What are the home improvement trends for 2012?

Termite Inspection

Last year we asked the same question, and got an overwhelming number of insightful responses. So, for our 25th Blog-Off, we’ve decided to revisit the topic for the new year!

We’d also like to revisit our popular infographic from last year, and find out more about the successes of those trend predictions. Were there any ideas that never took off? Or trends that were so popular that they’ll still be going strong this year?

Why We’re Asking:

We’re all making resolutions for 2012, and when it comes to our home improvement goals, it’s always good to have a healthy dose of inspiration. In the race in to keep your place updated, even a year can make a big difference when it comes to finding new innovations and ideas.

We’re turning to the experts for help and asking them to weigh in right here in the comments. What does this mean? Homeowners will get the unedited answers directly from the experts. This is the forum to learn everything you need to know about next year’s trends.

So experts, it’s time to weigh in:

What are the home improvement trends for 2012?

What trends will be popular this year?

Designers: what is hot right now in terms of design, color, styles, and more?
Contractors: what new materials, techniques, types of projects, fixtures, layouts, and more will dominate 2012?

Most importantly, which trends are going to last and which ones will fizzle as passing fads? Which trends from last year have stood the test of time?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. I see the trends for 2012 turning to more of a simplistic nature, nature being the keyword. We are all familiar with the Euro slab door styles but, it will have a softer more natural wood feel, throwing warmth into the space. Decluttering is the new “buzz” word with much less fuss. You might see less busy moldings but, there will be an element mixed into the pallet that adds texture like a honed beamed ceiling. It’s really all about balance and I think the atmosphere that we live in today reflects our attitude in how our space is designed. People want to come home and decompress and they want their spaces to reflect this and give them the comfort they need. People are spending more time at home with their families and the kitchen has become the room where they gather and share meals. A lot of emphasis will be put into kitchen designs to meet this need.

  2. As usual, I am about function not form, I will assure you that getting quick hot Water at the Tap when you want it is a function that will please even the fluffiest. Ways to do this are not all the same, some waste Power, to save Water! others cost too much to install. So what to do? All the details are too much for this short note, but in a Readers Digest Version. No third “Re-Circ” pipe is needed a couple Pump Manufactures have packages with all details Grundfous has one, D’MAND has another, Laing has one, Metlund is another. I do not sell or represent these products I just teach systems design. “On Demand” is what the Green Code Book says is best, that is a design type. Timers alone are not effective, Pumps alone are not effective either. As the maximum allowable flow of a faucet gets lower, the time it takes to get Hot Water gets longer, unless a good system is installed. Free designs are out there, don’t Remodel with out one.

  3. BuiltSmart is a home building and remodeling company and we have seen Energy Home Improvements take a priority to kitchen and bath remodels for our Clients in Texas. Spray Foam insulation application in roofs in our area can save clients up to 25% on their monthly utility bills alone. We recommend clients work with third party energy raters to get a good baseline for areas to improve efficiency around their home. Clients who have taken measures to conserve energy are installing PV (photovoltaic) solar systems to help offset energy costs.

  4. The residential arena is still in a downturn; however, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it begins with the beginning of the year 2012. Here are what I am seeing to be the top trends in Home Improvement for 2012.


    Old World – OUT
    Soft Contemporary- IN
    Heavy Mouldings – OUT
    Minimal Mouldings – IN
    Granite Countertops – Still In, but not as popular as…
    Glass, Quartz, Wood Countertops – IN
    Ornate Backsplashes – OUT
    Simple Elegant Backsplashes – IN
    Pro Style Appliances – OUT
    European Appliances (Technology) – IN
    Handscraped Floors – OUT
    Large Format Tile – IN
    Painted / Glazed Cabinets – OUT
    Simple Colors / Accent Cabinets – IN
    Natural Woods – IN


