Brett Beyer

Throughout the course of the Responsive Home project, we've learned a lot about how millennials are changing the world of homeownership. They're buying later, blurring lines between urban and suburban, and highlighting the importance of value in product selections. But possibly the most interesting facet of millennials' home-buying practices is that many of their decisions are often wrapped in a package that reminds them of the home they grew up in.

This is particularly true of the smaller Responsive Home, which architect Hans Anderle says has, "that traditional notion of home that people want, regardless of age and demographic. It gives the sense of 'the house I grew up in,' or 'that neighborhood I really like.'"

A creative combination of exterior materials is to thank for the Contemporary Farmhouse's classic look of home. "Because they're starting out, millennials aren't going to go for sprawling McMansions, but they do want authenticity," says John Dybsky, senior marketing manager for James Hardie. "They want authenticity in the design and character of the products they choose, and you can get that in a millennial home every bit as much as you can in a custom home."

James Hardie provided its board-and-batten siding to bring an element of that authenticity to the project. In addition to the vertical element many millennials will remember from their own childhood homes, the Select Cedarmill board profile is designed with a wood grain texture that gives the fiber cement material the look of real cedar. Dybsky adds that James Hardie's products are all engineered with different formulations for different climates - moisture and freeze-thaw resistance in the north, and dimensional stability and impact resistance in the south, for instance. The result is siding that can let designers bring the look of home to any project anywhere.

Brett Beyer

Eldorado Stone also prides itself on exterior options that transcend regions while staying true to their inspirations. "Our tagline is 'the most believable architectural stone,' and that's our main focus - authenticity," says vice president of marketing Ramsay Hawfield. " The company travels worldwide to acquire natural stone samples that are then used to create molds for true-to-life stone veneer.

Both Responsive Homes use Eldorado Stone's modular Cut Coarse Stone that gives the look and feel of authentic Turkish limestone. Hawfield says the sharp, clean lines of Cut Coarse Stone are a far cry from rustic stones the company showcased several years ago. "Millennials are helping to drive our push toward modern designs that we've seen in the market for a few years now," he says. "It's a much more contemporary feel, much more simplified, and designed with a purpose and not a bunch of clutter."

In addition to adding another level of texture to the small home's exterior, Anderle and the design team also used Cut Coarse Stone on the larger Responsive Home in a unique way. "What we've done with the stone is take advantage of gradiation in the size to create a pattern," Anderle explains. "It's all one color and one style of stone, but you can see we've gone from narrower stones at the bottom to larger stones in the center and narrower at the top again. It's a unique application for a production home."

Creativity in design also speaks to the authenticity millennials are looking for. The products used for the Responsive Home project exteriors aren't just true to the natural materials they mimic, but to the reality of millennials living in and designing their first homes.

"We're always looking at who's specifying and buying our product," Hawfield says. "Millennials are a huge group coming down the line, and they'll determine how homes are bought and designed. It's very interesting."

Dybsky agrees. "We're not talking about 22-year-old kids," he says. "Millennials are more sophisticated than previous generations of first-time home buyers, they're more knowledgeable, and their needs will be more varied than what we've encountered over the years. We're very interested in millennials and we believe good design should permeate every segment of who they are and what they're looking for."