A Master Class in Bathroom and Kitchen Design | Podcast

Podcast
When homeowners are surveyed about which rooms are most critical to get right, the kitchen and the primary bath typically top the list. But that doesn’t make it easy. There is an ongoing battle between functionality and aesthetics, and the struggle to stay on top of trends is constant. Brian Juedes, National Vice President of Product Design at Taylor Morrison, fights this battle every day. If there are trade-offs to be made that impact the desirability of your home, you had better make the right ones. Brian has done the hard work so now, after listening to this New Home Insights podcast episode, you won’t have to.

Featured guest

Brian Juedes, National Vice President of Product Design, Taylor Morrison

As the National VP of Product Design at Taylor Morrison, Brian leads the effort to improve operational efficiency through product design across all divisions from California to Florida.

He is a licensed structural engineer and architect with 35 years of professional experience (specializing in residential design for the last 24 years). Over that time Brian was responsible for the design of over a quarter of a million homes across the country.

Transcript

Dean Wehrli:

Hi everyone, I’m Dean Wehrli for the New Home Insights podcast. It’s time we caught up with design. We haven’t done design stuff for a little while and I missed that. Our New Home Trends Institute recently hosted a design conference in Dallas, and our guest today was very kind, he came and chatted with us for a while then. We liked him so much, we brought him back for a full podcast. That guest is Brian Juedes, he’s the National Vice President of Product Design for Taylor Morrison Homes. Brian is very passionate about all things related to home design, as you might guess.

So since we don’t want the show to be 18 hours long, we’re going to focus on some pretty discrete areas. We’re going to focus on the showers, we’re going to focus on the bath, and then we’re going to step into the kitchen for a little bit, but it’ll kind of be a masterclass on those areas rather than the entire home. So Brian, how you doing today?

Brian Juedes:

Very well, thank you Dean. Thanks for the opportunity to speak today on the podcast. I’m excited to share some of the things we’re doing at Taylor Morrison and in the overall industry as well.

Dean Wehrli:

So why don’t you start us off with that before we step into the shower. Let’s start with your background and kind of what you do at Taylor Morrison.

Brian Juedes:

Sure. I’m a registered architect and professional civil engineer and structural engineer, and I’ve been working exclusively in production housing for the last 27 years. I’m currently the Vice President of Product Design at Taylor Morrison Homes. Very happy to be here, and I’ve been here for just about 18 months now, leading our efforts in product optimization across the country.

Dean Wehrli:

So you’re kind of the guru of design for one of the biggest home builders in the country, which is pretty cool.

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, thank you.

Dean Wehrli:

That sounds fun. So let’s start with the shower. Start us off here Brian with kind of just briefly your big picture kind of wholistic view of how the factors that you’re looking at when you think about designing or redesigning the shower when you’re looking at a Taylor Morrison home, what is the major, major considerations?

Brian Juedes:

Sure. So we’re talking about the primary bath, previously known as the master bath, in our homes. In these primary baths, we know that it’s the number one or number two most important space in the house based on surveys we get from multiple sources. Kitchen, great room is number one or number two, and then the primary bath is number one or number two. So very important space in the home. And the trends today have been heightened due to the pandemic, more people spending more time at home, more people getting more stressed and needing a place of retreat or relaxation. So these primary baths have really been a focal point for the industry in the last few years to create more of a spa-like, restful experience.

Dean Wehrli:

So let’s start with I know because we’ve talked before of course as I mentioned, you have just a ton of factors that you’re looking at. It’s amazing how detailed and how many considerations you’re thinking about when you design a bath. So let’s start with the most basic, which is the size of that shower. How big is too big? How big is big enough for a shower in the primary bath?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, great question. So the small shower that would be sized for one person is not considered large enough for most of our products today. And so everything’s proportionate or scaled and we build everything from small 1,300 square foot townhomes all the way up to 6,000 square foot luxury mansions. So we have to consider size and scale of the overall home first.

But what most people are looking for today in a primary bath is a shower that’s sized for two people to be in there at the same time, not just one. And if it is just one person, they have adequate elbow room in this space. So that’s typically going to be at least three foot by six foot, a nominal size for a two person shower. Now some showers get bigger and they can be too big. The common complaint is when a shower gets too big, it’s cold and you can’t keep it warm enough, it’s just too much volume of air that keeps that shower from warming up and keeping people comfortable while they’re in there. So they certainly can be too small and they can be too big, three foot by six foot is kind of a middle of the road size for two.

