In high-end homes, kitchens, baths get luxury treatment
Upscale amenities play a starring role in today's luxury homes.
Many luxury homebuyers want smaller homes with higher-end features and finishes, said Jeremy Lund, sales director for Shodeen Homes. "They're not doing 4,000-square-foot homes as much, but looking for a right-size home that speaks to how they live -- with no formal living room or sitting room."
Scott Ballard, director of homebuilding for Plote Homes, agrees.
"It's not about square footage. It's about what's inside, how the plan flows and the open-concept design where the whole family can be together."
What do buyers of luxury and custom homes want in their new houses?
"They want the latest and greatest," said Greg Heinrich, vice president of construction for K. Hovnanian Homes. "They want the big kitchen, big island where they can see their family and friends.
"Our model at Heatherfield in Naperville offers a lot of room for entertaining. It's a nice luxury home in a great location. Buyers who spend $100,000 on a kitchen want high-end finishes and top-of-the-line appliances -- Wolf appliances, GE Café, ceramic tile backsplashes and quartz countertops. We're seeing a lot of that."
The open-concept design is also a must at Toll Brothers communities where the same kitchen upgrades are also hot -- large islands for entertaining, luxury finishes and quartz countertops for a cleaner, more streamlined look, and not so busy anymore. And some buyers add a workstation with a small desk in the kitchen or mud room, said Ashley Newberg, design studio manager.
Toll Brothers offers luxury homes at Woods of South Barrington, Bowes Creek in South Elgin and Tanglewood in Batavia.
Luxury buyers want all the bells and whistles in the kitchen and master bath, said Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for M/I Homes.
Many buyers like vessel sinks, decorative bowls that sit above the counter, which give the bath style and glamour. There are many beautiful choices out there -- vessels in porcelain, glass and metal that make the vanity look more custom and unique.
Buyers are splurging on master baths, making them a spalike oasis with ceramic tile that looks like marble, free-standing tubs that come in all shapes and sizes -- rectangular, oval, square and irregular shapes with claw feet, no feet or other decorative options -- luxurious walk-in showers and real big closets or his-and-hers closets, Newberg of Toll Brothers said. "Everyone likes a lot of closet space," she said.
At the upscale Wesley Place community in Wheaton by Airhart Construction, a standout feature is the gorgeous bathroom with seated luxury shower with all glass, no doors and very upscale and unusual tile that looks like wood, said Christy Whelan, director of sales.
Baths also get the royal treatment in luxury homes by K. Hovnanian Homes, which offers the ultra bath, also with seated showers and free-standing tubs, and the builder has adapted its floor plans to offer both, Heinrich said. "In our Grande Park community, the Blakely plan has the best of both worlds -- a great kitchen and fabulous bath that everyone wants. We've had great feedback on that model and a lot of new prospects."
At Lakes of Boulder Ridge by Plote Homes, a finished lower level is a popular feature that extends the living space and offers a great place for entertaining.
At Wesley Place's upscale row homes, an optional elevator is a big plus for buyers while a standout feature is the private courtyard with fireplace. And the upstairs guest suite retreat leads to a roof terrace overlooking the courtyard, Whelan said. "It's very cool."
The community offers a walk-to-town location near the train station, which buyers love, she said.
Buyers put a priority on having well-thought-out floor plans with flex spaces, bonus rooms and two-story volume spaces that add drama to the home, Bonk said. "Whether it's an empty-nester downsizing from their custom home to a luxury townhome or a single-family move-up buyer -- stunning architecture, community location, home site size and view matter. An oversized homesite with an extraordinary view is a real showstopper for the luxury homebuyer."
M/I Homes offers several communities that fit the bill. Brentwood in Barrington, Maple Wood Estates in Glen Ellyn and Kettering Estates in Lemont are great examples of this winning combination.
Make it your own
New homes ooze with personality when buyers choose custom features to make a home their own.
"Our buyers want their home to be unique from their neighbor," Shodeen's Lund said. "They personalize it with color, stone, brick, windows, the roof pitch. We do truly custom work; we're not for the cookie-cutter buyer."
"The big thing is to give people options," Heinrich said. "That's what we do." Buyers go through K. Hovnanian's design studio in Schaumburg and meet with professionals who help them make their selections to achieve the look they want with the latest trends and to stay within budget.
"Popular choices are white linen cabinets and stainless steel appliances; we haven't seen color yet in people's choice of appliances. We offer what we see in the industry and at different kitchen and bath shows. Otherwise, we can special order," Heinrich said.
Meritus Homes starts with a designed floor plan and make changes to suit buyers, said Jay Dulla, executive vice president. "Many buyers want 10-foot, first-floor ceilings. We used to see that in million dollar homes; now it's in $500,000 and $600,000 homes. They also want solid core doors, which is a nice feature. Or if they want a different use of the space, we'll make that change for them at our St. Charles and Addison communities."
Some clients still want a formal dining room, and with custom changes, they can have it, Ballard of Plote Homes said.
"There are so many choices for buyers today, and that's the fun of building a home. The world is your oyster."