As 2016 chugs into its final quarter,
custom home builders, developers and designers are recognizing significant changes in home building trends. Including but going well beyond superficialities like so-called hot colors of the year, some of these trends reflect core changes in what consumers are looking for when planning their homes.
Micro trends include choice of colors and materials, while macro trends reflect changes in the basic concepts involved when planning and constructing living spaces.
Take a look at some of the micro and macro directions you’ll be seeing in home construction and design.
Kitchens continue to play a prime role in today’s homes. Seen as a hub of family and social life, designing a kitchen space that reflects one’s personal style and tastes is often the first aspect of home design that consumers focus on.
Materials, colors, and basic design and layout have moved far from past generation’s ideas of a kitchen, and are continuing to evolve. Today, granite is an overwhelming favorite for countertops, followed by quartz, often paired with ceramic “subway tile” backsplashes. Clean lines and open floor plans prevail, as well as use of unexpected textures and materials.
Stainless steel continues to be a popular choice for appliances, with the exciting new addition of black stainless steel. Along with this sleek and modern look, there is a growing movement toward a more creative use of patterns, such as hexagon tiles, raindrop and baroque designs, and even hand-painted graphics influenced by ethnic cultures. These, along with the continued use of wood for paneling, barn door accents, other natural materials like stone, cork and bamboo, and use of bold color accents, work to warm up the space, creating a much different atmosphere than the cool and industrial feel of how the “sleek and modern” kitchen has been designed in the past.
Mixing colors and patterns in a new way, the move is away from the concept that everything must match. An organic look rather than an over-designed look, but one that still achieves an effortless flow, is the goal for many. Tuxedo or two-toned painted cabinets, so-called appliance “garages” which hide appliances on the countertop when not in use, and mixed hardware finishes are other elements of this trend.
The kitchen island and kitchen pantry have become essential and infinitely customizable.
Macro trends reflecting changes in the fundamental way we look at our homes can be seen throughout the house. Energy efficiency, environmental concerns, aging in place, multi-generational use, electronic-device-friendly/connected/smart homes are concepts whose influence can be seen throughout the home.
It wasn’t that long ago that the norm was a house filled with small rooms illuminated by a single overhead light and a table lamp or two. Now, bright, light and open is what you will find in most homes. Aging-in-place and multi-generational concerns drive the desire for well-lit spaces. LED lighting is becoming more and more in demand, tying into environmental, economic and brightness concerns. Designing spaces with more and larger windows connect with these macro trends as well.
Designers know that keeping aging in mind is a no-brainer. There are only two kinds of people: those who are getting older, or those who already are. Cabinet and closet makers are offering interior lighting for cupboards and drawers in kitchens and bathroom, and downward-focused closet lighting. Task and accent lighting is both a design element and a practical benefit. Lighting options can include safe-path lighting for night-time bathroom visits – or midnight kitchen raids. Because of increased lighting, energy and economically-efficient options like LED lighting is even more important.
Ergonomics, aging-in-place and multi-generational homes
Islands and kitchen storage are moving toward using different levels to accommodate needs of both children and aging baby boomers. Rather than having most cabinets and storage space up high, newer designs mix easier-to-reach storage with less accessible spaces. Mechanized drawers that slide open and shut with a gentle touch make access easier for both the aging and young children.
Bathrooms combine sleek and modern spa-like design with subtle design elements that can ease physical challenges, providing occasional support or safety options that don’t look like hospital grab bars or kid-proofing. Larger showers that include seating options and step-less entry are designed like those in spas. Wide doorways and unobstructed pathways look expansive and new, yet can accommodate increased clearance needs if necessary. No-step entryways look organic and high-design, yet don’t impede access.
Smaller, separate living units within the home, complete with kitchenettes, can accommodate visiting adult children, boomerang children or caregivers.
Homes built for the digital world
Digitally-friendly homes aren’t just the edgy “smart,” connected homes of TV and the movies, although these are becoming less rare. Kitchens, family rooms, bedrooms and even bathrooms that include multiple charging stations, screens, and smart appliances are becoming the norm. Motion-sensitive lighting and water faucets hit several macro-trends at once, speaking to concepts of aging in place, smart features, safety and cleanliness. Plus, they’re cool.
Similarly, digitally-controlled roller shades for windows are being used more frequently, and why not? They save energy by letting sunlight in and blocking it as necessary; they can be programmed automatically or adjusted with the touch of a button; and they can be designed to allow light but not heat to fill the room.
Smart thermostats are another popular smart-home feature. The ability to have your bedroom, bathroom and kitchen warm up for you on a cold winter morning, or adjust the temperature for you before you arrive home, is an enticing feature. While programmable thermostats have been around for decades, the new smart thermostats offer many more options and are easier to use.
In the bathroom, luxury items like steam showers with adjustable lighting, integrated sound systems, voice, touch-pad or automatic controls for subfloor heating, lighting and sound, take the spa concept to the next level. Heated, lighted toilet seats may be signaling an interest in high-end commodes such as those used commonly in Japan, including adjustable temperature bidet features, touchless water and heat cleaning and drying, automatic seat raising and lowering, and of course warm seats, lighted seats and music or water sounds.
Technology addresses the needs of aging in place. The ability to lock doors, adjust temperature, turn lights on and off and control home security from a phone or tablet – without even having to get up – makes life easier for anyone. Doorbells with video for remote viewing; voice-activated music, television and web-access; and even color-adjustable lighting are growing in popularity, although security, fire and gas alarms still account for the majority of smart features.
While totally smart and connected homes are still the exception, about 45% of homeowners are including at least one device or system that can be remotely controlled or monitored on a smartphone, tablet, or computer when renovating, which speaks directly to upcoming trends in new construction. Since it’s easier to build smart features in from the beginning rather than to add them later, parts of the country with the most new home construction lead the way in smart design.
Spaces that serve different needs at different times
Builders and designers are more aware that rooms may serve different functions during the life of the house. Bedrooms may morph into guest rooms, home offices, hobby rooms, fitness rooms or home media centers. These considerations come into play when designing those spaces.
Home design also takes into consideration that a multilevel home may morph into one-floor living without renovations. This means including on the first floor a full bath along with bedrooms or rooms that could become bedrooms, if needed.
Environmentally aware homes
Green trends speak to both environmental concerns and economic concerns, since energy-friendly approaches save money as well as the environment. Insulation may range from traditional materials to alternative methods such as straw bales and rammed-earth blocks. Solar technology concerns may drive home placement decisions, situating the home on its plot so that solar panels can be most efficient and windows can be placed for optimal lighting and temperature needs.
Water capture is a newer but growing area of interest. Rooftop rainwater capture systems leading to underground cisterns may become more popular in coming years. Geothermal heating and cooling systems are another new but growing environmental technology.
As 2017 draws closer, these macro trends will grow increasingly important to new home construction. It’s not just about using the color of the year, but building living spaces that can adapt to changing needs.