Dean Wehrli:

That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about that. So yeah, if you are really trying to heat up that space and make it nice and steamy and warm, especially on a cold day. So yeah, if you have too much volume in there, it’s not going to work. Do you ever guys do any … In some custom markets, you have play showers meant for multiple folks? Do you actually find room in maybe some of your luxury homes for some really oversized showers?

Brian Juedes:

Yes, we do. And they are real showpieces. They’re more jewelry box kind of elements and very appealing spaces, but not necessarily as functional as the classic three-foot by six-foot shower for two. But we certainly have them in our high end homes. And as you’re going to get to next is the shape. The shape can change. The common basic for simplicity is this rectangle, but we see some that are in oval shapes or round shapes or L shapes or T shapes, a wide variety. Those are typically again going to be limited to our luxury products and you’ll see them much more often in custom homes.

Dean Wehrli:

Is there something hot right now? Is L-shaped hotter? Is it hot right now maybe to have those long showers and they have no door and they sort of open at the end, hopefully your water doesn’t get out? Is that trendy right now? What’s the trend with shape?

Brian Juedes:

I would say that we’re still in a linear, modern, contemporary style trend that allows us to stay linear and rectangular. And that these more organic shapes or odd geometries aren’t as popular as they may have been in the past.

Dean Wehrli:

Do you ever have to shape a shower to something structural, especially maybe in smaller floor plan options, you have to kind of wrap around or do something funky with the shower shape?

Brian Juedes:

Fortunately no. But I could see that happening in some custom products. But in our production environment, no. We try to keep it pretty clean and simple, especially on the smaller lower end products.

Dean Wehrli:

Yeah, you kind of design out … Because I’m trying to think. I mean I see thousands and thousands in my normal work, I see lots of mo models all the time. I can’t think of seeing something really, really weird. You have to start with a rational shape or forget it in the shower.

Brian Juedes:

Correct.

Dean Wehrli:

How about shower heads? The old proverb is two heads are better than one. Are two shower heads better than one?

Brian Juedes:

Clearly if we want that shower to be functional for two people, it really does need two heads, and two heads on opposing walls is going to be the general layout for that so that it is actually functional. Those are some of the wall head wall showers on the walls. There are also rain head shower heads that are mounted on the ceiling and those are more showpieces and a lot of people complain or don’t use them when they get them. They look great, but when it comes time to use them, I hear a lot of complaints. So those are not very common anymore in the production environment. We typically just do the walls, but you do need two.

And then the other trend, and especially in our active lifestyle products, we have our Esplanade brand where we cater to active lifestyle or resort lifestyle living, they’re going to want an adjustable or a handheld shower head so that they have that ability to use that when they need it.

Dean Wehrli:

Yeah. And you’re thinking about things like height. I remember olden days going to my buddy’s dorm room at Seneca State as a prelude to go into Tijuana and I’m not kidding, the shower heads were a little above hip height. It was ludicrous. I’m assuming you’re thinking about shower heads and is there an ideal shower head height because you only have so many different heights in a household?

Brian Juedes:

Yes, and I think we’ve come a long way. Hopefully we don’t see any new products with the hip height shower heads anymore. I think most of the industry has gotten a pretty standard shower head height that’s going to be between six and seven foot, and that accommodates I think the vast majority of the buying public today.

Dean Wehrli:

Yeah. Are you testing that? Do you guys test people, tastefully clothed, taking showers to see how they work with shower heights? Is that part of your shower-

Brian Juedes:

They haven’t gotten that far yet. It’s a good idea Dean.

Dean Wehrli:

I might start a consultancy. Okay, let’s talk about the valves. No one wants to have to turn on the water and get sprayed in the head or have to do some kind of crazy configurations, reaching and stretching. How do you think about where you turn on and how you have the hot and cold water work together?

