To stay competitive in the kitchen and bath market, builders must show that they know how to build for more than one type of client.
"You want your buyer to say, 'This builder gets it. He knows how I live in a home,'" said California architect Joe Digrado during a session at the recent International Builders' Show. For instance, a savvy builder takes the time to learn how one client whips up a meal for guests or how a bathroom for empty nesters should differ from that of a young single woman.
Digrado and Ashley Jennings, marketing director for Kay Green Design in Florida, shared the following tips for how to shape kitchens and baths to the buyer--whether he or she is single, attached, or 50-plus.
1. Command Central.
The kitchen still is the center of the home for all buyer profiles, as a place to not only cook and eat, but to also plan meals, do homework, or check the Internet.
"The lifestyle we see going forward is very casual," said Jennings. "You still need nice cabinetry and nice counters but now it's an extension of the great room."
To make the kitchen even more user friendly, add a stop-and-drop space to deposit backpacks, purses, and electronics, and run the same wood or tile flooring into the great room so it reads as one informal space.
2. High-Tech Haven.
Include iPod docks for younger buyers and load the kitchen island with plenty of outlets for laptops, cameras, and cell phone rechargers. The technology age is ushering in a love for customizing—along with picking a playlist, buyers like to adjust lights and flip channels, and will notice the options you create to personalize their space.
3. Cooking Smarts.
Show buyers you understand how they prep, cook, entertain, and clean up and they will visualize living in your homes. A second sink for prepping is important, so is counter space for him to slice while she's stirring a pot on the stove. Furthermore, a warming drawer to keep food hot is a welcome bonus.
4. Perfect Prep Zone.
Islands are the perfect prep zone but if they block the cook from getting from the sink to the fridge quickly, they become a bad idea. Fit the island to the space; offset at least 4 feet from the counters to allow room for multiple cooks and a clear path to the stove without tripping over the dishwasher.
5. Social Center.
A cook loves to chat with her guests but not if they're in the way. Build in a sitting area so they can socialize without getting underfoot.
"Everybody's becoming so much more social," said Digrado, so also consider a coffee bar, a wine center, or a place to serve hors d'oeuvres away from the work triangle.
6. Stylish Storage.
Open cabinets are trendy with young buyers but older clients appreciate private storage, plus a little extra for the gadgetry and dishware collected over the years. Mixed material is big across all profiles: Change up the wood type or paint color to differentiate the upper cabinets from the lower ones.
In the bathroom, remember that the average woman uses 33 products getting ready in the morning, so don't skimp on shelves.
7. Ageless Baths.
Older generations "don't want to have accessibility in their face," said Digrado. Choose easy-to-enter bathtubs and showers but keep the accessible look on the down low.
A trend with younger buyers is his-and-her zones. And all buyers still love the spa-like feel, so try alcove lighting, iPod docks, or maybe even a waterfall on one wall.
8. Lights, Cabinets, Action.
Critical in the kitchen and bath and necessary for older buyers, different light types and sources are important. Include task lighting, spotlights over the sink, and under-cabinet lighting.
Put a fireplace in the kitchen for ambient light and warmth, or try a lighted faucet.
Finally, add occupancy sensors to cut energy costs and the work it takes to manage all those lights.
--Evelyn Royer is assistant editor forBuilding Products magazine and ebuild.com.