What can the latest crop of house plans tell us about trends? Porches and patios show the importance of indoor/outdoor living, even (or especially) on a narrow lot. Streamlined open layouts remain popular, though office space stays separate for now.

Innovative Laundry Layout

A series of gables surrounding a copper roof accent draws the eye to the entrance of this one-story home. Inside, the view leads straight back through the den to the covered porch beyond. An open layout makes it easy to move between the great room, the bright dining nook, and the island kitchen. On the right side, the master suite acts as a hub of its own with direct access to the porch, the laundry room (which also opens to the mudroom), and a private bathroom with a large shower. A secondary bedroom sits just a step away from the full hall bath. Extra storage in the garage and a bonus room upstairs give plenty of space to expand later. See more images, information, and the floor plan.

Pet-Friendly Porch

Ideal for maximizing a narrow lot, this Low Country cottage fits in a surprising number of modern amenities. For example, the master suite holds a large shower, a whirlpool tub, double sinks, linen storage, and two walk-in closets. In the main gathering areas, the open layout invites relaxation, especially at the breakfast bar. Two more bedrooms share a hall bath near the front. Outdoor living takes priority with a wide front porch and a small side porch that makes it easy for dog owners to grab a leash from the closet and go. A two-car garage can be added to the back. See more images, information, and the floor plan.

A Bit of Privacy in an Open Plan

Here's a modern plan that nicely balances open living areas with private zones. The split-bedroom layout places the master suite in a secluded back corner, where it enjoys access to both the back porch and a small-but-bright study. Although the kitchen flows easily into the open dining area, it doesn't face the great room, making it easy to hide a sink full of dishes from visitors. Built-ins provide clever storage spots around the home. See more images, information, and the floor plan.

Light-Filled and Fuss-Free

With three sets of French doors leading from the open gathering areas to the wraparound patio, this home sets the stage for relaxed entertaining. Everyone can linger around the kitchen island, have a seat at the dining table, or simply hunker down by the fireplace. The owner's suite presents a streamlined modern bathroom with a large shower and a walk-in closet. Across the home, two more bedrooms (one ideally situated to serve as a den when needed) share a hall bathroom that sports two sinks. Don't miss the large utility room. See more images, information, and the floor plan.