Instead of purchasing a new house, homeowners are still opting to make additions and alterations to their current residence, or incorporating new kitchen and bathroom features that will aid aging-in-place, according to the quarterly AIA Home Design Trends Survey released this week. The latest iteration of the survey delves into kitchen and bath design activity during the fourth quarter of 2017, based on responses from more than 500 residential architecture firms.

Bathroom Design Trends

According to the findings, homeowners are placing less importance on the number of bathrooms in homes, and are emphasizing bathroom size instead. At the end of 2017, 25 percent of firms reported increased demand for larger bathrooms, a single-point increase from a year prior. As droves of baby boomers prepare for retirement, many homeowners are opting to enhance existing bathrooms with universal design features, which often require a room with a larger footprint.

Preference for Increase in Number/Size of Bathrooms

The fourth quarter survey also shows that homeowners prioritize accessibility features in bathrooms over those in kitchens—61 percent of firms reported that clients desired adaptability/universal design features in bathrooms, compared to only 18 percent in kitchens.

Interior design elements meant to aid aging-in-place continue to top the list for high-demand bathroom features, with larger walk-in showers, doorless/no threshold showers, and stall showers without tubs topping the list of requested fixtures. Luxury features, such as radiant heated flooring and upscale showers also increased in popularity compared to a year prior.

Popular Bathroom Products and Design Features

In fact, commentary from AIA chief economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, in a press release for the 2016 iteration of the survey still rings true: “Bathroom adaptability and accessibility continue to be the primary focus for homeowners,” Baker said. “Increasing numbers of homeowners with disability concerns will drive trends in bath design for the foreseeable future.”

Kitchen Design Trends

While the desired kitchen size has remained relatively unchanged since the fourth quarter of 2015, demand for the number of kitchens in a house increased during the fourth quarter of 2017, with 29 percent of firms reporting growing popularity for multiple kitchens. This trend is tied to the popularity of outdoor kitchens, which has been one of the top three most popular home features for the past two years.

Designs that integrate kitchens and family living spaces were the second most-desired feature in the fourth quarter, with 44 percent of firms reporting increased demand for more open-concept kitchen plans. Demand for computer work spaces and recharging stations was the third most-desired feature in kitchen design in the fourth quarter, although popularity of the feature has softened since last year's survey, when 42 percent of firms reported increased demand.

Preference for Increase in Number/Size of Kitchen Areas

Kitchen features commonly found in high-end homes, such as butler's pantries, double islands, and wine storage, also grew in popularity at the end of 2017 according to the survey. While the 10 features in the chart below continue to be very popular, it is worth noting that half of those have decreased in popularity compared to a year prior. Drinking water filtration systems, double islands, and induction cooking appliances were the only three features to see popularity increase year-over-year.

Technology and energy-efficiency are also behind many in–demand kitchen features, and 22 percent of firms surveyed reported that clients desired a "smart / connected kitchen" in the last quarter of 2017. The AIA added that "smart / connected kitchen" category to their survey this year, as the popularity of home technology has picked up pace significantly.

Popular Kitchen Products and Design Features

“Demand has remained solid for smart home features in the kitchen, which isn’t a surprise as more new systems and products are being introduced at a dizzying pace” Baker said. “At the same time, ensuring accessibility throughout these areas and promoting convenience remain priorities for homeowners.”

Business Conditions

Amid the sectors responsible for the majority of work during the fourth quarter, remodeling still accounts for the largest share of business activity, with home additions and alterations accounting for the largest share of design activity, followed by bath and kitchen remodels. In the wake of rising interest rates and tight house inventory, many homeowners are following the trend of upgrading their current residence rather than moving up, although the survey indicates work in the move-up and custom home market is slightly up year-over-year. Demand for second houses and vacation houses has picked up slightly as well, with 5 percent of respondents reporting that work in the segment increased during the fourth quarter of 2017, compared to a 10 percent drop a year prior.

Business Conditions by Construction Segment

As our sister site ARCHITECT reported this week, the Architecture Billings Index posted a healthy score of 51.0 in March, with project inquiries at 58.1; scores below 50 represent a contraction in the market, while those above indicate growth. The index has followed an upward trajectory for six consecutive months, and the AIA anticipates strong growth throughout the year. “New project activity coming into architecture firms continues to grow at a solid pace," Baker said in a press release. "As a result, project backlogs—in excess of six months at present—are at their highest post-recession level.”

Read the full report here.