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Upgrading a Kitchen or Bathroom

As a buyer, kitchens and baths were most likely at the forefront of your search criteria. Now that you're a homeowner, you can add a few touches to make these rooms truly yours. We've gathered the leading kitchen and bath trends to get your creative juices flowing.

Kitchen Trends

Kitchen Zones. The traditional work arrangement with a range, refrigerator, and sink placed at the points of a triangle has been rethought. A cooking zone may contain a range, multiple ovens, warming drawer, and counter space to rest a hot pot or pie; and a clean-up zone may have a sink and one or two dishwashers set into a two-level island.

Center of Activity. Kitchens are no longer just about cooking. "The kitchen has become the center of activity, so we're creating bigger spaces with fireplaces, bookshelves, seating, and flat-screen TVs where everyone can linger, read the paper, or go through mail," says Chicago kitchen designer Mick De Giulio.

Mix-and-match Materials. Products from more than one manufacturer and with more than one material add greater visual appeal and make kitchen equipment seem more like furniture, says De Giulio. A mix-and-match approach also contributes to a timeless look that won't look outdated, says designer Andrew Carrs of Kitchens by Deane.

Easier to Maintain. Materials such as manmade quartz are becoming more popular. It comes in many colors, withstands heat from hot pots and pans, and doesn't need to be sealed.

Hidden Storage. Fewer upper cabinets allow in more light and views and help make spaces look larger. Ample storage can be placed under countertops and with specialized interior fittings such as baking sheet slots that improve efficiency, says designer Caryn Burstein of CLB Interiors.

Professional Equipment. Professional ranges, ovens and refrigerators land high on many buyers' wish lists, says Jimi Yui, principal of YuiDesign. Other items generating buzz: steamers for healthier eating, induction cooktops that keep pots and pans hot without burning fingers, high-speed ovens that combine forced air and microwave technology and wood stone ovens for pizza.

Sustainable Choices. Bamboo and wheatboard floors, countertops and cabinetry;low-VOC paints; and Energy Star-rated appliances have gained in popularity as more heed the green message.

Universal Design. Senior citizens aren't the only ones concerned about kitchen safety. Chicago designer Leslie Markman-Stern suggests:levers rather than harder-to-turn knobs, lower counters and wider aisles for wheelchairs, lifts that allow heavy equipment such as a standing mixer to rise from beneath a countertop and lighting in a baseboard's toe kick to prevent falls.

Bath Trends

Tricked-out Tubs. The old-fashioned whirlpool tub with water jets may have lost cachet, but don't believe naysayers who declared the tub dead. Air jets and soaking tubs - similar to Japanese ofuros - hold wide appeal. Today's tubs have a dazzling range of features: programmable massage settings, chromotherapy mood lighting, built-in stereo speakers, pop-up TVs and even wine chillers.

Furniture-style Cabinets. The trend to personalize kitchens with cabinetry that resembles furniture has moved from kitchens into bathrooms.

Mini Kitchens. One clever addition to the traditional line-up is a medicine cabinet with a cold storage area to keep beverages, beauty products and medicines chilled.

Accessibility for All. Accessible bathroom features include wider doors, toilets with a raised lip so the user doesn't have to bend deeply, and electronic faucets that eliminate turning a knob.

Hidden Nozzles. Homeowners still crave jets, rainheads and body sprayers, but the new trend is more discreet nozzles, including ones that resemble tiles.

Energy-wise Products. More green designs are cutting down on water usage: toilets that flush fewer gallons, showerheads that use less water, countertops made of recycled-paper and nontoxic paints.

Warm It Up. First, heated towel racks became the rage, then radiant heated floors. Now, homeowners are buying toilets with warm seats, towel warming drawers and shower base liners that also warm the water.

Entertainment Everywhere. Flat-screen TVs installed on walls, in mirrors, and in tubs and showers now allow homeowners to remain in touch with breaking news while in the bathroom. And while many tubs and showers now come with audio equipment, homeowners can buy waterproof speakers that match a decor.

Visit your local Lowe's to get advice and help with your kitchen and bath improvements.

Excerpted from “Bathing Beauties” and “What's Cooking in the Kitchen” by Barbara Ballinger, courtesy of Realtor.org.

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