When I read about green construction and trends in the industry, I’m disappointed that the specter of changing customer preferences is never addressed. A kitchen made with all the greatest low-VOC finishes and recycled content materials, means nothing when the house sells in five years and the next homeowners tear it all out because their KitchenAid mixer won’t fit in the pantry.
As a remodeling psychic, I can predict the future of consumer tastes, in that I know tastes will change and are unpredictable. That’s why I work with my customers to consider their remodel as a template for the present and the future.
Layers that are not easily changed — such as hardwood floors or the width of an opening — should be conservatively designed and executed. We consider whether the next homeowner may have kids and put in two handrails on all stairs. We plan for the future resident in a wheelchair and add blocking around the toilet for grab-bars.
When the customer has wild tastes, we encourage it, but we tread lightly. A wall can be repainted. A hand-painted accent tile series depicting Elvis through the ages, however, is difficult to improve upon (and may reduce resale value).
Universal design dictates that our work must survive the passage of time, the impact of the elements, and the changing whim of human desire. The most sustainable product is one that outlasts expectations. Build to last and design to please, but always consider the next generation. Go forth and conquer the future.
—Clint Howes owns Revive Construction, in Portland, Ore.
More REMODELING articles about green building and flexible design:
Shades of Green: Ways to ease clients into green remodeling
7 Tenets of Universal Design From the R.L. Mace Universal Design Institute — Your “to do” list when remodeling for a lifetime
Lifelong Design — Design for all ages, not just for grandma and grandpa