Design media publishers like to dazzle their readers with awesome photos of amazingly designed spaces. Certainly, there are designers and clients who want to create spectacular spaces that break out of the conventional and make an aesthetic statement.

For the majority of homeowners, though, undertaking a redesign, remodel or renovation is more about refreshing and upgrading rather than striving for originality. The emphasis is less on aesthetics and more on functionality.

Remodeling activity has remained brisk this year. Results of Metro Study's latest Residential Remodeling Index show activity increased 4.4 percent in the third quarter over the same period last year. Despite demand for existing homes, many homeowners are choosing to remain in their current home and remodel rather than buy up to a new or newer home.

A major driver of these remodels is to bring the home up-to-date with recent trends. For some, that means splurging to obtain their "dream" kitchen or bath. For a large portion, however, it means upgrading some key items that will give the room a more contemporary look while increasing function.

In releasing the results of its most recent Home Design Trends Survey, American Institute of Architects Chief Economist Kermit Baker remarked that current demand showed "consumers are placing a premium on practicality and functionality." That trend comes through in findings from the National Association of Home Builders 2016 Builder Practices Survey.

Most kitchen projects incorporated contemporary but conventional materials, such as granite countertops (64 percent), neutral-colored backsplashes (45 percent) and wood cabinets with raised panel in frame doors (60 percent). Although stainless steel appliances are losing favor in high-end design projects, they remain the finish of choice for most homeowners (79 percent).

Likewise, today's gourmet or luxury kitchens often include a number of specialized appliances, such as steamers, wine refrigerators, beverage stations and the like. Yet most homeowners stick with the basics: ranges and cooktops, refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers, garbage disposals and microwave ovens.

Among popular aesthetic trends, reports website New Homes + Ideas, designers and their clients are mixing materials, finishes and colors, such as darker stone or wood (like mahogany) with lighter colored tile and wood (such as cedar). Dark flooring is also replacing more neutral colors as the material of choice. Also noting that homeowners are gravitating toward designs that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing rather than "trendy," the article states their preference is for a highly efficient kitchen instead of one that is "pretty."

Even on more upscale remodels and renovations, practicality and function dominate the design. Analysis of data on homebuyer preferences collected by website found top features sought in the kitchen include a kitchen island, granite counters and a large pantry. The article mentions that demand for a chef's or gourmet kitchen has been gradually growing over the past three years, but still accounts for less than 5 percent of the market.

While homeowners are sticking with the basics and using fewer design services, they are willing to pay more to upgrade for better materials, appliances and fixtures. On average, they are spending more on remodeling projects — especially in the kitchen and bath than in recent years.

At least for now, it appears that trend will continue into the coming year.