By Stephen Thompson
In January, America’s homebuilders met in Las Vegas for their annual trade show. It was a chance for builders, architects and designers to see a project called the New American Home and for them to bring back home the latest ideas in technology and new trends – important design features you’ll see featured in new homes across the nation later this decade.
The green giant
The green movement embraces new techno and ecological innovations that hopefully will provide us all a better world, workplace and home life. The giant New American Home model built in Las Vegas uses “net-zero energy,” thanks to solar panels and designs that let in natural sunlight. Homebuyers once believed buying a house with the biggest square footage possible would lead to its having a better resale value years later; and so in mass they bought McMansion monsters. But the monsters’ values have plummeted lately as the paradigm shifted from “living large” to “living green.” Today’s homebuyers favor homes that are less costly to maintain, mostly energy self-sufficient or perhaps even off the energy grid altogether. This is becoming the biggest trend of this decade.
The living room’s demise
The kitchen, living and dining areas have merged into one great room or family room. A 2007 survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders show half of us would gladly do without a formal living room if it meant we could have a larger family gathering space. There’s an indoor/outdoor connection to this trend too, in that homebuyers want fewer walls and unobstructed views of their backyard. Hardwood floors, glass walls and/or sliding doors are making that connection a two-way exchange and blur the line of what’s inside and what’s out-of-doors.
Working from home
The Home Office is coming out of the closet and out of our spare bedrooms. In fact, the growing trend is for the home office to move completely out of the house into a separate, much smaller structure either in the backyard or to be attached to the garage as a separate wing. A separate entrance for the home office lets today’s increasingly mobile and often home-based business receive work-related visitors and employees at your residence without allowing them access to the rest of your house.
In the last 17 years the number of U.S. homes built with patios or porches has doubled. The homebuilders’ Las Vegas model home had a huge backyard featuring a covered area with a flat screen TV, a pool table and a detached rejuvenation room for relaxing. Warmer climate homes are resurrecting the ancient Roman building style of courtyards connecting the indoors to the outdoors and sheltering us from bothersome wind gusts and the prying eyes of nosy neighbors.
Older homebuyers are almost subconsciously responding to amenities like wider doors that can accommodate a wheelchair or walker, master bedrooms with easy first-floor access, and designer looking handrails in the shower – features that will help baby boomers stay in their homes as they grow older.
New homes are less pretentious. That doesn’t mean Americans are foregoing quality materials; it does mean that the rich are using less ornate or exotic choices in their species of wood, selections of stone, and patterns of iron-work. No more grand entrances with elaborate staircases; in fact the trend is for stairs to be moved out of the central foyer and closer to the kitchen/laundry/garage areas. Even fireplace sales are wavering. U.S. Census figures show that there was a 22 percent decrease in new homes with a fireplace from 1996 to 2007 – and that was before the current recession. Thankfully wallpaper is bucking this trend and is finding a resurgence in usage.
Having amenities that appeal to buyers a decade or more after your house is built will help it hold its value. You don’t have to be a homebuilder to appreciate new home trends; if you’re not building and just remodeling, knowing what this decades trends are going to be will help you make smart decisions in your home renovations. Plan well, live well … and live in beauty!
Stephen Thompson is an Allied Member of the American Society of Interior Designers. For questions, comments, or consultations contact Designer Connection, P.O. Box 361, Tupelo, MS 38802 or e-mail stephen firstname.lastname@example.org.