Brian Juedes:

Great question Dean, this one really seems to get overlooked a lot. And as evidence of that, I would just cite my visits to completed homes of our competition and going on the internet and looking at Pinterest pictures of completed showers on homeowners with their happy remodel and posting all these new showers that they’ve designed. And to see these valve positions to turn the water on and off, it’s incredible that it often seems to get overlooked.

There’s two key things to keep in mind as you indicated. Number one, you need to be able to turn the water on and off without getting wet, so it can’t be too deep into the shower. And then secondly, just as importantly I think, is you need to be able to adjust the temperature and still be getting wet or in the stream because some places they put the valves by the entry of the shower and it’s too far away from the shower head that adjusts the temperature. That would work if you had an auto adjust or a sensor putting out the perfect temperature that you’ve selected digitally. But most people don’t have the means or wherewithal to have that kind of technology in their showers, so most of us have a manual shower head. We need to be able to turn it on without getting wet. We need to be able to adjust the temperature while we are wet

Dean Wehrli:

And have enough space to get out of the way while it is changing temp, that’s critical.

Brian Juedes:

Correct.

Dean Wehrli:

And since you and I spoke in Dallas, I actually have … So again, I walk a lot of models and most recently I was thinking about this because of our conversation back a month or so ago, and I will say most of you and your competitors, in fact all of yours and your competitors too, they do it right. I won’t say who the builder was, but I did run across one that’s like there’s no way I can’t get wet turning the water on, and this is a brand new home.

Speaking of Dallas, so I mentioned back when we spoke before that I would love to see what you just said, which is shower temperature expressed digitally and controlled digitally. And then Carrie Seymour from Kohler, friend of the show, mentioned, “We already do that,” and I was very embarrassed. Are you guys at Taylor Morrison, are you doing that? Do you have digital control shower temps?

Brian Juedes:

Not that I’m aware of. It’s a good question. That would be a better question for our purchasing leadership to decide. If we use that, it would most likely be limited to our higher end luxury products.

Dean Wehrli:

Yeah. I want it, as I said, I was so annoyed that A, it’s in existence and more so B, that I don’t have it. So windows, light, another thing you’re constantly thinking about. Is it natural light kind of the key even in the shower? You got to think about things like height and frosting or things like that.

Brian Juedes:

Yeah. We know from all of our surveys again that some amount of natural light in these primary bathrooms is critical to create the spa-like restful experience. You can imagine yourself in a primary bath with no natural light, and it is not a restful or spa-like experience. It’s dark, cramped typically, and just not a place where you want to spend your time. So we need some amount of natural light. Most will say more the better, up to a point of privacy.

So you indicated on what is that level and is it the amount of glass or the sill height of the glass or how close your neighbor is to you, the side yard depth? Do the windows align between your house and your neighbor’s house? A lot of variables there, but we’re sensitive to that. We typically try to keep our sill heights in the shower four or five feet off the floor. That seems to satisfy most people. For those that want more, there’s always a frost or a film they can put on the glass or a curtain or other mechanism to provide the privacy. But we definitely want to be able to accommodate the natural light to open up that space and make it feel larger.

Dean Wehrli:

Shower doors, I’m sure you’re thinking about that as well. Is there a trend there? Is there something that’s the hottest thing right now in doors?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, the trend really has been no door recently. It’s amazing. 20 years ago we had what was called the snail shower and those were the door-less showers that often had a geometry that was associated with a snail or some sort of curved entry or angular entry to get in there to protect the rest of the bathroom from getting wet, but they took the door off. And then that went away, and for the last 20 years we’ve done doors and these frame-less doors have taken over the industry as opposed to the framed door. So the frame-less heavy glass door has really been the trend up until recently in the last few years, where we’re seeing more and more people going without the door. And that these are in these expanded showers, they have a dry off pad outside of the shower pan itself so that you don’t need this door and it’s really one less piece of glass to have to squeegee and keep clean.

So from a practical standpoint, I think buyers appreciate them and they live in them, they appreciate it. The only complaint without a door is that sometimes it can be cold again in the shower because you’re not able to trap in the heat and the steam. So those are the trade-offs, more squeegee or more cold?

Dean Wehrli:

Well I don’t do the squeegee part, but I’m a slob. How about bench seats? As we age as a demographic, and I’m sure that it’s going to be different for different buyer segment targets, but is bench seats within a shower a trend right now?

