Making Today’s Homes More Owner-Friendly

When it comes to new housing, architects and designers are always trying to predict the next “new thing” that consumers want. Residential Architects realize the American family is ever-changing and home owners like the idea of a design that allows flexibility into each plan layout. The latest American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey notes that the ‘homeowner interest in accessibility and open space layouts remains at the top of their priorities’.

In turn, living rooms have become open space layouts or flex spaces, letting the owner decide how best to use that space, whether it be a den, game room, and library or guest room.

The single biggest feature buyers want, regardless of price point, is more storage. But it needs to be located in the right places. Bulk purchases at warehouse stores have driven a desire for storage not far from the garage, making unloading easier. Three car garages are being offered in a tandem configuration purely for extra storage alternatives for all of our grown-up toys. Butler pantries off the kitchen and dining spaces are making a comeback. More effective use of cabinets throughout the house offers a built-in storage alternative that feels like part of the home’s design.

The kitchen is the most important room in the home, according to the surveys and experts. Today’s kitchen islands are now more than twice the size of those in older homes, making it a much easier and more relaxing focal point for entertaining. Home buyers also want to hide the countertop clutter, so designers are creating ‘morning kitchens’ or ‘appliance garages’ to offer a place hidden from public view for all those countertop hogs. New plan layouts provide more space for the daily “lifestyle living zone”, the area in which we spend most of our time—the kitchen, family, and casual eating areas.

Designers are also focusing on how to improve our daily arrival experience. The owner’s entry should feel as comfortable, relaxing and inviting as if arriving at the front door. Forget the old cramped entrance through the laundry. Layouts now offer a roomy space that embraces arrival, with a place to stop, drop your keys and backpacks, and store your “stuff” without the visual reminder of dirty laundry.

Another consumer focus is the laundry room. Can we simplify the process by directly connecting the laundry to the master closet? With direct access, it makes dropping off dirty clothes and putting away clean a much shorter, more convenient exercise.

Designers can’t always guess how people want to use the spaces in their homes, so we design flexibility into each plan layout. Formal spaces like living rooms have become flex spaces, letting the owner decide how best to use that space, whether it be a den, game room, library or guest room.

While many owners still prefer a space for a home office, we have seen new buyers embrace the ‘pocket office’ concept, a space open to the kitchen-family area but still somewhat secluded for privacy for paying bills while keeping an eye on those kid ”surfers” after they are home from school.

Master suites are being treated as an escape. In smaller homes, it is a small alcove for a chair and lamp—enough for a rejuvenating reader’s nook. In larger designs, this may be a full lounge area with a TV, separating relaxation and sleeping zones. Master baths are offering a more spa-like environment. Some buyers prefer larger showers with more room, giving up the tub. Others choose smaller footprint soaking tubs for that luxury escape while retaining the shower.

The new home market has had to learn how to attract new buyers during the housing recession by offering design features buyers wanted but couldn’t find in older houses. Iowa builders and developers are including these features in their designs as more people ask for them. Buyers are sharing what interests them most, which leads to innovative ways of creating a home that tries to respond to the way we want to live today—easy, relaxed, and rejuvenated.

Want to learn more?

See the full American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey.