Valley Businesses Create Feeling of Home

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As economic factors prompt people to spend more time at home, they’re building houses and remodeling with an eye to the future. They’re adding outdoor living areas to make at-home time more enjoyable.

“This year we’re seeing a lot of trending with multigenerational homes,” says Trisha Howe, executive officer of the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of the Valley, based in Boardman. “We have a lot of families that are starting to live together. So
it’s creating a need to have extra space to be finished off or even separate entrances.”

That includes suites for mothers-in-law, finished basements and larger rooms divided into smaller spaces to accommodate additional family members.

Howe says there isn’t as much newhouse construction as a few years ago although new construction of more expensive homes continues. “We do have some beautiful developments that are taking place,” she says, “but they’re high-end developments.”

New Construction

Howe sees trends emerging in new construction around the region. “In new buildings, some really exciting things are happening,” she says. “Those once big open spaces are going away. … They’re going back to more cozy, warm, smaller areas. And some are even going back to a traditional living room.”

Mike Savko of Savko Home Builders has seen a dip in new construction projects, something he attributes to the higher mortgage rates of the last few years.

“Back then, there were a lot of folks who were planning on the house they could afford based on the monthly payment,” he says, “which is completely dictated by that interest rate.”

His company was in the planning phase for new houses for a couple of clients and by the time plans were completed and the company quoted a price, the interest rates had risen to 6% and higher.

“It made a heck of a difference on what that monthly payment would be and they had to back out,” Savko says.

The thinking was that rates would drop and no one wants to go back to the drawing board and design a smaller house or one without some of the features they had initially planned. They wanted to wait it out.

“Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet. So in the midst of that there’s been a lot of people who switched gears from ‘Let’s build a house’ to “Well, that’s not in the cards; so let’s look now at where we’re at and see if there’s ways to improve the current living situation,” Savko says.

He’s working on a restoration project on a house built in 1907 on the north side of Youngstown. “We go above and beyond in trying to find solutions to complex problems,” Savko says.

When a client has an idea or wants things done a certain way, Savko can figure out the best way to do it.

“From my prior experience, prior work history and background, it’s something we’re really good at,” Savko says. He has a degree in mechanical engineering.

John Virostko and Mike Pasquale own Sam Pitzulo Homes & Remodeling in Canfield. The two men were long-time company employees before becoming its owners, a long-planned transition.

Things Are Picking Up

Pasquale, an architect and estimator, says new construction has been picking up after a slowdown last year because of the high interest rates.

“We’re getting a lot more interest this year,” he says, adding that people still have the need for bigger or newer houses.

John Virostko and Mike Pasquale, owners of Sam Pitzulo Homes & Remodeling, stand inside the company showroom in Canfield, Ohio.

As far as styles, that depends on the individual. “We’re building for you and we want to meet your needs,” Pasquale says. “If you’re planning for the future, maybe it’s a house with a first-floor master bedroom and then maybe two or three bedrooms upstairs for the kids.”

If the client is an empty nester, they may be looking to get out of the large, four-bedroom house and into a two- or three-bedroom ranch.

“We even get some requests from people who want to build a two-bedroom ranch, kind of like a villa plan or something like that,” Pasquale says. “But it’s still a single-family home. You own the land. You’re not part of a condo association. But you get that right-sized house and that floor plan you’re looking for.”

The Pitzulo company is seeing more inquiries for what Pasquale calls move-up houses: four-bedroom, two-stories.

“Millennials and some Gen Z’ers are looking for that family house – four bedrooms – to be in for the next 20 or 30 years,” he says. “It kind of depends really on the stage of life and ultimately, the individual.”

Sam Pitzulo Homes & Remodeling works with clients to determine their wants and needs, even asking them to complete a questionnaire. It’s beginning with a blank canvas, Pasquale explains. That’s the fun part, the two owners say.


Savko says people looking for more space or additional amenities who are leery of high interest rates may look to remodeling or adding on to their existing homes. They may rely on the cash-on-hand they had intended to use as a down payment, a home equity loan or home renovation loan.

“There’s a lot of people asking about doing master suites, right on the first floor,” Savko says. “People are seeing that as a good value to add to the existing house. A lot of people, especially as they age, they want the first-floor master.”

They figure if they need more space, the addition of a master suite allows children to have the space on the second floor.

“Our business has always been primarily new construction and we’ve had to pivot to doing more renovations and additions in light of the interest rate hike,” Savko says.

The company has renovated kids’ bedrooms and bathrooms to provide more features, for example. One recent bathroom project included heated floors and heated toilet seat, electronically controlled shower and full-length mirrors and countertops lit with LEDs.

Mike Savko of Savko Home Builders stands in front of a house he’s working to restore. Savko expanded the new construction business into remodeling.

“We end up in some unique situations with some folks who want to do some really cool things that don’t follow the trends of some of the folks that are just in the remodel or addition business,” Savko says.

The company is working on another project to convert a garage into a great room with a fireplace, big windows, covered patio and vaulted ceilings and then add a new garage with a loft. That client wants more entertainment space for the family.

“I would say a common trend these days is to see a space for the adults and another space, almost equally as big, that the kids can go and hang out and do their thing,” Savko says.

