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Popular Features in Home & Building Design – From the Experts

Multi-Expert Interview: Current Home & Building Design Trends

 

Looking to get a home built that includes the latest design trends and features? What better way to learn about these trends than straight from the architects and contractors themselves?

We interviewed some established architects and contractors in the home and building industry, and have put their experiences and answers all together in one place for you to view. The experts answer questions about current trends, sustainable building materials, favorite projects they’ve worked on, and more.

Learn more here from the experts. And thank you to those who participated in this article!

 

Benjamin Ward, Curtis Group Architects

Jonathan Opitz, AMR Architects, Inc.

Benjamin Kasdan, KTGY Architecture + Planning

LANZA Atelier, Isabel Martinez Abascal & Alessandro Arienzo

Jonathan Louie and Nicole McIntosh, Architecture Office

Caroline Ann O’Donnell, CODA (Caroline O’Donnell Architecture)

Jay Bangert, The Hagerman Group

 

Benjamin Ward

 

Benjamin Ward of Curtis Group Architects

 

What are the most popular features people look for in a new home these days?

The open concept dominated the market for so long and still is a major element people look for when designing a new home; however, I see more people pushing for functional, livable spaces. With a more educated consumer knowing the benefits of sustainability, larger “great rooms” are less attractive when “right-sized” functional spaces work better and save energy.


What motivated or inspired you to become an architect?

Growing up around my dad, who was always building something, and my large collection of Legos certainly played a contributing role. I think the realization that design has the power to make people’s lives better inspired me to push through architecture school and become licensed.


What designs motivate and inspire your work as an architect?

I love the work of Olsen Kundig, Frederick and Frederick, and Lake Flato. They all do exceptional work that speaks to the local regions in which they work.


What size structures do you find yourself being asked most often to design?

While most of our firm’s work is in the healthcare sector, we do get asked to occasionally design residential work. Most of the projects we have done fall into the 2000 – 3000-square-foot range. I also enjoy helping family and friends plan small additions and renovations. It’s really meaningful to help those who have supported you along the way, even in something as small as a novel idea for a bathroom renovation.


Do you have a favorite project you’ve created or were part of creating? Can you tell us about your experience and share some blueprints or images with us?

Our firm worked on a marsh front home on Pawleys Island. I was the project architect and helped design and see the project through construction. One of the neat features we did was to combine the owner’s art collection with the desire to maintain natural views and daylight. The circulation spine that runs the length of the house has high and low windows while preserving wall space in-between for hanging art. We also used glass block in the back of the upper cabinets to allow light through the cabinets. The feature wall is reclaimed pecked cypress from the cabin that was previously on the site.

Accent wall in kitchen made of reclaimed cypress

View of cypress accent wall from the side looking down hallway

Windows are placed high and low on throughout the house.

Glass block behind upper cabinets with glass-front doors allows natural light into the kitchen

Top and Upper Middle: Feature wall in kitchen made from cypress reclained from the original cabin on the site. Lower Middle: High and low windows run the perimeter of the home and allow space in-between to hang art and other decor. Bottom: Glass blocks behind glass-door upper cabinets allow light through them to brighten the room.

 

There are many architects in the field, what about your work sets you apart from others?

I think working in a coastal environment gives me a unique perspective in understanding resiliency and durability. When the environment is ever-changing around you, you are more aware of how a building needs to endure these changes and adapt over time.


Do you feel as though sustainability (i.e., eco-friendly, sustainable materials, etc.) is an important part of your work? If so, how do you incorporate these into your designs to make them more sustainable?

For most architects, these are things we have always tried to push and incorporate into our work. I’m glad the market is also pushing for them now. But we always caution our clients that there is no technology out there that can make up for bad design. The most sustainable building will always be one that was carefully crafted into its site and responds to the environment around it.


What do you think the design trends will be like in the year 2050?

By 2050 I think a vast majority of our building stock will be net-zero and hopefully very resilient. I think the biggest trend after that will be developing entire new methods of construction. I think the 2x4’s days are numbered.

 

Jonathan Opitz

Jonathan Opitz of AMR Architects, Inc.

 

What are the most popular features people look for in a new home these days?

For us, it's efficient spaces that have very low maintenance. We've seen square footage drop and overall budget remain the same, which has led to high-quality projects with much nicer finishes.

 

What motivated or inspired you to become an architect? 

Becoming an Architect was a dream for many of my family members, so I think that's where it started – with their influence. Then in college, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to be creative and share very personal bonds with clients. It's very rewarding to help a team of people create spaces and environments that they really love.

