Home Designers Predict Better, Smarter Use of Space as Trends for the Coming Year
With the worst of the housing market collapse behind us, potential homeowners are turning more of their attention to searching through house plans to find and build their dream home. Residential architects and house designers are in the front lines of the housing industry, dealing with the wants and needs of these potential homeowners on a daily basis. They have their finger on the pulse of the market, discerning, tweaking – and creating – the features that people most want in their homes.
We went to the designers and others for predictions of the hottest new trends that those building new homes in the coming year will be looking for. These are the features that are being incorporated in new house plans or that you can include in your own home plan as a modification.
In general, the trends make better, more efficient use of space; improve quality of life and enjoyment of homeownership; and satisfy the demands of active families, no matter what the size or stage of life. Both private and “public” areas of the home are touched on, with the goal being improvement of lifestyle in the sanctuary of the home while making the best possible use of every square foot of space.
What to expect in 2017
1. Want a Pristine Open Kitchen? Add a Prep Pantry
In today's home, the open floor plan kitchen serves as both a practical workspace and a hub for entertaining. However, even the most efficient work triangles may fall short when it comes to cooking and can be an eyesore during a dinner party. Who wants their guests to see all the messy leftovers – or have to actively clean during a party? The solution is a "prep pantry" – strategically located out of public view often between the garage and the kitchen.
Day to day, the prep pantry is a convenient space for unloading piles of supplies after a trip to the supermarket or warehouse club.
Having a party? The prep pantry effortlessly converts to a final resting place for the turkey carcass after Thanksgiving dinner. The space often has a sink to handle the messy jobs and a second dishwasher to clean up the mess afterward behind closed doors. In addition, a full-depth countertop also provides a functional work surface that “display kitchens” sometimes lack. The prep pantry can also be called the “post pantry” after a dinner party where helpful guests can dump the dirty dishes and you can shut the door to deal with the mess after they leave.
This "prep pantry" (above) adjacent to the mudroom entry from the garage is the first stop for homeowners after grocery shopping. There is plenty of countertop work space and, with no need to hide items from visitors, open shelves for dinnerware, cookware, and food items. An extra sink is used for prep work, and an extra dishwasher is handy for after-dinner cleanup or just extra capacity. The space is situated behind the wall with the refrigerator and oven in the kitchen pictured below (courtesy Hanson Builders).
2. For Our Sports Fans, Welcome to the “Stadium Bar”
Let’s face it. For most people at home, the family room involves time around watching TV. Be it college football or binge-watching on Netflix, snacking and watching TV with family and friends is something most of us love to do. And a family room with a wet bar can be a great feature for social gatherings.
Rather than adding a countertop in front of a wet bar, leaving guests with their backs to the action and staring at a dreadfully small TV screen in the bar area, swing that space around behind the couches or sectionals. The 42-inch height of the counter allows for a “mezzanine” viewing angle above seated big-screen HDTV watchers. In a basement recreation or game / media room, the counter is also a great place to await your turn at a nearby pool or ping pong table.
The high counter with seating (above) – overlooking gathered friends and family and facing the main high-definition TV – is reminiscent of a stadium bar that overlooks the action in a sports arena. Guests don't feel as though they are missing out on anything and have a great view (below) of the seated gathering and the TV (courtesy LifeStyle Design).
3. A Final Farewell for the Dining Room – and Say Hello to Flex Space
Designers and builders have reported that the formal dining room – which has looked as if it was falling out of favor over the last several years with the onset of open floor plans – may, like the formal living room, be extinct sooner rather than later. But open floor plans are not without their own set of problems – especially the lack of privacy or quiet space often described as “too much together time,” in which noise from, say, the kitchen can interfere with TV watching or conversation in the family room.
So in place place of the dining room, often near the front door, is a flex space used as a home office, kids’ study /play area, or even – outfitted with a day bed and multifunctional furniture – an occasional guest or "napping" room.
This 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Craftsman style country home would traditionally have been designed with a formal dining room, but as the floor plan shows, the dining area is instead of a piece with the kitchen and more informal, serving as a dining area and what would ordinarily be a breakfast nook (House Plan #142-1168). The traditional dining-room location – the "flex space" to the left of the foyer – has been walled off from the kitchen and fitted with double doors to seal it off from the foyer and the rest of the house. The homeowners may use the space instead as an office, a playroom or study area for children, a library, or a combination den and guest room with a daybed or Murphy bed that can deployed when guests arrive. The powder room opposite the flex space would be convenient for visitors staying in the guest room.
4. Modiying the Open Floor Plan
As we mentioned earlier, the popularity of the open – and even more open – floor plan, in which the family room, dining area, and kitchen share a common space without barriers, has become a familiar feature today. While some issues with this layout are clear, others are less obvious.
In fact, a recent University of Notre Dame study indicates that one might actually gain weight by living with an open floor plan. Designers are increasingly attempting to solve these problems – while trying to maintain the social benefits of the open space – by making use of an unobtrusive, small separation between the kitchen and living area.
Open floor plans have become extremely popular in new home plans in recent years. The wide-open space between the kitchen, eating area, and family room is conducive to socializing, but it can lead to other problems such as noise interference or distraction from the kitchen into the conversation or TV watching in the family room. Designers are responding with small partial partitions intended to define and separate space without taking away from the overarching connectedness intended by the open plan (courtesy Hanson Builders).
5. Anything but Granite!
The default “step-up” kitchen countertop material for many years, granite is now in literally millions of homes throughout the United States. Although granite isn’t going away any time soon, it no longer adds the excitement to kitchen design that it once did. What to do? Pretty much anything else.