Brian Juedes:

I see more without. I think again, the contemporary lean, mean architectural styling has these showers without the bench seats in them. Or if someone needs it, I see the teak bench, it’s a freestanding teak bench be placed in the shower as a nice furniture piece. So you’ll get that functionality without interrupting the clean lines of the shower and the tile work that’s being done. There’s so much decorative tile and materials and surfaces available today that people don’t want to interrupt that with this utilitarian bench that we used to see built into the tile work. So I like the teak benches as far as keeping the lines of the tile in the shower clean and crisp for those who don’t need the bench.

Depending on your consumer group though, there are multiple needs. Some will need a bench to actually sit down, but more than likely the bench is more of a toe ledge for shaving up the legs, and that has to be properly placed and sized onto where it is. And people have preferences, but generally needs to be near the shower head so that it’s functional. And there are some that are doing the little triangular corners for a toe ledge, just clipping a corner in the shower, and there are others that will go clear across the width. So no real strong preference there. I see both being used today.

Dean Wehrli:

I’m assuming though on your Esplanade you mentioned, which is a 55 plus product line, I’m assuming you’re going to have bench seats even more common or even universal when you’re doing that design.

Brian Juedes:

Correct. We definitely have a higher need for our aging or more mature buyers.

Dean Wehrli:

Which brings up kind of another point, which is are there times, and this wouldn’t happen obviously when you know you’re targeting 55 plus, but are there times where you’re thinking about the buyer profile that might be relevant that you think you’re targeting and you just have a miss and you retrofit? Are you flexible like that? Does that ever happen?

Brian Juedes:

Yes, it does. And not just in the shower, but it might be on some other aspects within the home too. We do a pretty thorough job today with our product research. Consumer group surveys, buyer surveys, shopper surveys, focus groups, talking with realtors in all of our markets to try and limit those mistakes or missteps. But it does happen. And then we have to be flexible and admit to the mistake and make the change, but few and far between luckily.

Dean Wehrli:

That’s good, that’s good. But it’s also good that you are able to retrofit and you do keep an eye on that, who your initial buyers are like, “Okay, let’s fix that.”

Brian, let’s towel off, step out of the shower. We’re going to step now into the primary bathroom. Strikes me that generally speaking, you are thinking about the bathroom, really everywhere but let’s talk about the bath, you’re thinking about this balance, this trade off between functionality and aesthetics, which it seems like to me those could often be at odds with one another. Are you constantly wrestling with those two factors when you’re designing the primary bath?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, we are. And it gets even more complicated in that it varies with every product type and size that we offer from our very small town homes where we have very limited space to work with and it’s a real struggle all the way up to our luxury large homes where we have so much space sometimes we don’t know what to do with it. So it goes from one extreme to the other and everything in between, but it is a balance of aesthetics and function. The biggest thing today really has been a lot of talk around the tubs and do we even need a primary bathtub anymore? And depending on your consumer group and the markets you’re in and the price points you’re serving with your products, you get a lot of varied answers.

There’s no clear right or wrong today, but there is a lot of discussion around bathtubs in the primary versus no baths, what we typically call in the industry a four piece versus a five piece bath. The four piece is the two sinks, the toilet and the shower. The five piece are those four plus a tub. And it’s a common metric. We’re measuring it, and our plans and all of our competitors’ plans in every market we operate, and we’re paying close attention to it as it pivots from one to the other on where we are going to align ourselves because it’s a big cost factor to our home buyers to include the tub if they’re never going to use it, or to not have a tub when they actually need a tub. So it’s a tough call.

Dean Wehrli:

Is it something like the fireplace maybe where you may not use it very often or even at all, but you want it just in case? Or maybe even it’s a press stage thing. Is it a little bit like that?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah,

There are some that consider it just the showpiece and it’s a jewel and it needs to be in the bath. One thing that helps that is the window that’s usually associated with the tub. It’s a much bigger window than you would see in the shower if you even have a window in the shower. So to help light the bathroom up, we typically will have a 4040 or a 5050 window in these bathrooms centered over the tub, and that provides a lot of natural light into the space. So when you take the tubs out, lose some natural light typically, and that’s one of the struggles.

