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Top trends

What’s hot in home design? Think water, water everywhere … and, quick, hide your stuff!


In our COVID-era cocoons, a lot of us have consumed a lion’s share of HGTV along with “Selling Sunset” and “Selling Tampa” on Netflix, absorbing what’s new and hot in home design. We have been teased with the practical to sexy. And we still can’t shake the image of a walk-in closet that mimics a chi-chi boutique, right down to the artful fixtures and lighted cabinets to display Manolo Blahniks. Ditto for hidden kitchen pantries with small appliances, shelves of alphabetized canned goods and meticulously labeled containers of essentials – ensuring that a family of five survives the zombie apocalypse.

Do people really live this way? Well, yes and kind of. We asked some regional experts who agree that, in these uncertain times, many have chosen to invest in creating the homes of their dreams. Either room by room or from the ground up, there is no time like the present, even with rising costs and supply-chain issues. Patience often rules the day for those who desire the strictly functional, soul-nurturing or boldly luxurious. Customized to fit their budgets, of course. Here’s a look at some of the top trends.

Wet rooms are making their way from the West Coast eastward. Visualize a zero-entry (no humps to hop!), sliding glass doors or completely open, and liberally tiled space. Add a bathtub that qualifies as a piece of contemporary art (clean lines) and a shower complete with rain heads, hand-held spray nozzles, pulsating jets, grab bars, benches, and hidden shelves for body washes, shampoos and other grooming products. Lisa Kirkwood, owner of Kirkwood Cabinet Design Center in West End, says the palette usually goes one of two ways: natural earth tones or bohemian with splashes of color and vintage-inspired hardware.

Often, there’s a window to bring in the natural light, points out Melissa McIntosh, senior designer for KCDC. “It feels sleek, modern and open air,” she says. Clearly, the trend takes spa-like – and the potential for togetherness – to a whole new level. “It’s about creating an oasis in your home, about having a place to recharge,” McIntosh says, adding that steam units are another request.

How much can building your own wet room cost? Easily $40,000 to $50,000, says Kirkwood, depending on the size of the space and the desired materials.

Playing in the dirt or snow can make a mess of our fur babies (and the inside of homes, too). Pet showers are becoming more requested as an added feature in laundry rooms, says award-winning custom homebuilder Brad D. Cummings, who is based in Lillington. Most pet showers are simple in design with an easy entry and adjustable spray nozzles. The showers are typically built close to the washer and dryer. There’s a trend toward stack units, albeit with fancier features and capabilities than in the past, Cummings says. More families are also opting for two washers and two dryers, along with abundant cabinets, shelves, niches and tables for folding laundry.

From pizza ovens to fire pits, and meditation gardens with soothing water features to comfortable seating areas that allow for social distancing, it’s all part of the growing trend toward outdoor living areas, according to Faye Riddle of Coldwell Banker Advantage. Also hot: grills for mega-cookouts, covered porches, and floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces. “We are talking an oasis for families,” she says. “Home has never been more important.”

“They could be other bedrooms, that’s how big they are,” says Kirkwood regarding the trend toward larger walk-in closets. Riddle echoes the sentiment. For many, bigger is better, and quality details matter. Fantasy spaces feature everything from vanities to safes. Add custom cabinetry, granite-topped islands, Hollywood-style lighting, lots of hang space, and niches to hold designer shoes and handbags.

Home offices have been elevated to new importance, says Riddle, a Realtor who holds a special designation in luxury properties for Coldwell Banker Advantage. Riddle owned an interior decorating business for about two decades in Fayetteville before she went into real estate, so she has seen a lot of trends come and go. “Home offices have become more streamlined and less cluttered,” she says, calling COVID “the game-changer.” Because people are spending more time working from home, they tend to personalize the space more. “I’m also seeing punches of color, less built-ins, and tables to lay out their work,” she says. Some also have upped their technology to stay connected. Another trend: a dog bed or niche, usually under the desk, to make the space especially pet-friendly.

It seemed only logical that hidden pantries would become popular as we began noticing the trend toward spotless kitchens – very little is placed on sparkling granite countertops – and fingerprint-proof appliances and stove hoods that stand out like museum pieces. The hidden pantry as such is typically created behind a paneled or sliding door in the rear of the kitchen or adjacent to it, says Cummings, a custom homebuilder. On one of his recent home plans, Cummings says, the space was referred to as the “messy kitchen.” It’s a place to wash dishes, store the microwave (perhaps in a drawer), make the coffee or create your coffee bar, put your wine fridge, and freezers, too, says Kirkwood. Organization is the name of the game in cabinets and shelving for nonperishables. McIntosh also notes a demand for recycling bins and “hidden composting bins that are clean and green with no smells or mess.”