    Old World – OUT
    Soft Contemporary- IN
    Heavy Mouldings – OUT
    Minimal Mouldings – IN
    Granite Countertops – Still In, but not as popular as…
    Glass, Quartz, Wood Countertops – IN
    Ornate Shower Tile Designs – OUT
    Simple Elegant Tile Designs – IN
    Knee Spaces – OUT
    Additional Storage – IN
    Small Floor Tile – OUT
    Large Format Tile – IN
    Dark Colors – OUT
    Light, Bright Colors – IN
    Single Shower Heads – OUT
    Multiple Shower Heads – IN
    Small Bathroom Size – OUT
    Large, Retreat / Suite Size – IN

  5. Smaller spaces overall. As we move to an older population we will see a focus on aging in place homes that overall will be smaller as well as smaller sizes means a reduction in costs to both build and maintain and more affordable as we come out of the housing crisis.

    Energy Efficiency and move to encorporating more ways for renewables to be used to heat and cool the home – from solar to heat pumps – there is a greater interest in finding alternatives to reduce use and costs.

    The industry changes when demand changes and demand is often based on both needs and wants. Customers are starting to realize bigger is not better and are seeing that overall the payback period is less important when it comes to reducing use and waste in regards to Energy.

  6. THE home improvement trend for 2012 is green remodeling, particularly energy
    efficient retrofits.

    With concern over environmental sustainability growing and rising home
    energy costs, environmental awareness has increased. As a result, energy
    efficient retrofits will be top of mind for remodeling
    homeowners…especially when rebates or incentives are offered for making
    their homes more energy efficient.

    Energy efficient retrofit projects include:

    1. Installing adequate insulation in the attic, floor and walls to reduce
    heating and cooling costs
    2. Replacing single-pane windows with Energy Star qualified double-pane low
    emissivity/low-E windows (emissivity measures how much a glass surface
    transfers radiant heat)
    3. Replacing inefficient hot water systems with high efficiency storage
    water heaters that use better insulation and more efficient burners OR
    tankless water heaters that provided hot water on demand
    4. Installing Energy Star light fixtures that use 1/2 to 2/3 less energy
    than standard fixtures
    5. Installing Energy Star refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and

    This trend will continue because these types of projects make sense for the
    environment and well as homeowners’ wallets in the long run.

  7. *What trends will be popular this year?Lawn replacement and other
    sustainable landscape design trends that produce both cost savings and
    increased curb appeal.

    * Designers: what is hot right now in terms of design, color, styles, and
    more? Use of natives in landscaping! In California, a distinctly
    California aesthetic can now be seen in virtually every neighborhood. Once
    one homeowner takes the plunge and their neighbors see how perpetually
    vibrant their garden stays throughout the year, more and more go native. We
    also see more people taking their landscaping to the curb, forgoing the
    typical long strip of grass for something that compliments their home’s
    architecture and front garden for maximum curb appeal.

    * Contractors: what new materials, techniques, types of projects, fixtures,
    layouts, and more will dominate 2012? While LEED techniques are far from
    new, we are seeing more landscape designers and architects beginning to take
    them seriously. Likewise, we see more general contractors looking for this
    expertise in their landscape designers as they work to achieve LEED
    certifications for homes and other buildings. [Background: LEED practices
    make buildings more energy efficient and reduce their overall carbon
    footprint. The LEED standard was designed and is enforced by the US Green
    Building Council.]

    * Most importantly, which trends are going to last and which ones will
    fizzle as passing fads? We believe the sustainable measures that produce
    year-over-year cost savings, like lawn replacement and use of natives are
    here to stay. While we hope those that produce a great environmental and
    community benefit, like permeable paving and infiltration, will maintain the
    public interest; however, we see more interest and understanding of these
    trends in the high-end market than in the general public. If landscape
    designers and environmental advocates are unable to explain these trends in
    simple terms with clearly defined personal benefits, they may fail to become
    more mainstream and fizzle.

    * Which trends from last year have stood the test of time? While taking a
    landscape design through the parkway to the street is a new trend, we expect
    it to last the test of time and gain steam, just as the use of native plant
    materials has. It is based on a standing and powerful trend of ensuring a
    landscape design complements and enhances the architecture of the buildings
    it surrounds.