So the tub may not be used, but people like it as a showpiece or they may like it for the window. And even if they only use it a couple times a year, they want it, or they want it for resale. They consider it a valuable piece that they need to have it in their homes. But they seem to be shrinking. And your surveys at John Burns that we get from the New Home Trends Institute are showing that the younger buyers today are yielding on the tub and they would rather just have the shower and take the cost or the price of that and spend it somewhere else in the home.

Dean Wehrli:

But you mentioned the window here and you mentioned that a minute ago. This is where you have to be super careful in lining up because when your neighbor asks you, “Hey, what time do you think you are taking a shower tonight?”, A, you call the police, and B, you think about maybe how your window is lined up. Are you always looking at the site plan and thinking, “Okay, we’ve got to offline these windows or we shrink them or frost them,” or what have you?

Brian Juedes:

Correct. Correct.

Dean Wehrli:

How about in terms of beyond light and beyond natural light, which I know is a huge design trend right now, it’s that naturalness to it. Are you doing stone accents or things like that to make that bath area, that primary bath, look very natural?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah. And the color palettes and materials a little outside of my expertise, that gets into our interior design team’s work and our design centers and our packages that we have. I know a little about that and the trends, but certainly not my expertise. I’m more on the functional side of how big our bathrooms are and our plumbing fixture count, the length of the vanity, and other things that we’re including in these bathrooms from an architectural standpoint. But I know natural materials and the muted color palettes still very popular.

Dean Wehrli:

How about, and this may be exactly what you said you’re not doing, but Hollywood lighting? I read something that where Hollywood lighting really is out, that harsh in your face lighting, and more natural lighting is in.

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, good question Dean. That is in our architectural drawings. So our electrical plans need to identify what’s the lighting throughout the house, including our primary baths. And yeah, the days of the Hollywood light bar, this wall mounted light fixture that sat above the full length mirror on the vanity, which is also a point of discussion, our mirrors, but these Hollywood bar lights are really a thing of the past and have really in the last five years gone from a tipping point where they were more than 50% to clearly less than 50% today. Today the typical are just the LED wafers on the ceiling, and instead of a full length vanity mirror, now we’re doing smaller framed mirrors on the vanities, again to create a little warmer space and not just this big fishbowl with this full length mirror and this bright light shining in your face.

Dean Wehrli:

Yeah, because they are not friendly to your face. At a certain age you think, “Wow, that’s unhelpful. Thank you designer for making me look like I’m a crone.” But like you mentioned a minute ago, you were trying to get that bathroom to be spa-like, to be restful. So if someone were to like puns they would say something like, “Are you putting the rest back in restroom?”, but that would be cheap so I won’t say that. But it is kind of interesting though, right? Bathrooms as spa, that doesn’t track naturally, but is that the trend?

Brian Juedes:

Yes it is, and you’ll see it throughout the industry today. And I think a lot of it just has to do with the floor space. How close are the two sinks to one another that are in there? How much space is there between the sink perpendicular out to the next wall or plumbing fixture? Can someone walk past someone while they’re using one of the sinks, or is the bathroom so narrow that you can’t even walk past somebody when they’re brushing their teeth?

So to blow open the space to create a little more room where we can afford to do so just makes it bigger and more functional and more restful. It’s not a hurried experience where you just get in and out of there as quickly as you can every morning and evening, but you actually may have even a place to sit down, a small bench somewhere, to just take a breather and have a space to decompress a little bit.

Dean Wehrli:

I saw somewhere else, and you might have sent it to me because you sent me some materials like, “Hey, check this out,” that workspaces, dedicated workspaces, are appearing in the primary bath or something? I mean it’s not like the home office, but some extra spaces are appearing in the bath. Did I read that right?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, I wouldn’t say work from home spaces, but in just a restful space it can be a place to sit, it can be a place for a piece of artwork, a functional bench, a place to sit and rest, read a book even. Some bathrooms will have a small lounge chair in them or a cushion chair just to sit and relax. So where we can accommodate that in our larger products, we will do so, and they show really well in our models when we do that.

