Americans are increasingly turning to professional builders and remodelers for their home renovation projects. The National Association of Homebuilders forecasts professional remodeling revenues to continue to grow.
But homeowners looking to increase the value of their residences need to be strategic in their upgrades. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2021 Cost vs. Value Report, major renovation projects often have a lower return on investment than smart, thoughtful projects that are relatively easy to pull off and don’t call for an oversized budget.
Case in point: while an upscale major kitchen remodel showed just a 54% return on investment, a minor kitchen remodel, which might include something as simple as a wood accent wall or an eye-catching tongue-in-groove ceiling visible from the front door, gave homeowners 72% of their money back.
For builders and remodelers, that means opportunity is now back on the table to offer homeowners cost-effective and stunning ways to improve the value of their homes, while employing one of the most versatile and easy-to-work with building materials available: wood.
Two particular features that are catching both buyers’ and designers’ attention today are wood feature walls as well as showcase ceilings featuring natural wood elements. Here are four projects to inspire your next client pitch with the power of wood.
Wood Accent Walls
According to Remodeling magazine, wood can provide a great accent—provided it’s done right. For designer and Houzz contributor Charemean Neithart, that means using wood on walls to make a lasting impression. “The impact is strong, and layers of texture and warmth can bring a rustic sophistication to traditional or modern spaces,” Neithart says. “Possible applications are numerous—no space is off-limits.”
Wood on the Water
Wood’s attributes are on display at this Lake Michigan vacation home, dubbed the Long Beach residence for its waterfront location.
A feature wall of western red cedar provides a stunning backdrop to a two-story fireplace that wraps up and across the ceiling, giving inhabitants a warm and cozy feeling.
Indeed, lead architect Eric De Witt, AIA, of Lucid Architecture, wanted to bring the beauty of the surroundings indoors. Tongue and groove cedar siding transitions from the exterior to lead into the main living area, and provides a stunning contrast to both the fireplace and a custom, open stairway.
Because western red cedar is both pitch and resin free, it can hold a wide range of finishes. That allowed the Long Beach residence design team to customize their chosen stain hues to achieve the specific tonal range they wanted.
“Western red cedar provided a natural material with a stunning warmth that we were able to use on both the interior and exterior,” says De Witt.
The result is a centerpiece and conversation stopper in the fireplace that is made even more dramatic by the softer tones of its contrasting wood wall backdrop, simultaneously giving a nod to the house’s external environment.
“The light stained cedar provided a way to visually connect the home with the sandy shore,” De Witt says.
A Woodsy Accent in the Northwest
In Portland, Oregon, Guggenheim Architecture + Design Studio combined wood’s beautiful form with pragmatic function in their clients’ master bedroom.
Using reclaimed redwood from old fencing, the designers created a stunning accent wall that rises above the bed and adds depth to the smaller space.
Not only do the rich wood tones bring warmth to the room, they’re highlighted by hanging pendant lamps, which reach down to floating wood bedside tables that provide open storage and a spot to lay down your favorite book before bedtime.
"The natural patina of wood is very calming, and a perfect choice for the space,” says Neithart.
The feature also serves as a headboard, an increasingly popular design move today, according to Houzz’s Neithart. “A bedroom wall is a great location for a wood accent,” Neithart says.
Showcasing wood ceilings not only provides a way to make a stunning – and cost-effective – impact to a room, they may very well help your clients resell their home at a higher price. According to the Wall Street Journal, adding a focus on ceilings can help homes sell for more, especially when they are vaulted or cathedral styles.
That’s good news for remodelers and builders, who can offer clients a project that pops, without the need for a high dollar investment. Tongue-in-groove wooden beams and even paneling can turn what’s normally just another surface above people’s heads into a real head turner.
Reaching New Heights
At Lift House, a ski house in the Green Mountains of Vermont, architect Brian Mac, FAIA, Birdseye, paid homage to the heightened elevations of the project’s surroundings by specifying cedar paneling for both the interior ceiling, as well as the dramatic, thrusting overhangs of the cantilevered decks and roof.
Doing so not only took advantage of the species’ natural beauty, it provided a powerful connection to the trees on the surrounding hillside, while serving the practical purposes of giving the home solar shading in summer and solar heating in winter.
"The natural material really creates a dimension of intimacy and scale to the house," says Mac.
By carrying the cedar directly into the interior via the seamless transition of floor-to-ceiling windows, Mac was able to create warm, inviting living spaces for the homeowners and bring the outside in. “They wanted the house to have a low maintenance exterior and a warmth in the mountainside landscape,” says Mac. “They were thrilled with both the house and the cedar.”
A Place to Play
Tapping into the pastoral aesthetic of a family’s ranch hideaway and rustic music retreat in California, designers from Field Architecture leveraged Douglas fir and reclaimed paneling to provide aspirational surroundings in the couple’s music studio at Piñon Ranch.
The interior contrasts cool and warm materials, with concrete flooring and exposed steel rafters under the shelter of a reclaimed Douglas-fir paneled ceiling. The clever use of windows that rise to the very top of the gables act as a light scoop to showcase the natural beauty inherent in the exposed wood grain.
The dramatic wood ceiling not only provides inspiration for the jam sessions that take place beneath it, but it also acts as an homage to the property itself, where no trees were removed in order to make space for the home.
Bringing Wood Home for Your Clients
With wood accent walls and showcase ceilings carving out a niche in the remodeling and building markets today, professional remodelers and builders can give their clients cost-effective options for improving their return on investment, while letting them enjoy the natural wonder of wood.
Photo credits (in order): Long Beach Residence - Lucid Architecture; Guggenheim Studio Hurst Residence - Josh Partee; Lift House - Erica Allen Studio; Piñon Residence - Matthew Millman