How Has Remodeling and Design Changed in 20 Years?

Updated February 24, 2015
remodeled kitchen
The after photo of this recently remodeled kitchen showcases many trending features, such as an eat-in island and hints of gray. (Photo courtesy of Nicholson Builders, Columbus, Ohio)

Interior design for kitchens, bathrooms and living spaces evolves as Angie's List celebrates 20 years.

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How well do you remember 1995? “Seinfeld” was TV king, “Braveheart” won the Oscar, the Dallas Cowboys were charging toward a Super Bowl victory, and we all lived in a “Gangsta’s Paradise” (Coolio’s No. 1 Billboard song).

It was also the year Angie’s List hung up a sign and opened our doors for business. Which got us to thinking: How has home improvement and remodeling changed in the past 20 years?

We’re definitely more energy efficient — from light bulbs to appliances, triple-paned windows to solar panels, we’re taking the necessary steps to conserve energy. Combined with low- and zero-VOC paints and LEED-certified housing, homeowners today are focused on an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Interior designs have evolved as well. And while some elements are destined to repeat themselves throughout time (welcome back, freezer-on-the-bottom refrigerators), homeowners are embracing a fresh palette of colors and style in 2015.

90s basement
While cozy, this before photo of a '90s basement was overstuffed, dark, and in need of an update. (Photo courtesy of Jodie Amerell, owner of Inner View, Cottage Grove, Wisconsin)
remodeled basement
This after photo of the remodeled basement shows how it still offers plenty of storage, but brings in neutral walls with pops of color accents. (Photo courtesy of Jodie Amerell)

What’s new in the kitchen?

While it’s still the heart of the home, gone are the off-white appliances, laminate floors and wallpaper that dominated in the mid-1990s.

“Oak cabinets were in high demand in 1995,” says Andy Lindus, chief operating officer of Lindus Construction in Baldwin, Wisconsin. “Now, they appear outdated. Kitchen cabinets are much darker now, and we’ve gotten smarter about maximizing space — cabinets oftentimes go all the way to the ceiling.”

Today’s homeowners insist on stainless steel appliances, stone countertops, luxury backsplashes and under-mounted sinks.

“There are many options with kitchen design, such as narrow, pullout cabinets for spice racks and canned goods,” says Mark Marcley, owner of Constructive Solutions in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Wood or natural stone floors are also popular, as well as farm sinks and eat-in islands. Color schemes have shifted from reds, whites and pastel, florally wallpaper to browns, blues and grays. Brushed nickel finishes replace the old brass look.

RELATED: Kitchen Ditches Dated Style with Remodel

kitchen with wallpaper
Wallpaper and brass fixtures depicted in this before photo were commonplace throughout '90s kitchens. (Photo courtesy of Nicholson Builders)
kitchen with stainless steel appliances
After a major remodel, the same kitchen now features stone countertops, stainless steel appliances and revamped wood floors. (Photo courtesy of Nicholson Builders)

Brighten up the living space

The biggest difference in living room or family room design over the past 20 years has been the death of formality. True, a formal living room was on its way out in 1995, but now it’s long gone, dead and buried.

Living spaces today are designed to be warm and inviting, if not cozy and approachable for all those who enter.

And there’s definitely more space to work with: In 1995, a single-family house averaged 2,095 square feet; today the average is nearly 2,700.

The popularity of an open-concept floor plan, which allows for ease of movement around the living space and is ideal for entertaining, has skyrocketed. Along with a more neutral color palette, living areas today are designed for comfort.

READ MORE: 7 Ways to Liven Up Your Living Room

“It’s more timeless,” says Erin Hoopes, principal designer for Moss Building & Design in Chantilly, Virginia. “There are less accent walls. Now it’s more neutral walls and patterns, with more open-concept spaces to have them flow together and act as one cohesive room. Pops of color are found in accents, which helps with any transition because you can switch pillows and decorations without a lot of money or time invested.”

High-end wallpaper, which is rich in texture, color and sometimes a single large image, is also a 2015 interior design trend for common living spaces.

Dining rooms in particular are ideal areas for showcasing such a wall covering.

MORE: Record Spending Expected for 2015 Remodeling

living room with separating walls
Houses designed with divided rooms aren't as popular as they once were. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Andrew E., Silver Spring, Maryland)
living room with open concept
Homeowners prefer open concept living, with minimal walls, for ease of movement around the living space. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Andrew E., Silver Spring, Maryland)

A spa-like bathroom

If a long soak in a fiberglass garden tub sounds like an ideal evening, you might need to get in your hot tub time machine and travel back to the ‘90s. Tubs these days tend to be freestanding and more elegant than their older brethren.

That is, if there’s a bathtub in the bathroom at all.

“My customers seem to be removing the whirlpool-style tubs and installing soakers or just walk-in showers,” Marcley says.

RELATED: Top Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling Trends for 2015

woman holding aromatherapy tray
Photo: Syda Productions / Adobe Stock

As bathroom remodeling goes, the floor-to-ceiling, glass walk-in showers and use of stone, marble, and ceramic tile is what you’d find in today’s loo.

“In 1995, brass bathroom fixtures were common,” Lindus says. “Modern bathrooms are filled with brushed stainless steel and brushed nickel. The cabinets are darker, and wallpaper has all but disappeared.”

Using natural materials and a color scheme to give a bathroom a spa-like feel is commonplace.

“It’s an effortless look, painted with off-whites and hints of blue, green and gray,” Hoopes says.

Conscious of time

As homeowners remodel, they’re doing so in ways that will help save them time in the long run.

“Busy lifestyles dictate the amount of time homeowners are willing to dedicate to home upkeep,” Lindus says. “There’s been a surge in popularity for low-maintenance products [for] siding, windows, decking and gutters.”

Lindus also points out that as Baby Boomers continue to age, a lot of remodeling work focuses on universal design, which includes wider doors, accommodating bathrooms, and fewer split-level homes.

“Mother-in-law suites are also gaining popularity as older generations are moving in with their children,” he says.

RELATED: Universal Design: Creating an Accessible Bathroom

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