Reno revolution

As the kitchen-and-bathroom renovation scene continues to boom, HOUSING analyses the latest forecast and
reveals the hottest trends in the market.


Kerryn Ramsey

Many homeowners working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic realised it was a perfect opportunity to renovate their house. It was a chance to have face-to-face meetings with builders at lunchtime or race off to a renovation and design centres to look at the latest ranges and compare prices. As a real bonus, couples were at home together so it was easy to make crucial decisions.

According to the most recent HIA State and National Outlook Report, the recent renovations activity accounted for over a third of all housing investment in Australia. Between March and September 2020, Australians spent 25.7 per cent more on hardware, building and garden supplies than during the same period of the previous year. This jump was fairly uniform across New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, with the Australian Capital Territory jumping by a standout 39.1 per cent.

‘National renovations activity for the 2019/20 financial year sat at $36.8 billion, down by 1.5 per cent on 2018/19,’ says Tim Reardon, HIA Chief Economist. ‘We forecast this to peak in 2020/21 at $38.5 billion, up by 4.4 per cent from 2019/20, as Australians undertake projects they began planning during lockdown. We also forecast activity to ease back by 2.6 per cent to $37.5 billion in 2021/22, before recovering steadily.’

The catch-up in households that are upsizing or downsizing could see a continuation of kitchen and bathroom renovations immediately before and after sale. This bodes well for a further increase in renovations expenditure in 2021. 

‘The housing stock from the most recent construction boom will be entering the 10-plus year age bracket in a few years – this should also help drive kitchen and bathroom renovations,’ Tim says.


Changing times

As the pandemic became manageable, it caused a definite shift. Employers and employees appreciated a flexible working culture and many people now embrace working from home for a number of days each week.

‘Enforced time at home led to an upswing of new projects for many homeowners,’ says Houzz’s managing director ANZ Tony Been. Its recent Houzz COVID-19 survey revealed that 75 per cent reported they were thinking of changes that would help them enjoy their home more.

The two most popular options were renovating a kitchen or bathroom. The stats speak for themselves. ‘The common pain points were small, outdated spaces and awkward layouts (44 per cent), followed by old or outdated finishes (43 per cent) and inadequate storage (29 per cent),’ says Tony. 

As ever, functionality was a priority among homeowners on Houzz. The top five features replaced or added during kitchen upgrades were benchtops (78 per cent), taps or plumbing fixtures (76 per cent), cabinets (75 per cent), splashbacks (73 per cent) and sinks (71 per cent).

Kitchen trends

‘Over the past three years, the Houzz & Home studies have reported that more than 25 per cent of renovating homeowners are making major changes to their cooking space. Kitchens continue to command large renovation budgets with one-in-10 homeowners spending over $45,000 on their kitchen renovation,’ Tony says.

No doubt, 2020 was the year of the ‘living kitchen’. Not just a space to cook, it now serves double duty as a home office, school study, playroom and entertaining area. Tony has also noticed a rise in popularity of furniture-style kitchen islands. ‘This feature provides more cooking and entertaining space in the heart of the home while blurring the lines between a functional work zone, dining space and piece of furniture – all while sitting comfortably within an open living area,’ he says. 

There’s a renewed appreciation for designer details such as integrated media systems, walk-in larders, hideaway storage, extra power outlets and open shelving. Function, aesthetic and technology are key so what will homeowners demand from their kitchens post-pandemic?

‘We’re seeing that the most popular update for homeowners on Houzz is changing the layout, followed by upgrading the plumbing, and increasing the size of the kitchen,’ says Tony. ‘The average size of an upgraded kitchen is 14 square metres.’

Bathroom trends

Another common desire is to transform a shabby bathroom into a hotel-inspired sanctuary, introducing mood lighting, stylish accents and indulgent accessories.

‘If a homeowner wants to create a bathroom design that really makes a difference, they can turn to home renovation professionals on Houzz to discuss the look and functionality tailored to their needs,’ Tony explains. ‘We are seeing smart storage features such as mirror cabinets, integrated power boards and custom joinery becoming popular on Houzz.’

He’s also seeing homeowners move away from the minimalist look and freshening up the bathroom palette with soft pastels and matte metallic finishes that feel warm and inviting.


Embracing sustainability 

Kitchens and bathrooms consume the most energy in the home but, according to the Houzz & Home report, energy efficiency solutions are a top priority for 43 per cent of renovating homeowners. 

‘Being more sustainable when renovating is about being more aware of what you’re buying, where it originates and the impact of that product,’ Tony says. He says the Houzz community often turns to home renovation professionals who are sensitive to sustainable development and working to reduce environmental impact.

‘Popular options are sustainable materials such as eco-kitchen tops or cabinets manufactured with recycled waste products,’ he says. ‘This could be plant-based materials such as FSC-certified wood or efficient appliances that take advantage of solar energy. A renovation professional can also advise on WELS-certified shower heads or tap fixtures that save water running costs, particularly when used with a home water tank for the toilet, laundry and more.’

Technology breakthroughs

With so many advances in kitchens and bathrooms, personalisation and digitisation have come to the fore. According to Houzz research, high-tech features such as colour touch-screen and wireless appliance control have been installed during many kitchen renovations. ‘Thermostats, alarms and detectors are being introduced to stovetops that allow them to turn on when a pan touches the surface,’ Tony says.

Meanwhile, high-tech upgrades in the bathroom include smart showers, bathtubs and toilets. 

‘As the popularity of the mobile device continues, nearly half of Australian homeowners on Houzz reported using the bathroom as a retreat to check emails, text, look at social media, listen to music and read,’ he says. ‘In years to come, Houzz community experts predict the kitchen will be a fully connected space that can monitor the progress of your cooking, utilise social media connectivity to discover what your guests like to eat, and tell you whether the milk in the fridge is still fresh.’ 


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