Virostko of Sam Pitzulo Homes & Remodeling says a lot of clients last year opted for remodeling as interest rates climbed.

Remodeling Trends

Some trends are emerging in remodeling, local business owners say.

“Trend-wise, whole first-floor remodels are really big for us right now,” Virostko says. “We’re seeing a lot of those.”

That could mean blowing out a wall between the kitchen and the dining room to make an open floor plan, Pasquale explains.

“We still have just kitchen remodels where you’re working within the same four walls. But we’re seeing a lot more people where that starts to snowball into the dining room and opening it up into the living room,” Virostko says. “Those open floor plans are still popular both in new builds and in remodels.”

Like his counterparts, Virostko’s company also sees more requests for suites for mothers-in-law and master suites on the first floor.

“They want to kind of plan for the future and have themselves set whether it’s laundry, bathroom, bedroom – kind of the whole gamut to where they don’t need to go up a set of stairs,” Virostko says.

And home offices remain in demand he adds.

Outdoor Spaces

Patios, outdoor kitchens, patio pavers, hot tubs and spas are other popular features people want to add to their homes, Howe of the HBA says. “Another thing that’s super popular are those wood-burning stoves and the pizza” ovens outside, she says.

“It’s amazing. There are bars, kitchens. It’s like you’re in a whole other space of your house,” Howe says.

Much of that may be an outgrowth of the pandemic when people weren’t able to go out to socialize, she theorizes.

Nevin Lesnoski, owner of Nevin Design LLC in Youngstown, is a landscape architect. People are investing in outdoor living areas at their homes including hardscape like patios and softscape like plants.

Nevin Lesnoski, owner of Nevin Design LLC in Youngstown and a landscape architect, says outdoor living has been trending and now it’s booming.

Cities, formerly dominated by hardscape, are shifting to softscape with more greenery, he says. “I feel like that’s affecting how people are thinking about their homes too.”

Swimming pools with automatic covers are popular.

Gas fire pits on decks and patios, outdoor kitchens and outdoor televisions, spas, pergolas and waterfalls are other trends.

“A lot of people are doing pool houses now with an outdoor TV and heaters,” Lesnoski says. “People just want to be able to be outside more of the year and you can do that here. January is our worst month and besides that, it’s not that bad anymore.”

He’s working with a client who wants a structure with a flat roof. It boasts screens that come down on all sides.

“That prevents bugs. The dog can’t get out. Stuff like that,” Lesnoski says. “There’s many ways to trap heat too so you can be outside all year.”

Nevin Design LLC does residential and commercial work in the Mahoning Valley and the Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas.

The outdoor living trend is something Sam Pitzulo Homes & Remodeling is seeing too, with the company creating elaborate back porches.

Pasquale recalls one client telling him, “ ‘When I walk out of my house and step on this porch, I want to feel like I’m on vacation.’ It came out that way. It was a beautiful space.”

Those types of porches feature higher-end finishes, stamps, stained concrete, brick- or stonework, outdoor fireplaces, outdoor televisions, built-in grills, outdoor pizza ovens. It’s about programming those areas for how the homeowner wants to use the space, he says.


For decor, cozier is making a return.

“The colors are going back to the more warm traditional, the natural hues, the creams, the ivories” the HBA’s Howe says.

Gray and white scale are being replaced by more earth tones, sage and light peaches. Natural wood finishes are making a resurgence too.

“What’s really neat in new construction, and even in remodeling, is you’re seeing the comeback of paneling,” Howe says. “Paneling is very popular right now. It adds texture. A lot of them are natural wood finishes.”

Wallpaper is seeing a revival but on accent walls. Large geometric motifs and big florals are some of the popular designs. “It’s not the whole room, but it’s an accent wall,” she says.

Wainscoting and crown molding mark another trend.

“You’re seeing a lot of dimensional ceilings that are not the traditional square or round,” Howe says. “You’re seeing more triangular finishes on it and a lot more crown molding is back.”

Pasquale says white remains popular for trim and kitchen cabinets but the company has been doing more natural finishes in kitchens too. “We’re getting a little more adventurous with wood species” with various grains, he says.

Each grain takes a stain a little differently, Virostko says. “Those natural stains are coming back a little bit too. I think just to warm up the space. The stark white — white backsplash, white countertop, lighter floors or darker floors — I don’t want to say that it’s gone. It’s still a classic look. But for those that want to warm up the space, that’s a good way to do it.”

Kitchen and Bath Remodels

Valley builders and remodeling companies are seeing many customers who want to remodel their kitchens and bathrooms.

In bathrooms, people are looking for lighter and brighter, Virostko says. “Whether it’s oak trim and darker cabinetry, darker floors, people want to lighten those things up, maybe go to painted trim.”

In kitchens, the open concept remains big and specialty storage for smaller appliances is also in favor. People want to be able to have easy access to their smaller appliances but they don’t want them sitting on the counters.

More space between appliances so that more than one person can simultaneously prepare a meal is also something people seek in kitchen remodels, Pasquale says.

Pictured at top: Trisha Howe, executive officer of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of the Valley,  says some trends she’s seeing this year include people adding mother-in-law suites and building “warm, smaller” spaces.