  8. With the start of the new year, homeowner’s are looking for fresh home
    improvement ideas, so I present you with two emerging trends in 2012:
    “Greening” homes in conjunction with wireless home technology. The
    utilization of remote- access home monitoring systems not only saves
    homeowners money by reducing their electrical usage, but reduces their
    environmental impact, as well. In 2011, contractors saw a boost in
    residential “going green” initiatives and LEED certifications, with over
    10,000 homes being awarded the certification according to the U.S. Green
    Building Council.

    · Cork flooring is recommended for its durability and production
    process. Cork flooring is made from 100% recycled post-industrial materials
    that help homeowners reach an LEED certification in their net-zero energy
    building plans.

    · Slate-ish Paper Tile by Straw, Sticks & Bricks look and feel like
    slate but are made from post-industrial recycled FSC certified paper and
    are warmer, stronger and more environmentally friendly compared to real
    mined slate.

    · Solar thermal systems utilize advanced technology that directly
    converts sunlight into electricity lowering electrical bills and reducing
    carbon emissions. Some homeowner’s can even be eligible for a Federal Tax

    · Wireless home monitoring systems, such as Z-Wave, allows homeowners
    to control their home’s lights, appliances, A/V components, heating/cooling
    systems and security systems from anywhere that provides internet access,
    even cell phones. The remote access provides a peace-of-mind for home
    security and creates an energy efficient home.

  9. At Ro-Mac Lumber, we asked all of the department heads what kinds of trends they expect to see in Central Florida homes this year and compiled them below.

    We wanted to feature easy home improvement projects that will improve the look and value of the home:

    1. New Front Door
    2. Add A Deck or Dock
    3. Add A Garage Door Screen
    4. Repair Or Replace Roof
    5. Eco-Friendly Remodeling
    6. New Garage Doors
    7. Replace Interior And Exterior Door Knobs
    8. Replace Windows
    9. Wood Interior Doors
    10. Add Custom Features – Wainscoting

    • We have to agree that homeowners are still going to be looking to improve curb appeal and market value. These types of additions are not only going to enhance the marketability of the home, but will also yield good returns on the investment, as compared to other additions.

  10. As with all New Year’s resolutions that fade in the coming months, we soon forget the discomfort and cost of the heating season as spring arrives. Much like the things we resolved to change, our troubles come back again in the next season. To include those who live in warmer climes, the same issues happen for the hottest days in the summer, as the sun beats down on our under-insulated attics, and the air conditioner struggles to keep up in a leaky house, fighting as it tries to cool the great outdoors.

    Energy Efficiency is no passing fad, and for that matter, nor is comfort. And they say there is nothing new under the sun. Sure, we come up with better technologies and products to make our lighting cheaper, or our walls better insulated, but sticking to the fundamentals does us a lot of good. Stuff won’t save us, but how we use it will. Make your home perform well and you will be rewarded: insulate, air seal, manage moisture and the quality of indoor air, and reduce electric loads in lighting and appliances. Not too glamorous, but good stuff nonetheless.

    Often we can’t do it all at once. With a plan in hand, such as a comprehensive home assessment, every remodeling project can have a deeper and more satisfying result. A new kitchen can mean lower utility bills, a small addition can mean more comfort, as well as space. Keep in mind that comfort, health, safety and efficiency are the quiet, but all so important, underlying trends we should consider but too often regret, when we forget them in improving our homes.

  11. Energy efficiency will continue to be the home improvement pick as we ALL look for ways to cut costs, maximize investments, and be a part of helping keep our homes healthy and operating efficiently. A major marketplace push by a large home improvement company will bring a “cookie-cutter” technological energy-efficiency solution to consumers in 2012. By the end of the year, it will be the “it” thing to have your home certified as energy efficient, and a major selling point for America’s home sellers.

  12. Once old is now new again as contractors and homeowners rediscover the time tested benefits of quality decking material like California Redwood.

