Last week we served up a forecast of residential design themes that are likely to gain some traction in the New Year. Now for kicks, we bring you the counterpoint. We asked a few industry observers and veterans to weigh in on design fads that
won’t make their mark in 2011. Do you agree with their predictions? Got others? Post your comments and let's keep the discussion going.
Gratuitous volume spaces are getting redlined out of plans now that lending standards have tightened and builders are scrambling to build more affordable, energy efficient homes. “I am seeing an end to the energy-sucking two-story entry,” realtor Laurie Amman with Adamsville, R.I.-based Katzenbach and Co. posted in a discussion on Linked In. Nine-foot ceilings on the first floor can still provide a feeling of openness without cannibalizing valuable square footage on the second floor, she said.
Large custom homes for wealthy clients have held steady in the down economy, and first-time buyers (who aren’t burdened with existing underwater mortgages) offer shining hope for builders of smaller homes. What’s missing from the market is a middle ground. “As the production builders and a number of local mid- to high-range builders run after the first-time buyer market and look to a price-point answer, there will be voids created in the move-up and luxury market,” says Michael Kruszynski, a risk management specialist at 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty in Jacksonville, Fla. “I believe this will be the era of the niche builder.”
Old World Facades
Turrets, corbels, and colonnades can cost a pretty penny, and are seen as extravagances in a new era of fiscal restraint. That, in turn, is having an effect on which architectural styles are most popular and which are non-grata. “I would say the overall theme now is clean and simple,” says architect Donovan Davis with Danze & Davis Architects in Austin, Texas. “The fussiness and clutter that some design styles seem to embody [are now out of fashion]. I’ve had some builder clients say if they have to do another Tuscan design that they will gag.”
Formal spaces such as living rooms and dining rooms have vanished from most middle-class homes now that architects are on the hook to make every square foot usable on a daily basis – not just on holidays and special occasions. “I have two clients that are making their formal dining rooms into reading spaces and study halls where they will spend time with their kids instead of having space not being used,” says designer Suzanne Felber, owner of Lifestylist Design in Dallas.
Just for Show
Say goodbye to the industrial-grade kitchen range that seldom sports splattered marinara, or the spa tub in the master bath that the owners never fire up because they don’t want to clean it. “Use it or lose it” is the new mantra for right-sized kitchens and baths. “The kitchen is once again becoming a working part of the home and not just a showcase,” says architect Don Taylor of DW Taylor Associates in Ellicott City, Md. “It needs to provide all of the latest conveniences and technology, but with practical applications in mind. The faux commercial kitchen look may have reached its summit.” Same goes for the big soaking tub, which many buyers are happy to trade for a bigger shower with a built-in seat.
There won’t be many new outlying master-planned communities breaking ground in 2011, considering investors are still licking their wounds and cutting their losses from similar stalled projects. Savvy builders are turning their attention to smaller infill neighborhoods or pockets of homes in established communities, says Brian Brunhofer, founder of Meritus Homes in Deerfield, Ill. “Close-knit communities with respected homeowner associations, mature landscaping, and neighbors waiting to greet you –that attractive quality of life is going to appeal to buyers much more in 2011.” Not to mention established school districts.
If your value proposition is only about what you're offering inside the house, your buyers may end up searching for broader horizons. “We are looking at ways to be more cost effective with our design while maintaining a high quality execution and streetscape. Also important is the inclusion of parks, amenities, and neighborhood connections that create the sense of community that will not significantly increase homeowner dues,” says John M. Thatch, a principal with Dahlin Group Architecture and Planning firm in Pleasanton, Calif. Most infill homes on the boards are 10-20 percent smaller in size, he says, but buyers are happy to trade the extra space for a nice environment outside their front door.
The average American moves 11 times, according to Census figures, but that number is destined for a downswing, says Jim Chittaro, president of Smykal Homes, which builds in the suburbs of Chicago. “Thankfully the idea of a home as a short-term money maker is essentially gone, so when people do buy they’ll do it with the intention of staying ten years instead of two or three,” he says. And when folks plan take of their shoes and stay awhile, they tend to care more about design that feels good – not cheap.
Coming Home to a Dark, Cold House
Running your home entertainment, security system, appliances, and lighting from a centralized control panel is so 2010. Going forward, homeowners will expect to be able to control all of these functions remotely with smart phone apps, notes Brian Goldberg, a partner with the Chicago-based design-built firm LG Development Group. “Demand continues to increase for home technology that makes homeowners’ lives easier. We are going to reach a point where homeowners can leave work and, by activating an app on their phone, have all of their home electronics queued up when they walk in the door. The oven is preheated, lights are on, and the TV turns on when motion sensors recognize that they’ve entered the room.”
Although energy efficient building practices are making inroads and green aesthetics have much improved, some architectural models still aren’t ready for prime time. “We likely will not see folks living in geodesic dome structures, even though they have superior attributes,” notes Doug Moslehi, director of field services Resitect in St. Louis. “We also will likely not see sales of [affordable prefab prototypes such as] the Clayton i- House soar, despite the fact that it is an ingenious housing solution.”
Although if we were betting types, we’d put our money on affordable prefabs bucking that trend sooner rather than later.
Jenny Sullivan is a senior editor covering architecture, design, and community planning for BUILDER.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Austin, TX.