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Home and Lifestyle

Renovation resurgence

McDowell Remodeling experiencing ‘pent-up demand’ for home improvement projects

Kane County Magazine

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n recent months, Sue McDowell says she’s seen a lot of pent-up demand finally bubble to the surface.

“During those recession years, people were still remodeling a bit, here and there, utilizing ideas to make their homes more livable,” she says. “But we’ve really seen people’s confidence come back, and now people are really getting back to investing in and improving their homes.”

For more than four decades, Sue and Bob McDowell – who, together, own McDowell Remodeling in St. Charles – have helped local homeowners turn the houses in which they live into homes they can love, redesigning kitchens, bathrooms, basements and more.

But, during the recession, Sue McDowell says, the desire of many people to remake their homes was held in check by restrained means amid uncertainty over their economic future. Those days, however, seem to be, at this point, merely bad memories, as economic conditions have largely revived.

And that restored confidence is being expressed in many different home-related investments.

“People had been limiting themselves to ‘need projects’ – replacing things that broke, fixing leaks, that sort of thing,” she says. “But now we’re seeing the ‘want projects’ coming back.”

And, outside of bathrooms or basement finishes, few things rank higher on the list of “want” remodels than a renovated kitchen.

Full kitchen renovations are again accounting for an increasingly large share of McDowell Remodeling’s business, as homeowners seek to take advantage of the abundance of quality materials and high-tech wonders that can make modern kitchens downright luxurious and inviting, says Sue McDowell.

“We’re looking at clean lines, and an overall lighter, brighter appearance, with less clutter,” she says.

Desk areas in the kitchen, desired a few years back, are out; and, in their place, are cabinets, large drawers and even pantries in and effort to get items off the countertops and into easily accessible storage.

Many clients also are looking to change their countertops, swapping outdated styles for granite, quartz, marble and other high-quality materials.

“Granite is still extremely popular,” she says. “And, I don’t know if it will ever go away, because – the best part – it’s even a lot more affordable now than it was.”

As for appliances, Sue McDowell says that the demand remains strong for stainless steel finishes, with many homeowners willing to pay a premium for black stainless steel finishes to better complement their overall design. And particularly hot right now, she says, is the steam oven, which is rapidly replacing the microwave as the food-heating element of choice for many households.

“It’s still ‘gaining steam,’ if you will,” she says. “But in most homes, it’s going to become the appliance you use more than any other. It’s really a great way to cook.”

However, for those looking to upgrade the kitchen without a complete redesign, Sue McDowell says that there are still great ways to get a better look and feel, while not draining your savings and piling up debt.

The place to start, she says, is with lighting and paint.

Many homes may feature only a single ceiling-mounted light fixture in the kitchen, leaving the room feeling closed, dark and gloomy. So, a relatively simple switch to, perhaps, track lighting with some accompanying lighting under the cabinets and over tables and a peninsula countertop. Coupled with some new fresh paint and color on the walls, one can breathe instant life into any old kitchen.

From there, McDowell recommends homeowners consider adding tiled backsplashes or changing the hardware on cabinet doors and drawers. And one might even consider removing some cabinetry to open up a room, if necessary, to make way for still more light.

“It’s always amazing how simple it can be sometimes,” she says. “It can make a world of difference, and you may just step back and say, ‘Wow, I have a whole new kitchen.’”

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