Dean Wehrli:

How about humdrum things, just like where you put stuff like those old school narrow medicine cabinets, which I think are done now, but are you thinking about where storage is? Is everything supposed to be on the sink? How are you thinking about that?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, good question. Really first off, the medicine cabinets. So the in-wall medicine cabinets really are also trending down and out that more and more builders are pulling them out. It helps cost, it helps take another reflective surface on most side walls out of the bathroom because we don’t do the full length mirrors as much as we used to. We have the smaller vanity mirrors at the sinks and now we get rid of the medicine cabinet mirrors, and we now need to find other spaces in the bathroom for those things that were stored there. So you do need at least one drawer bank in your vanity bases, and in small products that can be difficult to find that space. You need at least six foot on the primary bath vanity to have two sinks and a 12-inch drawer bank in between because your sink bases are 30 and 30 inches and then you need the 12 inches in between, so you need a minimum of six feet.

And a lot of our competition doesn’t offer that, they offer only five feet. And with five feet you get no drawers typically. And that really can be challenging once you move into that house to find the place to put your toothbrush other than on the counter. So it’s a good point. Anytime you’re over the six foot or five foot minimum, you get into the six foot and beyond, you’re going to be able to get some drawers in your vanity and the more, the better. And some of our vanities go all the way up to 12 feet long, or we’ll split them and they’ll be two six footers, one for each of the occupants in the home on our luxury end. So it just gets pinched in our entry level products and our low end products to get that space.

Dean Wehrli:

But then your significant other takes up all of your space and you have space for a toothbrush and I don’t know, a shaver and that’s it. Sorry, just kidding. So how about secondary baths? How much of these lessons do you draw in and apply to the secondary baths?

Brian Juedes:

Some of those. It’s quite a different space. It’s definitely a more utilitarian space and budget-oriented space in most of our products, only on the very high end luxury homes where we go to the extra effort of providing more detail and more functionality into those bath twos. So they’re typically pretty utilitarian. They’re going to have a 30- or 36-inch vanity base, the toilet and the tub, and that would be your basic five by eight secondary bath.

There are some looking at bigger baths and bigger homes to create a better family experience in that bathroom so that you actually can get to the side of the tub without having to wind yourself around that toilet. So if the tub can go on the opposing side wall opposite the vanity instead of being half hidden by the toilet in a typical secondary bath situation, makes it much easier for a family to have small kids who need to be washed in the tub every night. So that is commonly called a family bath today, and I think they have a place. When we have a product and size and a price point where we can afford to do that, we certainly will.

Dean Wehrli:

But you don’t have a guy in there who hands you a towel and you have to give him a dollar and you pretend like you don’t have any cash on you and you pat your pockets but you say, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash.”? They wouldn’t have that.

Brian Juedes:

Haven’t gone that far yet.

Dean Wehrli:

Soon, or in some tech bros homes I’m sure already. How about in terms of, again, you sent me some information and I guess I wasn’t that surprised or I shouldn’t have been that surprised, but remodeling the bathroom is a huge, huge part when folks look to remodel their homes. And what was the biggest thing within the bath that they’re likely to remodel? Do you remember, did I ask you this?

Brian Juedes:

You’ll have to refresh my memory.

Dean Wehrli:

It was the shower. There was something you sent on a survey and the most important thing folks were citing for what they’re going to remodel in the bath was the shower, which is what we started here.

Brian Juedes:

Yeah. It is very interesting. I think bathrooms and kitchens clearly dominate the remodeling industry, two very important spaces in the home. And after 20 years or more, they do get a little dated as our industry keeps to transition a little bit. Some things we do the same as we did 100 years ago, but some things we have trends in fashion and trends in design of our bathrooms and kitchen, which is good to help our remodelers and try to keep our products current as possible.

Dean Wehrli:

Before we head to the kitchen, I actually wanted to ask you about that. How fast are these transitions? How quick do these trends change? Are you thinking in years, in months, in multiple of years typically for these major math considerations?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, that’s a great question Dean. I’ve only been in this business for the last 27 years like I said, so I can speak to that. And I would say in my experience over the last 27 years, the trends typically take years, years. Not decades and not months, but years to make their way across the country.

