remember if he turned his AC or heating off. Some thermostats "learn" the residents' usage habits and automatically adjust temperature settings.

"If a resident is in Florida for the winter, they can receive an alert if the temperature drops below a specified number," Fogel said. "They can then contact a neighbor to arrange for a service call to avoid frozen pipes."

Single-level living

While some older homeowners may retire to Florida for several months, others may be inclined to reinvent existing space or add a room to their primary residence to facilitate lifestyle changes.

"Architects have reported increased interest in first-floor master bedrooms for older residents who want to remain in their homes," said Martin. "Single-level living situations are part of a plan for aging in place."

Having an extra room on the first floor is not just for seniors. Space can be maximized when rooms serve more than one purpose, switching, for example, from an office during the day to a playroom at night.

Despite an NAHB survey finding showing a decline in the popularity of flexible, dual-purpose rooms, local real estate agents say they remain on the wish list for many buyers, especially those looking at upscale houses.

Tom Mayer of Coldwell Banker in Wayne said he wouldn't be able to sell a larger home without a separate "in-law" or "nanny" suite, which can be a bedroom on the first floor with its own bathroom.

"We are no longer building very large homes with libraries or conservatories as we did in 2005, but a flexible room remains a must-have," said Mayer.

What’s hot and what’s not

The Annual Builder Practices Survey conducted by Home Innovation Research Labs tracks the popularity of various building products and materials used in construction of new single-family homes. The study, conducted earlier this year, compares reported trends, said Ed Hudson, Home Innovation’s director of market research. Percentages are estimates of materials installed based on a national survey of 1,400 builders.

Here are some highlights:


Hot: Fiberglass 46%

Not: Wood 28%, Steel 25%

Fiberglass composites stained to look like wood are the top choice for front doors on new homes. Wood doors are returning to popularity; the use of steel front doors is declining.


Hot: Wood finishes 25%  

Not: inyl 5%

Wood finishes have increased market share from 11 percent a decade ago. Engineered hardwoods over plywood are being embraced for appearance and ease of installation.


Hot: Bronze 29%, Nickel 27%

Not: Brass 2%

Bronze and nickel finishes have experienced ongoing growth in popularity, while the use of chrome faucets has diminished.


Hot:  Vinyl 64%

Not: Aluminum 9%

Vinyl windows represent two-thirds of all new-home window installations, including luxury homes. Aluminum windows are primarily being used in warmer climates.


Hot: Vinyl 20%

Hot:  Fiber cement 21%

Not: Stone 9%

Since it was introduced in the 1990s, fiber cement siding has seen steady growth. Vinyl siding has been declining in popularity since 2010.


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