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Home Improvement Off To A Booming Start


by Carla Occaso

MONTPELIER/BARRE — Homeowners and builders are off to an active start this year. The Bridge called a random sample of businesses dealing in remodeling supplies to find out what customers are doing. According to them, building and home improvement activity is higher than in recent years. Below is a sample of responses.

Allen Lumber — Montpelier, Barre, Waitsfield and St. Johnsbury

As soon as the mud season weight limit signs come off back roads, the building business really picks up, said Burnie Allen, co-owner of Allen Lumber. “We can’t do any business until the concrete trucks go through, Allen said.

“Nationally, there is a surge in first-time-home-buyer home improvement spending,” Allen said. “Central Vermont is going to be very busy.” Allen has talked to local realtors who advise him that more houses than usual are being snapped up. “We are finding quite a few folks coming this way that can get outstanding values on and fix up the homes. And we are still building new homes.”

As for construction trends, Allen said people lean towards “green” building — the practice of energy efficiency. A lot of products are geared toward saving the environment. For example, a new insulation is called Roxul, which is made from stone and steel slag. It is spun like cotton candy, resists fire and muffles sound. In addition, Allen said he sells a lot of metal roofing in many styles.

Indoor home improvement is also strong. People are replacing older doors and windows. The kitchen and bath business is also hopping, Allen said.

The Bridge visited Allen’s Kitchen & Bath showroom in Montpelier and saw new designs guided by Emily Hebert, kitchen and bath consultant. Hebert said the color gray was the trend in kitchen design and pointed to a gray-colored set up with granite counters. It also had a handy spice rack that pulled out from a narrow drawer near the sink. The cabinets and workstation were also gray.

Aubuchon Hardware — Montpelier, Barre, Waterbury and more

Aubuchon Hardware on 40 Main St. in Montpelier sells just about everything to people who are fixing up their house — inside and out. The store has fencing and gardening supplies from shovels and rakes to seeds and pesticides (natural and chemical). You can also find flower bulbs and lawn care tools such as trimmers and mowers for outdoor improvement.

And for building supplies, Aubuchon’s sells a wide range of items from screws, nails and hooks to tools, window shades and plumbing supplies.

And good news is coming out of those who work with builders. “Contractors seem to be busier than last year. They are booking out months in advance versus a week or two,” said Nick Gagne, paint specialist. “Things are picking up in interior improvements, too.”

Gagne, who specializes in paint, said a lot of people are redoing their kitchens and cabinets — in some cases simply with a fresh coat of paint. Popular colors in this area are mostly off-whites and neutral tones, but some of the deeper colors are making a showing as well. The Benjamin Moore “color of the year” for 2017 is called Shadow.  This color is “allusive and enigmatic — a master of ambiance,” according to the website benjaminmoore.com. To the eye it looks like a dark grayish purplish. Gagne said that while this shade has not taken off locally, it is part of a national trend.

True Colors Blinds & Design, Montpelier

And speaking of colors, Kate Kimmich, window fashion consultant for True Colors Blinds & Design at 141 River St., says she is seeing a splash of color in the industry that has not quite caught on in Central Vermont. But she is working on it.

Her specialty is window treatments and interior design.

“I believe in window treatments,” Kimmich told The Bridge by phone May 16. “It is hard to realize value of treatment — drapery or a well-fitting shade — until they are in. When a window treatment goes into a room, it really finishes (a room).”

Kimmich said blues, pinks, peaches and greens are starting to show up on shades, valances and blinds. Earth tones are the most popular in this area, and warm tones such as “a nice caramel, burnt orange, a soft burnt orange; sagey greens.”

Kimmich echoed Emily Hebert’s observation that grays are all over in the interior design world, but not so much in Vermont, which is perhaps a mistake.

“Gray has not raised its head here yet, but gray is a great color. If you get the right shade, it can work,” Kimmich advised. Also on the color trend horizon, “blue is coming back. Navys are hot this year and corals are hot this year … sometimes coral and teal. It is spectacular.”

Kimmich said she is surprised more Vermonters don’t embrace drapery. Drapery is practical because it keeps out the cold. Another good insulator is called ‘honeycomb’ shades, which keep out the heat and the cold.

When working on lake houses, Kimmich said people like screen shades that keep out UV rays, but allow residents to see the view of the lake. Window treatments perform multiple functions including light control, insulation, privacy and decoration.

True Colors Blinds & Design also offers flooring. The upcoming material is called Mannington Adura Max, a vinyl that strongly resembles hardwood flooring.

Kimmich said she sees a rise in the window treatment business, which speaks well of the economy. Working alongside Kimmich is Bill McQuiggan, owner, and Jordan Bushey, who measures and installs items.