Changing Lifestyles Bring New Home-Building Priorities.
Experienced home builders will tell you that lifestyle often drives design. In the wake of three years of the disruption of a global pandemic, that has never been truer. We asked the experts what they see as emerging—and continuing—trends in homebuilding.
- Size matters
Homes over the past several years have been built bigger and bigger, especially when interest rates were at historic lows. As interest rates rose in an effort combat inflation, families began to cut back on square footage for the first time in many years. It remains to be seen if this will be a lasting trend or if competing priorities—size versus budget—begin to balance out.
- Universal design remains a best building method
Ideally, a home should have access to all the spaces you need for daily living on one level—especially critical as the population ages. That means entry from outside, kitchen, master bedroom and bathroom, laundry facilities, and a living space. Additional bedrooms and recreation space can be built on other levels, but it should be possible for a homeowner to get through a typical week without leaving the main floor. “Make sure all of your interior doors are 3 feet wide so you can get a wheelchair or walker through easily,” says Matt Franklin of M.T.N Design in Meridian, Idaho. “These are things people should always be looking at, in my opinion.” This is especially true if you want to be able to age in place.
- A home for life
Families are building the home of their dreams, and not just weekend getaways. “The majority of homes we are now designing are “forever homes,” as opposed to what used to be called second homes,” says Erwin Loveland, project coordinator at MossCreek Home Designs in Knoxville, Tennessee. “This is due in part to the growing number of people who can work from home now. They can now live, and work, where they want.”
- Vacation homes … for other people
“The growth of the vacation rental/Airbnb market is huge for us,” says Loveland. “In some of the areas we are working in, 80 homes or more have been built in one year that will immediately become vacation rentals.” In response, MossCreek is developing a series of designs tailored to the vacation rental market, with elaborate amenities that are attractive to people looking for luxe vacation accommodations.
- More storage in every room
Built-in storage is having a moment—whether it’s a window seat that lifts upward to store blankets or extra cabinet capacity in your kitchen island. “We’re seeing bigger closets—more and more closet space and organization systems in those closets,” says Franklin. We may talk about downsizing, but most of us are just interested in having a place to put things away. This is another reason why thinking about your lifestyle and how you want your home to function is just as important as how you want your home to look and feel.
- At-home office space is essential
When the COVID-19 pandemic pushed people out of their offices, no one knew how long “work from home” would last. Three years later, many people are still working from home and have no intentions of returning to their offices, while others have embraced a hybrid work arrangement. The result? Home offices are on the rise—and often that means more than one home office. Whether you have two working adults or an adult working while kids are engaging in online learning, everyone needs a quiet space of their own. That may not mean a huge room, but with creative design you can create pod-like spaces with a desk, chair, lighting, and rapid internet access that will meet most peoples’ needs. “The ability to work effectively from home has become more and more critical,” says Franklin. “That’s not going away any time soon, so our clients are asking for a tucked away space (or two). They don’t have to be large; they could be 5 x 7 or 8 feet with a pocket door that closes off.”
- Outdoor space lets you get away without going away
Perhaps this trend is another reaction to COVID-19 or perhaps we’ve just learned that investing in our outdoor spaces extends our homes and is ideal for entertaining. Franklin notes that this is a trend that has been growing over the past 10+ years. “We’ve seen people really want to incorporate good quality outdoor space with large door openings, so the line between indoors and out is blurring,” says Franklin. “People love covered space, and we’re starting to see a bit more interest in full outdoor built-in kitchens instead of just a barbeque and a fire pit.” Surprisingly, decks are on a downward trend while patios are increasing in popularity, according to the National Association of Home Builders, though the numbers vary geographically. The majority of decks are now built from composite materials, in response to consumer desire to minimize maintenance requirements and costs.
- Tax incentives for sustainable features
The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act included a plethora of tax incentives for green building. New homes are eligible for a tax credit if they are certified to the ENERGY STAR New Homes program, and even more credit is available for homes that are certified to the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy program. Consumers are not only eager to take advantage of new tax incentives, there’s also a growing awareness of the benefits of green building as well as the cost savings. There may also be state and local incentives available, so it’s important to speak with your home builder about your options. “Energy efficiency is a big part of our value proposition to our clients,” says Franklin. He explains, “We use Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) in the walls and ceilings in our homes and we provide insulated concrete forms for the foundation. A SIPs home is generally pretty tight—you’re getting really good performance and they’re great at sound deadening.”
- Open floor plans are here to stay… and we’re still spending a lot of time in the kitchen
The trend toward open floor plans isn’t going away any time soon. (See related article about open concept vs. traditional floor plans in this issue’s Designing column.) “People like having the kitchen visually connected to the great room so that everyone is still connected,” says Franklin. While for a few years homeowners were opting for double islands in the kitchen, that trend has faded in favor of single larger islands. Other kitchen trends are microwave drawers (in keeping with universal design principles) and bigger refrigerators and freezers.