Home improvements appear to be economic-downturn-proof.
Judging by interest shown in the Red Deer Home Show this weekend, many Central Albertans are intent on enhancing their living spaces, regardless.
Thousands of people attended the three-day trade show that brought dozens of vendors and special guest speaker Damon Bennett, co-host of the TV show Holmes Inspection, to Westerner Park in Red Deer.
Kevin Wilkie, past-president of the Red Deer Home Builders Association, believes television makeover shows and popular websites, including Pinterest and www.houzz.com are continuing to stir the home improvement craze — as are local show homes. “They’re giving people some cool and innovative ideas and getting them to think creatively,” he said.
Among the consumer trends Wilkie has noticed is growing interest in energy efficiency, including solar heating. With technological improvements, he believes more people are now finding these options affordable.
Also popular are special features that make a home unique, such as built-in custom shelving, wall panelling, or storage solutions, as well as various outdoor living and patio options.
Despite a softer economy, Wilkie, vice-president of sales for True-Line Homes, said housing starts remain “decent.” However, higher land prices have caused a jump in smaller lot sales and the construction of more modestly sized homes.
Two-storey houses are now typically built with 1,800 to 1,400 square feet of living space, as opposed to the 3,000 square feet of a decade ago. Bungalows and bi-levels are more in the 1,300 to 1,800 square foot range.
Smaller lots mean ranch-style homes aren’t built as spread out as in the past, with narrower designs gaining in popularity, said Lori Erickson, a member of the Red Deer Home Builders, who chaired the home show that ended on Sunday.
Open-concept designs are preferred, and a wide range of options are available in everything from kitchens to flooring, lighting and window coverings. Erickson said, “It promotes more choices.”
Krobutschek, operations manager of Central Alberta Flooring, expects to see a larger market for home renovations if the economy stalls. “People might say, ‘Instead of looking at a new house, let’s fix our house or develop the basement for more space . . . ’”
Everything from patterned carpets to ceramic tiles that resemble wood-grain are available to helped complete a reno project.
Krobutschek said the wood-grain tiles are particularly popular in kitchens or bathrooms — especially since in-floor heating can be installed to make them warm for walking on. The choices are endless, he added, “it comes down to money.”
Red Deer interior designer Sofie Blunek, of Sofie B. Design, said her company is in its fourth year of operation and is continuing to grow. Most customers are approaching her with the desire to expand their kitchens and maximize space.
Blunek said the first step doesn’t cost anything: “Purging is the No., 1 free tip. You have to get rid of things . . . Maybe you need a pushy friend to help you!”
When it comes to kitchens, cabinet styles have moved away from wood grains over the last few years. According to Cathryn Depta, a design consultant with KCB Cabinets, “about 50 to 60 per cent of what we sell now is painted white or grey cabinets.”
But she cautions that wood always makes a comeback. Since kitchens are a big investment and are expected to last for a decade or two, personal preferences should override fickle trends.
“Get what you like,” she advised, but don’t go too non-traditional — such as the current offering of glossy red cabinets — if your house is to be resold in a couple of years. Instead, Depta suggested getting more fashion-forward hardware that’s less expensive to replace once trends change. “You can always switch it out later.”
She doesn’t think business will slow, based on sobering economic forecasts, noting that gas prices actually went up at the pump last week.