Real Estate

Covid turned many Americans into homebodies, according to the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence. In its recently released “RICKI 2022 Changes Driven by the Pandemic” survey sent to more than 1,000 homeowners, the research consultancy sought to learn how respondents’ pandemic experiences impacted their relationships with their homes, especially in the kitchen, what changes they’ve made, and how their attitudes have shifted as a result of this massive disruption.

Greater Desire to Be Home

One response that leaped from the RICKI survey was 64% of surveyed homeowners strongly agreeing that “I have a greater desire to be home now than I did before the pandemic.” How might this be showing up in home remodeling plans?

One trend is increased requests for wine and coffee centers by kitchen project clients, facilitating the kind of socializing that was next to impossible during the first months of the pandemic. This has spurred more product releases that help store wine, serve beer and brew coffee at home.

Steve Smith, CEO of high end Southern California retail chain Pirch shared in trade magazine Kitchen & Bath Design News’ annual Trend Spotting wrap-up last November, “We used to sell built-in coffee machines in one out of 10 kitchens, and now it’s more like three or four out of 10. Customers want to put in their own version of either a bar or a soft drink center, so their homes are better equipped for entertaining. Anything that allows people to entertain in their home has become a must-have.”

Another area where the pandemic’s influence has shown up is the continued popularity of outdoor living spaces for socializing and relaxation, which are larger, more luxurious and better equipped than ever before. Climate control features extending their use into the hotter and colder months include fans and misters for the hotter months and fire features for the colder ones. Materials like porcelain slab countertops and decking also make these spaces heat and frost resistant.

Home fitness continues to be popular – even though, as noted here recently, those spaces may be smaller and multi-use in some regions – so that time-pressed, health-conscious homeowners can get a workout in without driving to a gym or sharing showers.

My Home Makes Me Happier Now

Covid showed homeowners where their homes were serving them poorly, and a burst of remodeling activity followed to redress some of those issues. For example, the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s 2022 Trends Summary of industry professionals noted that clients have been choosing easy to clean, sanitary surfaces; hands-free faucets; paints that don’t off-gas, and universal design features that accommodate aging in place, all of which contribute to peace of mind. They’re also adding comfort features like radiant flooring, bathroom storage with outlets for beauty tools, and large islands for entertaining.

Mental well-being showed up as the top priority for 60% of surveyed homeowners in the John Burns Research & Consulting’s January 2023 Healthy Homes survey, described in this April 11 article. Features that enhance peace of mind definitely support that priority!

I Am Spending More Time in My Kitchen Now

There are several factors that likely have 50% of the RICKI survey respondents strongly agreeing that they’re spending more time in the kitchen now than they did pre-pandemic. These include early restaurant shutdowns, the drive to use time at home in creative new ways during COVID, the links between healthy eating and reducing COVID co-morbidities, and inflation creating the need to get smarter about shopping and meal preparation.

The NKBA survey points out that homeowners are planning their kitchen redesigns for more than just cooking though. Islands are getting larger, the report notes, with 62% wanting eating areas and 59% wanting areas for their kids to complete their homework and school assignments. Also high on 64% of homeowners’ kitchen wish lists in the NKBA study is space to charge and view their phones, tablets and laptops.

I’m Much More Knowledgeable About Cooking

That extra time in the kitchen has led 43% of RICKI respondents to agree strongly that they feel better prepared to create meals for themselves and their households than they did pre-pandemic. Appliance manufacturers are helping in this regard, with built-in recipe helpers, cooking app tie-ins and remote operation, letting you check on your oven’s progress from your home office to avoid burning your food. Half of the NKBA respondents (50%) say clients want mobile apps to control their appliances.

It’s also driving interest in newer, more advanced appliances like ovens with steam or air frying capabilities (63% of NKBA respondents), induction cooktops with smart ventilation and enhanced refrigeration with flex drawers that switch from fridge to freezer to wine cooling.

While pro-style gas ranges and cooktops have been popular for decades now, the NKBA Report shows “induction popularity expected to climb into mainstream” in the next three years. The 2022 report had induction popularity at 42% versus gas at 46%. Recent studies on the health risks associated with gas cooking and regional bans on gas lines to homes will likely drive those numbers much higher.

The home cooking trend is also spurring remodels with better pantry storage. The NKBA survey reported a 60% interest in these spaces. Not only do they accommodate food storage, they also often include countertop appliances to help in meal prep, storage for serving pieces and pro-style sinks for prep and cleanup.

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