Top Ten Home Trends for 2017

By Boyce Thompson

Despite rumors of its demise, the freestanding, sculptural soaking tub (with spacious shower) is a trend with legs -- so to speak! Plan 935-5

Home building doesn’t change much, according to critics. Most home are still built stick by stick the same way they were 100 years ago. That wasn’t the impression created by three days of seminars at this year’s International Builders Show in Orlando. If anything, the pace of change appears to be escalating as builders and designers try to pump more life into a slowly expanding market. Anyone thinking of building a home would benefit from putting to work many of the trends identified by conference speakers. Some will result in an improved home design. Others could add value to your home when you sell it down the road. Still others could create big lifestyle benefits in the short run. Here are 10 important trends from IBS.

1. Voice Controls Take Center Stage
A year ago, people were still waiting for the big players – Apple, Amazon, and Google – to enter the home controls market. Now that it has happened, building products companies are lining up behind the tech giants to introduce products and systems that can be voice controlled. Siri, Alexa, and Google have become an important point of first contact in home automation systems. The implications for homebuyers are huge, says Avi Rosenthal, of IoT (Internet of Things) Consulting in San Diego. “These devices enter your psyche. They become part of your life.” On the other hand, Dan Gregory thinks things could get a little confusing when you need to ask Alexa to, in turn, ask, the GE voice, Geneva, to turn on an appliance.

2. Artificial Intelligence Is Next in Line
The next big thing appears to be artificial intelligence. The Nest thermostat, which learns your patterns to create a custom heating and cooling schedule, was one of the first home products to rely on predictive analytics. Now it’s coming to audio, video, and home automation home systems, says Julie Jacobson of Electronic House magazine. Other products and systems are starting to make suggestions on their own, sometimes based on who is in the room. Jacobson is astounded by how quickly the trend came on. “We saw none of this the previous year.”

3. Smaller Homes Are a Big Thing
Both ends of the housing spectrum – young people buying a starter home and baby boomers looking to trade down – are driving design of smaller homes. Architects are responding by doing more to connect indoor and outdoor spaces, making homes read larger than their square footage under roof. They are recessing courtyards and adding walls to make outdoor spaces more useful. “We’re seeing more private courtyards, outdoor spaces where families can entertain without neighbors looking in on them,” says Nick Lehnert of KTGY Architects. Houseplans.com's top selling small house design is 

Plan 890-1 with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, a huge deck, and solar panels on the roof.

4. Design Expectations Reach New Levels
It wasn’t long ago that would-be homebuyers entered showrooms without a clear idea of what they wanted. Today’s, thanks to a raft of popular home shows, picture-gathering websites such as Instagram and Houzz, and websites dedicated to house plans, they have a much better idea. That has led to “much higher expectations” among shoppers, says Sarah Reep of Masco Cabinetry who works closely with showroom designers. What hasn’t changed, though, is the homebuyer’s inability to tie together disparate design touches. They still need designers for that.

5. Designers Hunt for New Neutrals
While white kitchens remain white hot, so to speak, they may have peaked. Same goes for stainless steel appliances. “We’re going to see an expansion of neutral backgrounds” in the kitchen, says Reep, noting that appliance companies are introducing black matte and gray models. She thinks that may lead to more wood mid-tone cabinetry. Meanwhile, on the exterior, designers are making greater use of contrasting colors, especially blacks and grays, to accent building forms and fenestration openings. “We’re seeing a real intentional use of color,” says Rick Overby of Stella Color + Design in Denver.

6. Kitchen Design Gets a Workout
Several speakers maintained that young households, unlike baby boomers who often prefer carry out, like to cook. “They are foodies,” said Maxine Lauer of Michigan-based Sphere Trending. “They like to cook -- often together.” That means designing kitchens with at least two workstations and shared access to the garbage, refrigerator, and sink. That way two cooks aren’t 

continually bumping into each other. As an example, Plan 479-11 includes a sink by the window and one in the butcher block island. Another trend: young homeowners want to individualize spaces. They may create home brew 

islands, freelance computer stations, or craft pantries. An example of the latter is the craft/laundry room in Plan 132-22, shown here.

7. Garage Bays Get a Second Look
 
Multiple garage bays may still drive big home designs. But what’s going to happen as shared car services grow in demand? Anyone thinking of putting more than two bays in a house needs to consider how those spaces could become rooms down the road. Shared parking spaces are growing more popular in new home communities as people decide to devote more of their lot to living rather than driving. In some cases, local ordinances that require dual attached garages aren’t keeping pace. “Autonomous cars are coming,” says Lehnert. “How do we get communities to understand that we don’t always need two side by side garage bays?”

8. Master Bath Gets a Makeover
Master bathrooms, the place where many couples start the day, are gaining in importance. Designers are drawing spaces where two people can comfortably get ready for work in the morning, and maybe watch the

news at the same time, as in Plan 928-13, above, with the flat screen TV monitor mounted on the wall; or 

as in Plan 928-12, with an ottoman between the two vanities creating a sitting room ambience. Similarly, the master bath is gaining recognition as a place to end the day, with yoga or a nice warm bath. Alluring, free-standing

soaking tubs are all the rage, as above in the claw foot version, and in Plan 935-5's contemporary example at the top of this post, and here, in Plan 888-18, just beyond the sleekly modern double vanity trough sink.

9. Charging Stations Pop Up Everywhere
  Everywhere you look, product companies were touting charging stations for smart phones, tablets, and other omnipresent wireless gear. Kitchen designer Mike Hetherman of Willis in Burlington, Ont., put two wireless recharging stations under his kitchen countertops. They came in real handy during the holidays. “It really solves a consumer problem.” Meanwhile, iPhone and charger docks are showing up everywhere – on tables from IKEA and in cabinet drawers from Hafele. DekTek showed rechargers that can be placed under nearly any non-metal surface. 

10. Modern Design Gains Steam
Modern design is everywhere – in television commercials, in stores, in farmhouse design, and on the IBS show floor. “It’s amazing how many products on the floor are contemporary in design,” says Architect John Thatch of The Dahlin Group, referring to horizontal fireplaces, geometric faucet designs, and glass garage doors. In one seminar, a group of 200 kitchen designers was asked whether they had done a design with raised panel cabinets in the last six months. Only one quarter raised their hand. 

When asked whether they’d done a kitchen with flat panel cabinets, virtually every hand went up. For a collection of Modern designs, like Plan 933-5, shown above, click here. 

Boyce Thompson is the former Editorial Director of Builder Magazine, and the author of The New New Home.

Thu Feb 02 00:00:00 PST 2017