Standard Pacific Homes’ buyers used to say location was the No. 1 reason they bought their new house. Now it's not only A locations, but also the home's design.

“That is huge; location, location, location, and now design,” said Jeffrey Lake, national director of architecture and product development at Standard Pacific. “Design is secondary no longer.”

Standard Pacific hired Lake three years ago from Bassenian Lagoni Architects, where he was a senior principal, to create completely new designs for its homes. The result was a fleet of new designs that defy the previous conceptions about what move-up and luxury home buyers want.

“The whole idea is formerly formal,” explained Lake. “It’s not about being formal; it’s about functionality, the elegant execution of function.”

The transformer room

While the scale of the homes and the finishes are still decidedly upscale, function is clearly of paramount importance. The formal dining room is often gone, replaced by a flex space that could be a formal dining room, a den, a home office, a play area for the children, etc.—whatever works for the buyer’s lifestyle.

Island living

While the kitchen almost always becomes the hub of the house, the new Standard Pacific designs celebrate that by clearly putting it front and center and equipping it with some of the largest islands conceivable. They are big enough for the whole family to eat at or to hold food for a huge buffet dinner. And there are no boundaries between the kitchen and great room.

“Instead of a service [the kitchen is] a show piece, the hub of the home, the core of where everything starts,” said Lake.

Disappearing media rooms

The media room decked out like a mini movie theater is for the most part gone. People really didn’t use them much anyway, Lake said.

“The family room is the media room of today,” he said.

Glass everywhere

Walls of windows and telescoping glass doors are plentiful at the back of the home, leading the eye through the house and into the backyard. “California” rooms off of the great room create a way to expand the living space on nice days.

“Transparency is very important to us,” Lake explained. “The amount of glazing in the great room is considerable. The connection between indoors and outdoors brings in all the light. And there is that ability to customize that with sliding doors that fold to one side.”

Luxury baths still a must

Standard Pacific’s buyers still want a soaking tub and a walk-in shower, which they get, but they also get practical additions, such as seats in the shower.

“These are for everyday use,” Lake says. “We have benches, places to dry off.”

Storage reigns supreme

Plentiful storage, put where it’s needed, is a big part of the new home designs. For the kitchen, that means a full walk-in pantry. And there’s an extra area for bulk storage often near the garage entry where the 50 rolls of toilet paper from Costco can be stored. For cell phones, keys, wallets, and backpacks, there’s a home management center near the garage entrance to keep everything corralled and off the kitchen island.

Age in place

Two-story homes all have a bedroom downstairs or a room that could flex into a bedroom downstairs. “It’s the whole age-in-place thing,” said Lake.

After the new floor plans were rolled out, Standard Pacific surveyed its new homeowners to see how they were living in the house and to gather suggestions that might improve the designs. There weren’t many.

“We pretty much nailed it,” Lake said.  “There was really nothing [to be changed] from the floor plan standpoint.” There were a few tweaks, however, such as more electrical plugs in different areas and some buyers wanted a place to hang drip-dry clothes.

The designs are so livable that Lake himself has house envy.

“I look at my home now and it’s 1,000 square feet bigger than [Standard Pacific's] home over here, but [Standard Pacific’s] home looks way bigger. They are way more efficient in their use of space.”

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.