 

Similarly, what designs motivate and inspire your work as an architect?

I'm very intrigued by the puzzle of the process. Finding the successful balance between the budget, program, and design aesthetic. Getting the owner, builder, and designers to form a team that shares the same goal. That's probably my biggest motivation.


What size home do you find yourself being asked most often to design?

1600 – 4000 square feet


There are many architects in the field, what about your work sets you apart from others?

Our level of care for the client; we view every project as a partnership.


Do you feel as though sustainability (i.e. eco-friendly, sustainable materials, etc.) is an important part of your work? If so, how do you incorporate these into your designs to make them more sustainable? 

We talk through sustainable strategies on every project. Talking through options with owners is necessary, so they are well informed and know the associated comfort, health, and monetary payback.


What do you think the design trends will be like in the year 2050? 

I think we'll see Technology and Healthy Activities find a balance. Currently, these two ideas seem to be perpetually at odds. I'm sure we'll find a way to make them more symbiotic and integrated in the future. I believe this will allow for housing trends to be smaller, denser, and high quality.

 

 

Benjamin Kasdan

Benjamin Kasdan, KTGY Architecture + Planning

 

What are the most popular features people look for in new working spaces these days?

We are seeing a trend to design spaces to accommodate connections for residents, such as co-working spaces and hotel lobby-like lounges.


What motivated or inspired you to become an architect?

Architecture chose me more than I chose architecture. I was always fascinated by buildings and spaces that I visited and would draw about my experiences afterwards.

The word “architect” was a 2nd-grade spelling word in Miss Mayer’s class and when I asked her what that funny word meant, I realized that it was my destiny.


What designs motivate and inspire your work as an architect?

I find design inspiration everywhere: buildings, public spaces, vehicles, art, music, nature. I love to travel to find new sources of inspiration.


What size homes do you find yourself being asked most often to design?

My studio at KTGY focuses on high-density multi-family projects. Most projects either end up with a lot of very small units or a lot of very big units.


Do you have a favorite project/design you’ve created or were part of creating? Can you tell us about your experience and share some blueprints or images with us?

I always hope that the current project will be my next favorite. Some favorites are 2125 Franklin – a mixed-use student housing project in Eugene, Oregon, with a very constrained site; Fourth Street East – a mixed-use project in the Jack London District of Oakland, California, that spans 2 city blocks with a very clear big idea in its aesthetic expression; and Symphony – a high-end mixed-use project in the Arts District of Costa Mesa, California, near South Coast Plaza that fills in a piece of the urban fabric.

2125 Franklin, a Eugene, OR, student housing project

Fourth Street East, a mixed-use project in Oakland, CA

Symphony, a large mixed-use project in Costa Mesa, CA

Top: 2125 Franklin is a Eugene, OR, student housing project. Middle: Fourth Street East, a mixed-use project in Oakland, CA, spans two city blocks. Bottom: Symphony, in Costa Mesa, CA, is a large mixed-use project.

 

There are many designers and architects in the field, what about your work sets you apart from others?

KTGY does not have a singular architectural voice, but we work very collaboratively with our clients to create truly custom projects for every project.

 

Do you feel as though sustainability (i.e. eco-friendly, sustainable materials, etc.) is an important part of your work? If so, how do you incorporate these into your designs to make them more sustainable?

Being an architect in California equals being a sustainability advocate. Every project we design is deeply influenced by sustainability, though I advocate for holistic sustainability more than just buying a bunch of “Green” building gadgets.

 

What do you think the design trends will be like in the year 2050?

Design trends in 2050 will likely have to with multi-generational living and flexibility.

 

 

LANZA Atelier - Isabel Martinez Abascal & Alessandro Arienzo

Isabel Martinez Abascal & Alessandro Arienzo, of LANZA Atelier

 

What are the most popular features people look for in new buildings these days?

Flexibility and sustainability. People need their houses to be flexible in order to adapt to changes inside the family composition, in case they want to move out and sell it to other tenants, and because new uses will arise during the time someone spends in a house. Also, people are more and more conscious that we are causing irreversible damage to our planet and they want their houses to be respectful with the environment and able to use clean sources of energy.

 

What motivated or inspired you to become architects?

The desire of contributing to the world, be inspired by it, and thus create a contemporary environment for us to share.

 

What designs motivate and inspire your work as architects?

We are very inspired by nature, by spontaneous happenings we see in the streets and popular anonymous cleverness, by land-art, and by some great architecture masters, mainly from the Renaissance, Modern, and Contemporary eras.

 

Do you have a favorite project you’ve created or were part of creating? Can you tell us about your experience and share some blueprints or images with us?

