Kit Selzer has spent the last 24 years immersed in homes -- ours, not hers.
As a longtime editor for Better Homes and Gardens magazine (the biggie, as well as several of its special-interest publications), she's researched remodeling, fielded stories about everything from bathroom grout to ceiling heights and visited hundreds of houses across the country.
We caught up with Selzer, who's the keynote speaker at the annual Star Tribune AIA/Home of the Month event, to talk about the staying power of stainless steel, why some parents love banquette kitchen seating and whether or not green is going mainstream.
Q As the editor of several BH&G kitchen and bath publications, you've spent much of your career focusing on these two rooms. But why do the rest of us pay so much attention to remodeling and redecorating our kitchens and bathrooms?
A They're so important to family life. The kitchen has become the gathering spot and the bath, well, that's the private place.
Q How have these rooms changed over the years?
A The master bathroom especially has become a retreat. What's changed about the kitchen is the amount of function people are putting into it. It's not just where you cook, it's where you eat, where the kids do their homework. You may even have an office nook there. The kitchen has become a family room.
Q A few years ago, there were rumblings that stainless steel had run its course in the kitchen. What do you say?
A We have seen some great new finishes, like oil-rubbed bronze, but we've yet to see anything that can bump off stainless. I don't think it will be a color. In Europe, they've used lots of color. In the U.S., we had our colored appliance phase and it didn't go so well. Stainless seems so timeless, so sophisticated. It goes with everything. You don't have to worry whether it will match if you paint your walls.
Q What are some other kitchen/bath trends that are going strong?
A One feature we're seeing a lot now is banquette -- or bench -- seating in kitchens. It's comfortable, it's conducive to conversation. We talked to one homeowner who said they loved their banquette because it traps their kids. The kids have dinner and then they actually stay to talk to their parents.
Freestanding furniture is still a strong look in kitchens and baths. And we've seen some mixing of woods -- lights and darks -- but only at the higher end. It's harder to mix woods in a smaller kitchen.
Q Name one trend you didn't think would last.
A Above-counter sinks. When those vessel sinks first came out, I wondered what kind of staying power they would have. They look terrific, they're like art pieces. But from a practical standpoint, I wondered whether people would be willing to do the maintenance. You have to clean them inside and out.
Q What trends do you see developing in the rest of the house?
A More attention is being paid to practical, good-looking storage. That doesn't mean adding more closets, it means thinking about what you need and how to store it so you can use it easily. We're also seeing people clearing out the clutter. That's a real contrast to other periods in history when people were hoarders. It's the whole not-so-big thing.
Q You also produce a green living section in the magazine. How do you see green developing?
A In the beginning, green was so contemporary, more Dwell than Better Homes and Gardens. But we've found some projects that are traditional or transitional in style and that take a practical green approach.
Interestingly, people are very interested in energy savings, but they don't want to have to pay more for green products.
Q OK, I have to ask this: Do you restyle a house before you shoot it for your magazine?
A We choose a location because we like it. All we really want to do is spruce it up a bit for the camera. We bring in flowers, fruit and we do a little rearranging if necessary, but it's always in keeping with the homeowner's look. It takes us about two days to shoot a whole-house remodel. We can do a single room in about a day.
Q In some areas of the country, new home building has slowed to a crawl. How about remodeling?
A We think people are still remodeling. It might be smaller projects, it might be broken up over time, but because of the economy people are finding they can get contracts more quickly and prices may be better. People are doing thoughtful projects, things that are meaningful to them. We're seeing mini-projects where people make updates without tearing down walls.
Q Some folks say the shaky economy has driven us back to our homes. Do you agree?
A Home is the center. This is not where people have to be, it's where they want to be. It's a draw and, for some, a hobby. Some people consider staying home and cooking as weekend entertainment. It really is our anchor.
Connie Nelson • 612-673-7087