No surprise, kitchens were a big priority this year.

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The pandemic caused many homeowners to spend more time at home than ever before, and they came to experience a variety of pain points along the way. Being quarantined prompted many to find new ways to work, relax, entertain, and create more personal space at home.

At the same time, home sales went through the roof. It was a great time to sell your home, but when those sellers became buyers, many weren't able to find another home to purchase. As a result, some homeowners decided to stay put, opting to make their current space more livable, while others are working on fixing up the homes they bought.

Considering all that happened in 2020, it's no surprise that home renovations are on the rise in 2021. According to a report by Houzz, home renovation spending has increased by 15 percent in the past year. But what projects are most popular among homeowners, and why? We assembled a panel of experts to share and explain the top home renovation trends of 2021.

Modern, Multitasking Kitchens

The kitchen is the home's hub, and according to Houzz senior economist, Marine Sargsyan, it is consistently the most common project that homeowners undertake when they renovate. "While median spend has been flat for the past three years, it has been interesting to see investment on major remodels of large kitchens jump so significantly in the past year," she tells us. On average, homeowners in the U.S. spend $12,000 on a kitchen remodel.

Of course, a shortage of materials and labor have impacted the cost of reno projects in general. But Sargsyan also believes the pandemic played a role as well and led homeowners to think of ways to better utilize space. "Kitchens, in particular, became the command center for the home, where more meals were prepared and eaten on a daily basis, and it became a new location for work, schooling, entertainment, and more." 

Bathrooms Became Private Sanctuaries

If you found yourself hiding in the bathroom to get a little alone time at any point during the pandemic, then you'll understand why the bathroom was the second most popular room to renovate in 2021.

So, what does a bathroom remodel entail? According to Sargsyan, at a minimum, it includes replacing the cabinetry or vanity, countertops, and toilet. And while the amount spent on primary bathroom remodels has held steady at $8,000 on average, she says major upgrades of smaller primary bathrooms has increased by 20 percent, as homeowners try to maximize every inch of their homes.

This comes as no surprise to Lynn Schrage, manager of design services at Kohler, considering how much time we've spent at home. "For many, the bathroom acted as the only private space away from children and family, and the need for a space that provides relaxation and respite increased almost overnight," she explains. "And so did the need to remodel and refresh the bathrooms to fill that need—especially with travel plans canceled."

Open Floor Plans Started to Fall Out of Favor

Leigh Spicher, national director of design studios for Ashton Woods Homes, says she's loved the open floor plan concept, but admits that she's seeing a trend to bring back defined spaces. Regarding the living room, Spicher says formal entertaining is coming back—and even though the living room itself is less formal, it's always tidy and ready for guests—and may even host a craft beverage station.

For homeowners fully embracing the family room, Spicher says you can expect to see them pull up the carpet and use hard floor surfaces, such as durable plank tile or even enhanced vinyl planks. "Massive entertainment centers are also being ditched in favor of artful entertainment, like a TV that can be hung on the wall, eliminating large pieces of furniture and built-ins," she explains.

Guest Bedrooms Became Destinations

According to Spicher, the guest bedroom should include more than just a queen-size bed and a side table. Her clients are opting to create a space reminiscent of a favorite destination. Here are some of the guest bedroom trends she has noticed over the past year:

  • Adding a coffee bar or mini fridge.
  • Including a desk for guests who work remotely and will need a private place to have a Zoom call or check emails.
  • Introducing an interesting wall treatment or specialty lighting.  
  • Designing for the destination, such as adding coastal, farmhouse, metropolitan, or southwest elements that are specific to your home's geographic location.  

Personalized Primary Bedrooms

Creating a place to retreat to so you can relax and recharge makes renovating the primary bedroom the sixth most popular interior renovation. According to Sargsyan, homeowners are spending an average of $1,800 on this area. 

More dramatic color choices and wall treatments are a growing trend in the main bedroom. "I love that this points to a space where we can have sanctuary from all else and embrace design choices that are personal to us," Spicher says. "This includes anything from 3D applications to the walls, like board and batten, to bold color choices, like a bold green and even black."

Investing in Landscaping

Homeowners are also renovating their exterior spaces. In fact, Sargsyan says outdoor projects have jumped 6 percent since 2018. Outdoor beds/borders and lawns are the top two outdoor reno projects for 2021. "Outdoor beds and borders are wonderful ways to help define outdoor spaces and allow for flexibility when it comes to changing plants and flowers on a seasonal basis," explains Fernando Wong of Miami-based firm Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design, and one of the judges on Clipped, a new HGTV gardening show on Discovery+.

He notes that outdoor beds and borders also guide the eye throughout the space, and direct the flow of traffic. "An outdoor bed is also perfect for adding a splash of color that can easily be maintained, while decorative borders allow you to integrate natural materials, such as stones and wood."

Outdoor Living Rose in Popularity

According to Sargsyan, homeowners are investing 25 percent more in 2021 versus 2020 on patios, terraces, and decks. "From remote working to dining, all things al fresco are very much in vogue, and more and more of our clients are prioritizing patios and terraces as part of their outdoor updates to create new outdoor rooms and experiences to enjoy and entertain," Wong says. "These spaces extend the flow from the indoors out, and homeowners have quickly realized that the right landscaping, furnishing, and styling can make all the difference in how they use the space each day." 

Also, while you may be accustomed to seeing decks or porches behind homes, his clients are utilizing space on the side and even in the front of their homes to both add curb appeal and create spaces to relax. "Enclosed porches and decks are smart additions to make year-round entertainment possible, and styling these areas with natural plants and florals bring the outdoors in, while bringing in a sense of softness and dimension," Wong explains.