Most homeowners are unlikely to be building, remodeling or decorating with abandon in 2010, given the country's slow recovery from the recession. But if you do plan to update your home or garden, here are some trends to keep in mind.
Home decor. The sleek, sophisticated but comfortable style known as "soft contemporary" will be a key look for the new year, said Kris Kolar, vice president of interior design at Robb & Stucky Interiors.
Instead of the eclectic clutter that has been popular for a while, there will be a move toward using just one or two eye-catching accents, she said. These "punctuation mark pieces," featuring hand-worked techniques that give a custom look, may include special materials such as mother-of-pearl, flame mahogany and stainless steel.
Furniture. The environmental movement is getting stronger, said Jackie Hirschhaut, spokeswoman for the American Home Furnishings Alliance. Increasingly, furniture is being built using natural-fiber fabrics, recycled metals and sustainable woods.
Red will be the trendiest accent color for furniture, she predicted. And home offices will continue to boom as growing numbers of Americans work from their residences. The furniture industry is responding with office collections such as the Bungalow Baby collection from Aspenhome, designed with updated Arts and Crafts styling.
Color. Classic neutrals and pops of exotic brights are the key shades at Pittsburgh Paints, which recently announced four color palettes for 2010.
The "Canvas" palette includes deep gray-browns and gray-blues, muted beige and chalky white. "Pink City" offers vibrant pinks, spicy oranges, grays and chocolate brown. "Grace" includes elegant hues such as pale butter, bronze-gold and sea foam. And "Zest" reinvents the style of Palm Springs circa 1950, mixing high-energy yellows with gray, white and black.
Landscaping. Fashion trendsetter Michelle Obama is also a leader when it comes to gardening. Organic vegetable gardens, like the one the first lady installed at the White House, are likely to be a huge trend in 2010, said Orlando horticulture expert Tom MacCubbin. Community gardens are a growing trend, especially those that involve children. Of all vegetables, he predicts tomatoes will be especially popular.
In the landscape, perennial plants that last longer than annuals and need less care are a strong trend, he added. Trendy plants include gold mound duranta, a shrub with acid-green foliage, and perennial bulbine, which sports spikes of yellow blooms.
New-home construction. The era of the extravagant McMansion is over, said Nathan Cross of NWC Construction in Orlando. When building new homes, people are increasingly budget-conscious.
"It's back to basics. Even the pool is a no-frills deal," he said. About the only area where homeowners may be prepared to splurge a little is the master suite. Energy-efficiency will be important. So will going green: "So long as it's a green trend that doesn't cost too much."
Outdoors, some homeowners will be installing fireplaces, fire pits and summer kitchens.
Remodeling. The trend toward making minor improvements to home exteriors is likely to extend into next year - for good reason. It gives homeowners the biggest bang for their bucks when it comes to selling their homes.
In terms of costs recouped, eight out of the top 10 home-improvement projects this year were exterior upgrades that cost less than $14,000, according to Realtors Report's annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. A steel entry-door replacement topped the list, recouping 128.9 percent of costs, followed by upscale fiber-cement siding replacements (83.6 percent), wood deck additions (80.6 percent), and several types of window replacements (more than 70 percent).
The two interior projects that landed on the top-10 list were attic-bedroom additions (83.1 percent recouped) and minor kitchen remodels (78.3 percent). The least profitable remodeling projects in terms of resale, and therefore not likely to be popular in 2010, were home-office remodels and sunroom additions.