The exception to that was the pandemic, and the pandemic really changed things overnight for everybody. And in the home building industry, we quickly responded. Most of the production builders quickly responded to the work from home that was now mandatory as many people couldn’t go to work for several months there. And then today, now three years later, we still have the majority I think of workers and the hybrid work situation where they’re at least working from home one to two days a week. Well that requires some work from home space, and that trend happened overnight. But outside of the pandemic situation, trends in bathrooms, I think it takes several years typically for these things to evolve.

Dean Wehrli:

One thing that did take a long time but is a huge advantage for you folks in the new home part of the housing sector is just the number of bathrooms. I do feasibility studies for my main job and we look at a lot of resales and we’re often working in markets where the housing stock is very old. And you see very quickly how older homes are severely under bathed with respect to newer homes. And that’s hard to retrofit your own home and add bathrooms, isn’t it?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, it is. And that does help us. It’s amazing to me what a disadvantage we work at compared to resale. New home construction and new home sales are a small percentage of the retail sales every year, and it’s incredible. It doesn’t happen that way in the auto industry. Everybody wants a new car, not a used car. But in housing, the majority of people, I think it’s like nine out of 10, end up buying a used home, and one out of 10 get a new home. And it’s amazing because the difference is beyond the bathrooms that you identified, the differences in energy efficiency and cleanness of air, indoor air quality in the home, it’s night and day between a new home today and a home of just 20 years ago.

Dean Wehrli:

And sometimes ceiling heights and things like that are really, really hard to redo. So let’s step out of the bath, we’re going to step into the kitchen. Presumably we’ve put on bath robes, we don’t want to scar anybody for life. So let’s talk briefly about, I know one of your passions is the island. And it’s almost become a kind of controversial topic. Yes to the island, where should it be, how big should it be? Even some more no islands, which almost for a long time there seemed like it was just an automatic you had an island. How are you looking at kitchen islands these days?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, we are celebrating kitchen islands in the majority of our products and making them as big and as functional as possible. Typically, that island is going to be running parallel to the cooking wall. So the cooking appliance, be it a range or a cooktop, is going to be centered behind the kitchen island, running parallel to each other. The sink was typically in the island. We don’t do the two-tier islands any longer, the high low. It’s all one height at the 36-inch height today. 20 years ago, most islands had the tier or the step in them with bar stool to hide the sink was the purpose of that and to hide the workspace.

Today, it’s not the trend. We do everything flat at 36, and the width of these islands can vary. Typically, it’s a cabinet base pony wall and a 10 to 12 inch overhang. But there are some builders in larger products, us included, who will stretch that and put in a double pony wall or an airspace or two base cabinets, back to back base cabinets, to create a wider island and a real focal point for the kitchen and a big functional space.

Dean Wehrli:

I will say something that I’ve noticed and has bugged me for a long time with respect to islands, and you probably already know this, but as much as you can try to create at least two angles where you have legroom beneath the overhang to eat because otherwise, you see a lot of islands with four stools on one side and it’s almost like the person at the sink is entertaining the family. Why is it that you don’t see more at least one or if not two angles where you can have people stay on three sides, eating at the island from two or three sides.

Brian Juedes:

I don’t know why. I like that design element as well. The side cantilever is what you’re speaking to. Instead of a cantilever or overhang on just the long axis, you can put it on the return on one side or both sides to create more stool storage and more eat at space. It’s a great trick. We use it when we can at Taylor Morrison, and it actually saves money. You’re reducing the length of your cabinetry in doing so and you’re adding more function to that countertop island where you can get one or two more bar stools.

Dean Wehrli:

I imagine maybe it cuts into under sink space on the island, maybe storage space, or maybe it just increases the amount of space the island takes up and makes the kitchen itself more cramped I imagine. But gosh, it’s worth it because so many folks eat at the island nowadays.

Brian Juedes:

Yes.

Dean Wehrli:

It’s the norm almost it seems like. How about the kitchen work triangle? What do you think about that classic of kitchens?

Brian Juedes:

I don’t hear it discussed much anymore. 20 years ago, everybody was measuring with their scales on their floor plans exactly to the foot what was the distance between the sink, the refrigerator and that cooktop or range appliance? And there were rules that one should stay between a certain minimum and a certain maximal and create this work triangle. But today, I think most buyers appreciate as big as kitchen as possible. Now, we don’t want to replace the refrigerator in the laundry room or the garage and create something crazy, but we do want our kitchen to be as large as possible. That includes the island, that includes the countertop spaces, the cooking wall, and the refrigeration wall, wherever that refrigerator is. So I don’t think there’s any maximum anymore on the work triangle, we try to make them as big as we can in our kitchens today.