    Over the past few years, synthetic decks were all the rage as manufacturers marketed the concept of “maintenance free” materials, paired with the idea that it was a recycled product and therefore, “green.” Homeowners jumped on the bandwagon, paying upwards of 30% more in material costs to install decks made with this “sustainable” product. The truth is that building a deck with a farmed Redwood product is a more green option than a plastic product that will ultimately fail and end up in the landfill, waiting an eternity to decay.

    With synthetic decking issues on the rise, manufacturers changed the material specifications to PVC or went out of business in 2011. With others facing massive class-action lawsuits due to material failure and extensive product recalls, companies such as The California Redwood Company are seeing an increased demand from the consumers getting back to what they know: quality Redwood decking that lasts.

    In addition, consumers are discovering that the justification of spending more to install a synthetic deck because of the reduced cost of maintaining it is highly misguided. Many of them are spending more than the cost of annual Redwood deck maintenance to mitigate mold and mildew laden in synthetic decking. A strong number of them are ultimately opting to replace the entire deck with Redwood; a costly way to correct a poor decision. Synthetic decks bring almost 10% less of a return on the investment, as compared to a wood deck, according to the 2012 Cost Vs. Value survey.

    From a practical, economical, and financial standpoint, consumers are educating themselves on the best materials out there that will perform well and yield a good return. They’ll see that going natural is the best way to go and the return to Redwood will certainly be a trend this year.

  13. There is going to be a large push for greener building this year, across all markets including commercial, residential and industrial. The notion that green building is too expensive to produce substantial ROI will start to fade. We predict that 2012 will be the year when simple green design software becomes widely used, allowing everyone from architects to contractors to homeowners to easily select eco-friendly design options that best fit the desired budget and outcome. With today’s strict structural and mechanical energy code requirements, mandated by both local and federal governments, this type of software will help all users be informed and involved during the design and development processes. The more knowledge homeowners, architects and developers have about green energy options, finances, and building codes, the more efficient and successful the construction process will be, whether building from the ground up or completing much needed renovations.

  14. As a designer, I’m happy to report that this year’s big trend will be Design Liberation! For the first time, individual taste as an expression of self is HOT enough to be considered an actual industry trend (though it is a fundamental part of what defines our entire business at PHAG!). This liberation will result in the freedom to explore unique color schemes, exotic materials, and the ability to fearlessly blend traditional luxurious styles with simple, contemporary lines. We should expect to see a great deal more emphasis on individuality, sparking very personal and interesting design ideas.

    Some specific predictions encompassed by this trend include:
    1. A welcome return to bright, vivid, and cheerful colors
    2. Rustic comfort mixed with high-gloss, polished finishes
    3. The blending of attractive, comfortable furnishings with elegant, stylish pieces
    4. Mix-n-match accessories that range from natural stones and woods to shiny metals and even plastics
    5. Layered fabrics and upholsteries with high levels of color and texture contrasts

    If we’re lucky, many elements of this industry-approved freedom to express ourselves will be a mainstay in design for years to come!

    We will see a continuance of some of last year’s trends, as well. With no end to the tough economic climate in sight, we can expect this new-found liberation to result in a continued excitement among people choosing to stay put where they are. In the end, many homeowners will choose to take advantage of these factors by electing to update their older homes with a touch of chic, contemporary style- seeing the old space through a new lens, if you will; their own unique lens!

    A focus on blending materials also means looking to sustainable materials for much of the warm, rustic comfort in our homes, making eco-style a continued trend in the new year. Likewise, our freedom to create will result in many unexpected applications for use of space, so hybrid spaces will not only be more efficient in the new year, but also more inventive.

    With comfort and style as a basis, 2012 design trends will celebrate individuality and allow your own your personality to take care of the decorating details.

  15. Future trends are difficult to predict but if money or saving money is any motivating factor, homeowners will continue to integrate smaller solar lights outside of their home due to improvements in solar panels and improved construction and durability. Solar panels are significantly less than prior years so the smaller items around the house we take for granted will now be rebuilt with newer solar technology to provide daily functionality without the operating costs from conventional products.