Designers are embracing – and seeing acceptance of – a number of countertop alternatives like quartz, marble, soapstone, recycled glass, concrete, butcher block, and even stainless steel. White kitchen design will continue to be popular, but a white kitchen with concrete countertops – that's something special. Expect to see more of these alternative countertop materials in 2017.
A growing trend in kitchens, countertops made of quartz (above), marble, soapstone, and other stonelike materials, as well as stainless steel, wood, and recycled glass, are beginning to show up, specified by designers to take the place of ubiquitous granite. Granite, however, continues to be the conventional material of choice, at least for the time being. (Photo courtesy MS International.)
6. Optimize the Laundry / Utility Rooms
Laundry Rooms take up a lot of space for a little real-time use. Wouldn’t you love a little extra room for hobbies, homework, home management, or just additional folding counter space? Enlarging the laundry room just a bit, on a forgiving floor surface, can give a multi-purpose to the room.
With that extra counter space, you can have a place to fold clothes on laundry day, but at other times it can be used for the kids to do their homework, for you to pay bills, for family members to pursue crafts and other pastimes, and so on.
This cheerful, airy laundry room is a multifunctional space for an active family. There's more than enough space to wash, fold, and iron clothes on laundry day, but the configuration of the room also allows other activities when laundry isn't being done – like doing homework at one of the desk spaces (or both for two kids!), paying bills, crafting or scrapbooking, or pursing other hobbies (courtesy Hanson Builders).
7. Bring the Resort Home: Pools, Cabanas, and Outdoor Kitchens
Trends in recent years have seen residential designers blur the line between indoors and outdoors – outdoor living rooms with fireplaces, sliding glass partitions between a family room and outdoor space to create an extended living space, outdoor kitchens, and more. A trend to look for this year is an outdoor living area incorporating pool, pool house, and outdoor kitchen – think luxurious resort at home.
Although cabanas and pool houses are nothing new, they were once seen as an extravagance, relegated only to the select wealthy few. Designers are seeing more demand for them, and they are often justified by a double use as “guest suites” when outfitted properly.
In the floor plan above, the home embraces an outdoor living "resort" area of pool, sun deck, covered lanai, pool house (or cabana at right), and outdoor kitchen adjacent to the master suite (House Plan #175-1145). The pool house/cabana, with its small kitchenette and adjacent bathroom, can also be a guest residence or in-law suite. This kind of integrated outdoor living space is a trend designers predict will grow in 2017.
8. Toss the Tub for a Large Master Shower
Let’s face it, how many times have you used that jetted tub that takes up so much room in the master bathroom? Designers are using the master suite space more efficiently – and often creating more luxury – by doing away with the underused tub and installing gracious walk-in / walk-through master-bath showers instead – rather than in addition to. The result of the reallocation of space might also be larger walk-in closets, a pampering “vanity” space for her, or just more dressing area.
The owners of this home liiterally tossed out the jet tub and added a bold - and pretty amazing - walk-in shower in the master bathroom of this 4-bedrrom, 4.5-bath home. It is indicative of the kind of luxurious, pampering creations that designers are seeing take the place of tubs in the bathrooms of master suites these days (House Plan #136-1030).
More and more master baths are designed without tubs, as long as there is a tub elsewhere in the house. This floor plan (left) of the upper floor of a contemporary 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Cottage style home plan shows the layout of the master suite, with a large shower adjacent to the water closet (House Plan #168-1128). The shower is visible in the mirror over the double vanity in the photo (right).
9. It's About Time. A Closet of Your Own
In the master suite, first it was double sinks. Then came the separate, double vanities. Today, designers are seeing higher demand for separate his and her master suite closets – and are delivering.
Couples these days find sharing a walk-in closet – with clothes overflowing from one person’s “area” to the next, bumping into one another while getting ready, and so on – less than ideal and prefer their own space. The square footage may come from the abandoned jetted tub or just reapportioned space throughout the rest of the house, but the result is an improvement in the quality of life for the homeowners without being all that extravagant.
Among the luxury trends to watch for in 2017 are separate closets for her and him in master suites. Here, the master suite takes up the left wing of the house, and the second "his" closet is tucked into a corner adjacent to the great room fireplace and stairs and the powder room that serves visitors and guests (House Plan #106-1274).
10. Go Green with a Sunlight Tunnel
Traditionally, skylights have been the go-to way to get natural light into the interior of the home where windows aren’t an option. But the trouble is that the expanse of glass set into the roof has problems of its own. It creates a large hole in the vital attic insulation of the home, wasting energy. It may develop weak spots in the roofing over time, leading to water leaks. And it is limited to use only the upstairs of a 2-story home, leaving downstairs interior rooms with the same lighting problems.
The “natural lighting“ solution to this problem is something call a solar tube.
With brand names like Solatube and Sun Tunnel, solar tubes have been around for some years, but designers report seeing more demand – and are using them more often. They can even be retrofit to an older home. Easy to install in a one-story house or the upper floor of a two-story house, they can also be used in the lower floor of a two-story house by placing the tube strategically to run through a little-used space or closet if possible or by building a chase where it would run through, say, a bedroom and otherwise be in view. The light from a solar tube is equivalent a 60–75-watt bulb in cloudy conditions to well over 100 watts in sunny weather.
A "solar tube" is essentially a run of metal ductwork with a specially mirrored interior surface. The translucent opening at the top of the tube allows sunlight in, which reflects along the interior of the tube until it exits at the bottom into the living space (illustration at left). The light from a solar tube is equivalent to a bright lightbulb – at least a 60-watt bulb even in cloudy conditions – and is ideal for lighting interior rooms without any windows in a home, like this laundry room off a kitchen (images courtesy Solatube International).
As 2017 approaches and more people look to build their dream home in an improving building environment, these and perhaps other trends will make homeownership ever more enjoyable in more space- and energy-efficient houses.