Dean Wehrli:

Yeah, but like you said earlier, when you get down to that 1,300 square foot attached townhome, you got to start making decisions, don’t you, making trade-offs?

Brian Juedes:

Yes. There’s only so much we can do in those tight spaces. We do put a lot of emphasis, though, on our kitchens. We know, again, it’s number one or number two in most consumer surveys. Very important space.

Dean Wehrli:

Anything else in the kitchens before I ask you two surprise questions?

Brian Juedes:

Oh. I think briefly about the pantry. The pandemic also heightened everyone’s awareness about the pantry and storage. And people were hoarding food and toilet paper and all kinds of crazy things during the pandemic, and you needed storage space. So the pantry became a heightened awareness if you didn’t have one. If you’re in a 20- or 30-year-old home and you didn’t have a pantry, I don’t know where you put all this stuff. But most new homes today have a pantry, at least a reach in pantry. And the majority of our products today have a walk-in pantry, even all the way down into our smaller products. And these are really good functional spaces and they’ve never been more important than they are today for us to have storage of materials.

Dean Wehrli:

You couldn’t go to Costco without a pantry. Costco, it dawns on me, should subsidize people’s pantries I feel like.

Brian Juedes:

That’s a good point.

Dean Wehrli:

Okay, so here’s my two questions for you. I don’t know what the right term is, but dead rooms, I’m going to ask you a couple of rooms and now we’re going to the rest of the house now. Is the formal compartmentalized dining room adios, does anyone want and use that kind of space any longer?

Brian Juedes:

I’ll say it’s on life support, as it still has some life in it for certain consumer groups, typically a more mature buyer who’s accustomed to have that space. They may already have their formal dining room table and china hutch and it’s all full, and when they move into their new home they have to have a room to put that in. So they need the formal dining room. But outside of them, we don’t offer formal dining rooms much anymore.

What we do in that space today is we label it a flex, and most of our consumers today are going to use it for a home office or a playroom or hobby room or something else. Very few have a formal dining room anymore, so we call them flexes. If someone wants to, they can furnish it as a formal dining room, but most people do not anymore. And we don’t call them formal dining rooms anymore on our floor plans, we call them flex spaces.

We have the casual dining or the everyday dining in the kitchen/great room area, and like you said, that suffices in addition to the island, the eat-in islands kitchen, you don’t need that third space for most people. And those that have it typically only use it for holidays anyhow, so people recognize it’s not functional space every day of the year and they’re repurposing that square footage for flex purpose.

Dean Wehrli:

And the second space I wanted to ask you about almost goes the opposite way, is the very open plan with that open living room up front. In my case, I use that space as my home office, but it’s not ideal because it’s too open. Do you see that open up front living room also kind of dying away? Or is it dead?

Brian Juedes:

Yeah, it again is on life support. And to have a living room or a true parlor any more upfront for guests with a second sofa and sectional or sitting area for visiting with guests is very old-fashioned. And again, a very small percent of our buyers today would use that space for that purpose. Most today will use it for a home office like you described. So therefore, we try to give them more privacy and create some more walls around that space. And typically we’ll even offer doors, double doors with glass in them, to be able to enclose that space to make it a true private work from home or study from home space.

Dean Wehrli:

Yeah, close it up on three sides, maybe do like a barn door or something like that. Or even if it’s open on that fourth side, it’s still vastly better than that wide open old school living room space. It’s not ideal. It’s why I have a virtual background or a screen behind me at all times when I’m on these Zoom calls like this.

Brian, this has been tremendous. I told the listeners they were going to get a master class, especially in the shower and bath, and they for sure did. I really appreciate you coming on.

Brian Juedes:

Thank you Dean. It was my pleasure.

Dean Wehrli:

This is Dean Wehrli for the New Home Insights podcast. Thanks so much for listening, and we will pick it up again in a couple of weeks.

 

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