Specialty rooms are popular once again

for sale sign outside housePrior to the Great Recession, home owner spending for remodeling and renovations was very strong. Besides remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms, many home owners also created specialty rooms (also known as special function rooms) in their homes. Specialty rooms such as home theatres and media rooms were not just trendy because they were cool to have in the house, but they were also added for resale value. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Study’s Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA), post-recession home remodeling spending dropped off by as much as 28 percent between 2007 and 2011. That spending decrease meant that while home owners focused on saving and paying their mortgages, specialty rooms were no longer a necessity.

The return of the specialty room can be measured by the increased home remodeling spending over the past few years. Specialty rooms are increasingly in demand. The recent LIRA press release projects that home remodeling will remain strong at least through 2019. Chris Herbert, Managing Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies stated, “Strengthening employment conditions and rising home values are encouraging homeowners to make greater investments in their homes…Upward trends in retail sales of building materials and the growing number of remodeling permits indicate that homeowners are doing more—and larger—improvement projects.” 

Prior to the Great Recession, specialty rooms were a must for home owners. However, many of these specialty rooms were primarily added for display and resale. Home owners have since moved away from the large gaudy specialty room and are opting for more practical spaces focused on enjoyment and function. 

Yes, specialty rooms are becoming popular again, but not in the way they were prior to the recession. According to the 2017 AIA Home Design Trends Survey (aia,org), creating an outdoor living area is the currently the most popular specialty room today. The outdoor living area is a way to extend indoor space and amenities (such as kitchen and home entertainment) to your back yard or roof top deck. 

But home owners are opting for other specialty rooms too. Building a fabulous mudroom comes in second in the AIA Home Design Trends Survey. No longer that meager alcove separating the garage and kitchen, the mudroom has become a multi-purpose functional suite. Obvious coat hooks, benches, and shoe cubbies are standard. But mudrooms have become larger to accommodate storage units and desks, typically with high-end flooring and moldings. 

Other specialty rooms mentioned in AIA’s survey include the home office and in-law suite. However, other types of specialty rooms that are popular include fitness rooms and wine cellars. 

As the economy improves, home owners have more money to spend on their passions. Currently, there is a trend to build specialty rooms to help home owners pursue hobbies and talents. Hobbyists are creating spaces for their collections and interests. Many home owners are designing dedicated rooms as art studios. Music lovers and musicians are finding that technology has made the music listening room and recording studio easy and affordable to create in their homes. 

Over time, the home has evolved from a Spartan shelter to a space where we relax and express our personalities. It is likely that specialty rooms will continue to evolve based the home owner’s lifestyle, finances, as well as technology. Specialty rooms will also vary based on societal norms (consider formal dining and living rooms) and economic conditions.

Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX Success in Potomac, MD. You can access more information at

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