- view all thumbnails
Kitchens are becoming better defined as we move away from totally open plans. A visually open kitchen with a half-wall is America's favorite kitchen floor plan.
Built-in banquettes are great multifunctional spaces. They can serve as a breakfast-time gathering spot, an after-school hangout, or a study area. Banquettes are an excellent way to maximize kitchen space because the seating pushes right up to the wall. They also maximize kitchen storage by providing extra space beneath the seating areas.
Oversized islands are a popular feature for kitchens because of their versatility. They can serve as the primary workspace, a secondary workspace, extra storage, or a spot for multiple cooks to spread out.
Formal dining rooms remain on the "must have" list for both entry-level and upscale buyers.
Wood was the standard flooring material of homes built before 1960. After fading in popularity, wood is on top again. Homeowners can choose from a variety of hue or grain patterns, and wood lasts for more than a century. Eco-friendly alternatives, such as bamboo, are also gaining in popularity.
Homeowners concerned about their heating and cooling bills are paying more attention to their windows. They want windows that perform consistently under always-changing conditions, are easy to maintain, block harmful UV-rays, and enhance home design. Builders and designers recommend Energy Star-rated windows that feature multiple panes, low-E glass, inert gas between panes, and frames with warm-edge spacers.
Bathrooms are no longer strictly functional spaces -- today they are luxurious and relaxing retreats. New designs separate the tub and shower spaces. Bathtubs are for soaking and showers feature multiple water-delivery devices, including a rain shower, a handheld shower, and body-massaging showerheads. These bathrooms also reduce cleanup by eliminating glass-and-metal shower doors and small-format tiles that require lots of grout maintenance.
Homeowners are balancing spaciousness with intimacy. The huge two-story rooms popular a few years ago are rarely being built today. In upscale homes, ceiling heights of 9 to 12 feet are typical. Only about 14 percent of homes in the United States are built with ceilings higher than 9 feet. In taller rooms, architects are using tiered treatments and woodplank ceilings to create more visually comfortable spaces.
Upscale homeowners still want and demand a well-appointed living room. In moderately priced homes, however, the living room has evolved into a study or getaway space off the foyer. About a third of potential home buyers say they are willing to buy a home with no living room.
In casual living spaces, builders and architects strive to tie the fireplace, media center, and storage in an arrangement that complements the home's architectural style and offers a unified focal point.
Making every inch count is popular in new homes. Practical ideas throughout the home include creating intimate pocket spaces from nooks and alcoves, putting transition spaces to work with built-ins, outfitting home offices (found in 25 percent of all new homes), and investing in main-level laundry rooms with islands and storage for art or hobby supplies.
Consumers are asking for much clearer definition of individual spaces, as open floor plans give way to innovative semi-open arrangements. Although columns are still a popular way to subdivide, a newer trend is the use of partial walls to physically separate the space. This arrangement allows for good traffic flow and visual connections.
Outdoor rooms are replacing the traditional backyard. Homeowners want outdoor kitchens, living rooms, garden rooms, and more. The best arrangement places the outdoor kitchen and dining area close to the indoor kitchen. Not only is this convenient for outdoor gatherings, but it also helps homeowners feel connected to the outdoors when inside.
Currently, consumers are favoring a return to traditional exteriors based on American and European precedents. Among other factors, many consumers are deciding that quality of space is as important as quantity.