We are about to finish our first house from scratch; it is absolutely exciting. See the floor plan and section plan below:

Floor plan of LANZA Altelier's first house

Casa Jajalpa is located in a pine forest near Mexico City. The initial intention was to domesticate a piece of that forest to make it part of the house. An organic wall that adapts to the positions of pre-existing trees and that sometimes operates as a corridor and sometimes as a lattice, delimits an area within nature.

The rooms of the house, a one-story volume for the family and a two stories volume for guests, are related to this wall, either joining or being crossed by it. Thus, they turn towards the interior forest, leaving outside the noise of the neighboring road and the presence of other neighbors.

The house is built with artisanal brick, which remains exposed in most cases. The concrete slabs of the main volume are curved to let the morning light into all the rooms of the house. A relationship is created with abstract fragments of the landscape through the patios, windows, and doors so that nature is always present.

See-through wall in LANZA Altelier's house sometimes acts as a lattice and sometimes as a corridor

Top: Organic walls in the house sometimes act as lattice and sometimes act as corridors. Bottom: The house structure is made of artiisanal brick.

 

What size home/buildings do you find yourself being asked most often to design?

We do a lot of exhibition design, which in size can vary from 20 to 2000 square meters, and we have been working into residential architecture for the last two years.

 

There are many architects in the field, what about your work sets you apart from others?

We see each project as an opportunity to experiment with new spatial ideas.

 

Do you feel as though sustainability (i.e. eco-friendly, sustainable materials, etc.) is an important part of your work? If so, how do you incorporate these into your designs to make them more sustainable?

Absolutely, we tend to use local materials in each case that are either very long-lasting or can be reused – and because they talk about the atmosphere in which the project is immersed.

 

What do you think the design trends will be like in the year 2050?

If things continue the way they are going now (with carbon dioxide emissions for example), by 2050 the acidification of the oceans will be so high that most coral reefs will be dying, and we will have caused a mass extinction of all kind of species. Our only chance as humans is to become more aware of what our planet needs and design according to that.

 

 

Jonathan Louie and Nicole McIntosh

Jonathan Louie, Architecture Office

Nicole McIntosh, Architecture Office

 

What are the most popular features people look for in a new home/building these days?

Every client is different. And we try to customize the design to the client individual needs and desires. We enjoy clients who are looking for a design that is beyond the obvious. In our projects, we often explore an everyday object that is used in a new way or a familiar thing that has new characteristics.

What designs motivate and inspire your work as architects?

We’re constantly looking and collecting imagery of all kinds – photographs, scans, paintings, etc. We organize the imagery into different collections and constantly look at them to inspire our work. Usually, we start with an observation that influences the collection around a design topic. The images are usually multiple views of things that collapse into a new identity for a design. The goal is for a trace of the imagery to be actualized as the built product.


Do you have a favorite project you’ve created or were part of creating? Can you tell us about your experience and share some blueprints or images with us?

House in House is a 1300-square-foot single-family home sited in a forest clearing along Lake Walker in Washington state. The house is designed to point to its context through a hybridization of two images – that of an existing log cabin and of the surrounding landscape.

House in House reconstructs the size and shape of the existing log cabin within an outer shell. It produces two homes for the price of one: the inner house nestled in the outer house, and a public exterior surrounding a private core. While nearly identical in shape and proportion, each house presents differing qualities to distinguish one from the other. The outer house has no program but deploys typical elements – fenestrations, siding, roofing – to look like a house, while the inner house resembles a sculpture but houses all of the functional spaces of a traditional home. The outer house is covered by an image wrapper that stretches taut over its surface. Its pattern samples the forest beyond, using photographs taken from multiple perspectives to create a camouflage graphic that merges the house with the surrounding environment.

Top: The outside of House in House is wrapped in image wrapper – with image patterns taken from the forest beyond – that stretches taut over its surface. Midde: A cross section of the house clearly shows the inner and outer walls. Bottom: Floor plan of the main level.

 

What size home do you find yourself being asked most often to design?

We’ve recently been asked to build single-family homes and a restaurant in that are around 900 – 1300 square feet in area. As we grow, we’re excited to apply our interest in imaging on larger projects in the near future. The benefit of small projects is that we can make sure that we design every single detail and work closely with clients on their dreams of building something.


There are many designers and architects in the field, what about your work sets you all apart from others?

Our Architecture Office draws on the support of a pervasive image culture to construct new designs that question the significance of a thing in relation to its place. While the circulation of images is fundamental to the world today, through saturation no single image constitutes a single legible vocabulary; rather, it represents an accumulation of ephemeral views that connect and continue the real-time value of a thing.