    I remember awhile back Samsung was developing a solar power phone. Yes, that is correct, a Solar Powered Phone! I’m still a fan of the IPhone but what I took from the experience is that Scientists and Engineers are now gearing up production in new items or redesigning devices now to be powered from solar. The integration of solar into conventional devices will provide homeowners advance solar powered products that not only will accent homes; the solar products will provide tangible savings! Everything we do will take time, dial up to now 4G tech, the solar industry will continue to push forward as long as we can imagine.

  16. A new year means new trends for everything including home remodeling and improvements. It is good to note that natural themes will be popular this year which means houses can exhibit elegant styles without sacrificing comfort. Homeowners will surely be excited to plan and execute their projects this year with these fresh ideas.

  17. We’ve noticed a large energy consumption savings trend among homeowners over the last couple of year and expect it to grow in 2012. When revitalizing one’s home, using energy efficient products with lifetime, transferrable warranties are very popular. It isn’t about getting the cheap, easy fix anymore. It is about quality, long-lasting, affordable products.

    • The lifetime, transferable warranties will be key this year, I’ve got to agree. With so many manufacturers putting out sub-par products in the past, homeowners will be looking to spend money on products that will last, versus products that are cheap.

  18. Anything eco-friendly and sustainable is becoming mainstream in the design world. Manufacturers are responding to demand by educated consumers with more eco-friendly decorating products. As these products become mainstream, shoppers in secondary markets are beginning to catch on to the trend. Hopefully 2012 will be the tipping point, where there are enough sustainable and eco=friendly products on the shelves that consumers will be faced with making sustainable choices on a daily basis, and will be able to choose organic cotton sheets or Bio foam products for their furniture without having to go far out of their way.

    The trend towards eclectic interiors is definitely hot right now and will continue to be for a long time. When we are freed from the tight constraints of decorating “themes”, it is easier to recycle existing furnishings, buy new items that have personality, and to allow a space to grow over time and become a home of substance instead of a trendy showplace.

  19. Here’s the part where I resist against the not-too-cool impulse to link to a blog post I’ve published! 🙂 But, I don’t really need to, as some of the observations above cover off most of what’s been said on my blog, and elsewhere too.

    Green building has been moving toward the mainstream for some time, and I don’t personally see that being any different in 2012. Green building is very tightly associated with energy efficiency over the long term, and lower energy bills for the same. Since people will be staying where they are instead of moving, generally speaking, this is going to be huge.

    In line with that money-saving aspect, I think remodeling on budgets are going to continue as well – refinishing old surfaces rather than buying new ones, getting creative when it comes to adding little details to spaces rather than investing in huge projects, and more investment in less glamourous additions (low-e windows, water saving plumbing, etc).

    On paper, this looks like it’s going to be an austere year. But, I don’t think so. I think the idea of being smarter about home improvement, rather than being “bigger”, is going to be very empowering for a lot of people.

  20. In 2012, storage trends are pointing to smaller spaces. People are realizing the value of a smaller home and understand that it’s all about making it efficient to fit their specific needs. Foyers are out and mudrooms and drop zones are in. Large home offices are changing into multi-functional works spaces where families are not secluded from one another. A spot to pay bills, do homework, office work and craft projects all in one. Furniture such as bedroom dressers our getting designed within a closet using adjustable storage systems to open up living space in the bedroom. It’s all about maximizing space.

    As far as color trends, we’re seeing a lot of natural tones being invited indoors. We did a lot of research this past summer and as a result, freedomRail is launching a new color in February. It’s called driftwood and is a gray earth tone that reflects popular natural trends. Be sure to stay tuned!

  21. The trend right now is to make strategic, high-value improvements. Clients are looking for smaller improvements that have big (and personal) impact. Rather than the grand renovations, homeowners desire smaller, well-done improvements that give a lot of satisfaction day-to-day. Because these are personalized, they naturally add a lot of character to the home.


