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Renovation Solutions: When remodeling, look to sustainable, timeless designs

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While you don't want your home to be out-dated, following new remodeling trends has to be carefully considered.

Often they go out just as quickly as they come in. However, there are some current remodeling trends that seem to have some real staying power:

Open floor plans: Homeowners continue to favor large, open spaces and less-formal rooms. Those with dining or TV rooms separated from the kitchen are removing walls to create "great rooms" like the ones you'll find in so many newly built homes.

This is a trend that is becoming a timeless design as more families are spending more time at home cooking and entertaining within their own walls.

Bare floors: People are ripping out their carpeting and installing harder floor surfaces, such as ceramic tile, hardwood or engineered wood, and laminates. The hard surfaces are easier to keep clean, more stain repellent and less likely to collect dust. One exception: the bedroom, where carpet is still a popular choice.

Simpler designs: Less is more in 2010. Homeowners are getting back to basics with clean, simple, timeless designs that create a comfortable home that is less ornate and easier to maintain.

They are choosing updated products and styles that are affordable and functional.

Universal designs: People are considering how their remodel will affect them in their mature years. Bathroom remodels may include the installation of grab bars, curbless showers, wider doors, higher toilets and taller vanities. Whole house remodels focus on main-floor living, where at least one bedroom and bathroom are on the same level as the kitchen and laundry room.

Going green: How green a homeowner gets depends on how much he is willing to spend for upgrading to energy-efficient or environmentally-friendly products.

Still, more people are considering such products as tankless water heaters, dual-flush toilets, and super-insulating materials to conserve resources and money.

Reuse: While energy efficient products may still be out of reach for some homeowners, the trend of reusing products is not.

If you're replacing your kitchen countertops with something higher-end, perhaps you can use that old laminate counter in a craft room or laundry room. When expanding your patio, you might be able to mix old concrete with new and embellish the look with new furniture and accessories. In remodeling, reuse definitely trumps recycling.

Muted colors: Dusty blues, muddy browns and muted purples are pushing greens, golds and bright colors from indoor and outdoor design palettes.

Homeowners are gravitating toward calm, comforting colors and are embracing such shades as gray, eggplant, taupe and earth tones. These are more timeless colors that won't go out of style too quickly.

Paying cash: More homeowners are saving for projects so they can pay as they go.

They are also phasing their project by getting a master plan and doing projects in phases.

There is a theme with these remodeling trends: They either reduce spending or add value, longevity and durability. It's likely it is the new economy that is driving these home-improvement trends.

When times are tough, we tend to choose practical products that will last a long time and won't go out of style tomorrow.

The economy has changed the way we think, which is a good thing.

Even though it has taken some adversity to get our attention, we are glad to see sustainable, timeless designs and smart products finally making their way into the mainstream.

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.