The next great new-home design will have a place for your keys and Grandma.
Those were two observations award-winning architects Mike Woodley and Mark Jones offered home builders gathered at Builder’s annual Housing Leadership Summit this week.
The theme of the conference was innovation, and both Woodley, president of Woodley Architects, and Jones, Principal of Looney Ricks Kiss, said home buyers are hungry for something different in the way homes look and live.
“One thing I am convinced about is that people want what they don’t have,” said Woodley, after showing slides of Tuscan-designed developments he has designed for the desert in Egypt and the suburbs of Beijing at clients’ request.
But what American clients haven’t had for years are new home designs that are different and interiors that accommodate modern life with all its extra gadgets and familial complications, they said.
“We have been copying a lot of old styles,” said Woodley. “We haven’t been innovating for a while.” But now, he said, clients are coming in and asking for something fresh. Supplying it gives home builders a chance to woo buyers away from the beckoning plethora of used homes.
Woodley offered examples of different-looking homes with clean, contemporary lines and materials that are luring buyers to the closing table across the country.
But building a different exterior isn’t enough. Build homes that help people keep all the flotsam and jetsam of modern life in place and allow multiple generations to live together in harmony and you’ll snag buyers.
“It’s all about the quality of the [living] experience,” said Jones. And sometimes that starts with building a home that has a place for people to put their keys, their coat, their shoes, the mail, and to plug in their phone when they walk in the door.
“Don’t neglect the entrance that owners use 99% of the time,” he said.
Kitchens need to be gathering places that function for both cooking and socializing, with nearby spaces where the kids can do their homework within sight and earshot of the person who is preparing dinner.
People also enjoy homes that allow the indoors and outdoors to connect.
Jones said the great-room design is working well for families, but they also need and want a space where family members can retreat from the crowd, be it a den downstairs or a space upstairs that can flex into anything from a place for the kids' toys to a retreat for parents.
Woodley suggested that home designs be rethought to include more separate living spaces, citing Chinese home designs that orient different living spaces for different generations around a central shared courtyard.
Woodley has designed homes on that model recently and said they work for families with multiple generations, including aging parents, boomerang children, or other relatives who might show up needing a place to stay because of life transitions.
“Allow somebody to live with a little dignity, versus a bedroom down the hall,” he said.
Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.