    1) Upgrading lighting in any one space. “Upgrading” doesn’t mean just new fixtures, it means developing a layered lighting scheme for a space so that there is a lot of flexibility in the ambience of the space at night.
    2) Adding intimacy to spaces. For example, adding a projected bay window in a master suite that is well trimmed and fitted to create a comfortable sitting space where there once was none.
    3) Adding built-in cabinetry. It helps manage clutter and, if well done, adds a lot of sculptural character to the space.
    None of these are large projects, but matter a lot to homeowners. As always, the level of design execution is really important here. A bay window added to a master bedroom is all about craftsmanship and detailing. Do it well for the best impact!

  22. 2012 is shaping up to be the year that home energy conservation takes center stage. While saving energy has continued to be a big concern for home owners over the past several years, there are a number of things coming together to really kick things into high gear. For starters, Energy Star 3.0 – new, higher standards for getting that Energy Star certification – came into full force on January 1st. In addition, rising fuel prices and new energy saving solutions are making home weatherization and energy efficiency projects more popular than ever. Putting it into real numbers, it’s estimated that the energy efficient home improvement market will grow from $8.1 billion in 2009 to more than $50 billion by 2014. Assisting in that growth are utility companies that continue to offer rebates and other incentives to have the work done. From insulating to solar, saving energy will be the ticket – and now that new aerosol-based duct sealing technology finally makes air duct sealing easy and effective, we are seeing a huge increase in the number of home owners tackling this top ranked means of reducing heating and cooling costs.

  23. What’s #trending?

    Looking back at last year’s trends I see so much of what is still viable now. In fact, I have 2 thoughts. #1) trends don’t really change year to year, but more so decade to decade. Year to year we notice subtle changes as in shades of a hue in the paint we use, or slightly different substrates used for flooring. So, ask me in another few years and I’ll be able to truly pin point the metamorphosis of the teen years. #2) I would actually encourage the eLocal readers to ask themselves a simple question based on the fact that design/building wise things are very much the same. That question is: what will you do differently this coming year to achieve different results (assuming the results from last year weren’t what you had hoped for)? After all, if you keep doing the same thing as last year, then you’ll likely achieve the same results.

    So, what are you going to do to cut down on the heating bills? Are you going to turn off the heater while you’re out of the house? Or, invest in a timer? If you do the latter, crunch the numbers and see how long it will take to make your money back. Find out when it will pay for itself.

    How are you going to be wise with your money during the remainder of the renovation? Are you going to go to Crate and Barrel and spend $1000+ on a sofa that you just love, or are you going to use the same sofa you currently have and just buy/make new pillows to perk it up? If you do the latter, create a big graphic on the opposing wall and your eye will be drawn away from the old sofa.

    Let’s face it, unemployment is still pretty dang high, so people continue to DIY. But, when you do the job yourself, are you using your time wisely? Could you be making more money at your job job VS learning how to re-plumb that busted toilet? If the latter is the case, perhaps a barters is a great option. I’ll help you if you help me.

    Of course, only you can know what’s #trending in your world and what you’re going to do differently… and, I’d love to hear! So tweet me what you’re going to do differently this year @TracyMetro

  24. From a contractor perspective what we anticipate in the Midwest:

    I should purchase a lottery ticket since I am looking to the future.

    Many Do-It-Yourself project will begin.

    Clients will do minor upgrades such as painting etc. rather than major undertakings (full kitchen remodels) to save on cash. Clients will reface kitchen cabinets etc., before replacing them.

    Room additions and basement completions are more likely since many young adults are moving back in with their parents due to the weak economy.

    Home going on the market will see more of their flooring such as carpets cleaned vs. being replaced to put the house on the market.

    In the restoration field, we will continue to see clients wanting assistance in cleaning up damage to homes when they have a water damage etc. They will do some part of the project to save on deductable etc., and file fewer claims.]

    I think many will upgrade to energy saving items in homes from light fixtures to insulation to other sources of heating such as pellet stoves.

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