1. Smarter, Less Costly Automated Controls: With lives continuing to be busy and automation costs coming down, it’s become more affordable to control a home’s systems—temperature, security, electronics, lighting, and more—through a single device, even from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Doing so can eliminate multiple controls and make it easy for home owners to manage things around their home, even when they are not there. One example is the Nest Intelligent Thermostat, which can be controlled remotely, react intuitively to home owners’ habits, and adjust to conserve energy costs.
A trend that began a few years ago continues to inspire home owners to think beyond terraces and decks. These spaces have more of the feeling and function of an indoor room—better furnishings, fire pits, curtains, and televisions and audio systems… even in a four-season climate like Maine. Some spaces are designed as courtyards for greater privacy, yet with high-efficiency glass windows and doors to make them energy-smart and seamless with indoor rooms.
3. Outdoor Kitchens, Vegetable Gardens, and More:
Interest continues in outdoor food preparation of all kinds—as simple as a grill and as elaborate as a built-in cook’s station with sink, storage, beer tap, pizza oven, refrigerator, and designer concrete countertops. Newer amenities include a hybrid grill that permits cooking with both gas and wood or charcoal and prefabricated kitchens that save funds. With a kitchen in place, many home owners move on to plant a vegetable garden, preferably including raised beds to avoid bending too much. Small greenhouses are popular. Start with what you most like to eat—tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and herbs for gazpacho or spaghetti sauce—and learning through practice what thrives in your area’s soil and sun exposures. Essentials are healthy soil, drainage, and readily available water supply. The next new food trend may be a backyard pond with organically-raised fish that home owners can consume without trekking to a market.
4. Themed Designs: After years of stark contemporary design, themed decorating is making a comeback. More home owners asking for a European flair or a more minimalistic living setting.
5. Media Frenzy: With more families remaining home for “staycations” rather than traveling, rooms are being devoted to giant TV and other multimedia entertainment with comfortable seating, tables, and good lighting. They’re designed to have a more “home-y” feel than the cavernous media rooms of the past.
6. New Neutrals and Color Pops: With the country still in the financial doldrums, neutrals remain more popular than vibrant hues. Nevertheless, neutrals aren’t the same whites, creams, and beiges. A blue-gray often works well with the range of popular blues and the purples. They offer a fresh background dimension and ambiance. In contrast, bright new accents such as such as raspberry-pink may attract greater attention than a straightforward red. There’s also a range of yellows, which complement blue-grays. Designer Ron Marvin of Ron Marvin Design in New York also sees a trend toward orange and purple accents. How long will these colors last? “Paint colors tend to move in cycles of five to 10 years and follow other home-décor categories, which in turn follow fashion.
7. More Double-Duty Furnishings: With homes continuing to be scaled back and many baby boomers moving into condos, more furniture and furnishings need to do double duty in smaller spaces. Expect to see ottomans used for seating and storage, couches that convert to beds, and coffee tables that can rise for dining. This trend means that the one “room” in a house that’s not shrinking is the garage, which is often still big enough for two cars and storage.
8. Lighter Looks: Smaller homes and spaces call for scaled-back pieces and better illumination that makes rooms look larger. Swap out large bookshelves for wall-mounted shelves, opt for tailored furniture over clunky items, and welcome a lot of natural lighting.
9. Green Merchandise: Interest in sustainable products and materials keeps attracting attention—particularly when it comes to choosing paints, adhesives, countertops, and flooring. Most furniture companies and paint manufacturers have at least one item or line that fits the green movement. Large paint companies now
offer zero-VOC or odor-free paints and solvents.
10. Energy and Water Efficiency: Efforts to conserve energy and water throughout the home continue to be popular, including low-water toilets and sinks, better functioning furnaces, and improved insulation (e.g. higher RV ratings). Solar panels are becoming more integrated into roofs so they’re less of an eyesore. Gray recycled water can be used in toilets and to water gardens, while more drought-tolerant plants and replacements for impermeable hardscape allow greater water retention.
11. Panelized Homes: More factory-built homes help to cut building costs at the site by reducing the amount of labor time needed in the field. Besides cost savings, there’s the ability to improve quality control.
12. Handcrafted Elements: Many home owners desire hand-crafted artisanal pieces for a greater personalized look. Some are made from reclaimed rustic wood/metal, which adds a homey, inviting feeling. Renovation Hardware has capitalized on this trend. Architectural salvage stores have never been more popular than they are now. The “industrial look” is still quite popular.
13. Stylish Kitchens and Bathrooms: These remain at the top of many home owners’ wish lists, as they reflect the trend of remodeling rather than adding on. The transitional look—a middle ground between traditional and contemporary—has become more popular. This is evidenced by choices such as cove rather than crown molding, dark-stained or painted finishes rather than natural maple or cherry, and larger format 24” by 24” tiles rather than smaller 12” by 12” and 6” by 6” ones. I am seeing continued interest in larger kitchens, particularly when they become even more open “live-in” spaces for cooking, eating, socializing, doing homework, or paying bills. Likewise, master suites serve multiple functions, including unwinding, sleeping, and bathing. I’m also seeing more features that permit home owners to age in place but don’t convey an institutional look: Grab bars masquerading as towel bars, kitchen counters of different heights for wheelchair access, and wider hallways and doors to permit walkers and wheelchairs through.
No matter what the market’s doing though, the best advice I can give to home owners is to make design decisions based on their hearts and wallets rather than media predictions and hype.