Through reconfiguration as much as representation, our work actualizes images that both distinguish and deny familiar physical characteristics from their traditional cultural and disciplinary associations. Such work includes research into the collision of details in European-themed towns in America in Are We There Yet?; the convergence of pictorial and material elements as wallpaper in Big Will and Friends; and the overlay of building features that each materially relate to their immediate environment in House in a House. We aim to destabilize the experience of images and things by displacing or interrupting their familiarity, be it context, materiality, or other characteristics.

Images influence both the means and the ends of our work. They support the projects’ conception and find their appearance as part of the outcome. By collecting and disseminating images, the work and research supports architecture’s unique capacity to not be static and singular but to simultaneously engage and refresh the things around it.



Caroline Ann ODonnell

Caroline Ann O'Donnell, CODA (Caroline O'Donnell Architecture)

 

What are the most popular features people look for in a new home these days?

Sustainability: Clients are becoming much more conscious of effects of building on the environment, in terms of both materials and energy. All of the projects that we are working on are projects in which clients have specifically requested special consideration of this issue, including a recycled house, using only recycled and/or recyclable materials.


What motivated or inspired you to become an architect?

I loved watching houses get built on my street when I was young. Today what I do is very far from those little concrete block bungalows in Ireland – it may as well be a different profession – but I still love the process of construction and seeing something come to life.


What designs motivate and inspire your work as an architect?

Nature inspires my work, in particular animals and their co-evolution with the environment. Their evolution is for survival but also generates beautiful form, pattern, and material.

 

What size structures do you find yourself being asked most often to design?

There is no rhyme or reason to what we are asked to do. Last week we finished a mini-library in Buffalo, New York, which was supposed to be mailbox-size (but was more like bus shelter size), but we are also working on a gallery, a few houses, a large aviary, and some urban-scale projects.


Do you have a favorite project/design you’ve created or were part of creating? Can you tell us about your experience and share some blueprints or images with us?

Like children, I love all of my projects equally! I am excited about the projects that have used waste materials (like Party Wall) or misused everyday material (like Urchin) or been efficient with materials (like Tripe) or used decomposable materials (like Primitive Hut – a collaboration with Martin Miller under the banner of OMG). Here are some images from one of our latest projects:

Assembling a recent project of the Caroline O'Donnell Architecture firm

Recent project of CODA (Caroline O'Donnell Architecture)

Closeup of one of Caroline O'Donnell Architecture's recent projects

 

There are many architects in the field, what about your work sets you apart from others?

We like to think of every project as a werewolf. Something that has the potential to react to external forces, to shapeshift, to change its materiality, to be cunning.

 
Do you feel as though sustainability (i.e. tiny houses, eco-friendly, sustainable materials, etc.) is an important part of your work? If so, how do you incorporate these into your designs to make them more sustainable?

Clearly yes! I am cautious about sustainability too, though, because it can so often be a buzzword without real substance. We like to think about sustainability in a truly fundamental way.

 

What do you think the design trends will be like in the year 2050?

Dynamic Architecture: buildings that move in response to changing environments. We are already working on it with a project called Zimmer (another collaboration with Martin Miller under the banner of OMG). Zimmer is a walking house that reconfigures its plan arrangements as it walks and leaves a trail of planted seeds.

 

 

Jay Bangert

Jay Bangert, The Hagerman Group

 

What are the most popular features people look for in a new construction these days?

From a contractor's standpoint and specifically in the healthcare environment, people look for an environment they can heal. Therefore, an environment that is comfortable, relaxing, protects them from noise but is also exposed to the outdoors. In addition, administration of the hospital looks at how can we design and build spaces that are efficient and allow them to increase patient care with the same or reduced staff and how can we design the space that allows the staff to work smarter.

 

What motivated or inspired you to become a Contractor?

What motivates me as a contractor is the everyday challenge. There is never a dull day – from trying to manage the construction budget and schedule to solving design or existing condition conflicts that align with the project budget and schedule.

 

Do you have a favorite project you’ve created or were part of creating? Can you tell us about your experience and share some blueprints or images with us?

Some of my favorite projects have been the most challenging projects from a constructability or complexity standpoint.

 

There are many contractors in the field, what about your work sets you apart from others?

I think what sets our company apart from other contractors is that we are a true builder, meaning that we self-perform our own concrete, masonry, and carpentry work. So we can take that experience and knowledge during pre-construction and apply it to evaluating schedules and budgets throughout the project.

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