Trends in the home industry tend to change more slowly than do trends in fashion or cars. But, eventually, design tweaks to better meet buyers’ needs do take hold. For example, formal dining rooms have become less popular in new homes over the past decade, while in-home offices are still sought after as telecommuting continues to flourish.
Sometimes trends emerge in response to economic realities. Land scarcity can make smaller footprints more desirable in many markets, and the changing makeup of families has made flexible layouts more relevant than ever. Plans increasingly are geared toward multigenerational households, offering main-level bedroom suites and/or in-law units that provide privacy for relatives.
The movement toward informality and relaxed living is revealed in the open concept floor plan; a longtime trend that doesn’t seem to be waning, and exterior design, which has also seen change. Ornate styles such as European (a broad category that typically involves a lot of stone arches and stucco) and New American (aka McMansion) have largely fallen out of favor, while rugged-yet-elegant Craftsman designs continue to be top sellers. The streamlined modern farmhouse style is stealing some of the spotlight, however, as it has become the plan du jour.
The Modern Farmhouse
To understand the immense popularity of this architectural style, look no further than how much American consumers love home renovation shows like those on HGTV, one of cable’s top-rated networks. It’s hard to overstate the impact of Chip and Joanna Gaines and their farmhouse aesthetic on what’s popular in both interior and exterior designs. A relaxed yet streamlined, modern look now reigns supreme among new-home designs.
The modern farmhouse aesthetic seems to have struck a chord with the American home buyer because it relates back to a more bucolic era while also embracing all the needs of modern life. The defining characteristics of this exterior style include lap siding, large windows, and simple rooflines, typically with one or more gables. Bright white siding usually is paired with dark windows and a farmer’s porch. In a departure from historic farmhouse layouts, some of today’s hottest designs feature only one level of finished space, which is appealing to those who intend to age in place.
Open floor plans have been the standard among layouts, but now they’re being taken one step further by combining the formal dining room with the breakfast nook. While a luxury plan may still include a set-apart dining room, mid-size plans increasingly include only one dedicated eating space: an enlarged breakfast nook adjacent to the kitchen.
This change reflects not only Americans’ growing informality at mealtime, but also the continued prominence of the kitchen as the center of the home. Even when square footage is tight, the social kitchen concept has taken hold so thoroughly that even modest homes typically feature a large island with seating.
Current house plan trends reveal a growing movement toward flexibility. A layout that works for a variety of living arrangements means that it will appeal to a wider swath of the population. And that’s important as a growing number of households are expanding beyond the typical nuclear family.
Floor plans need to respond to and accommodate the shift toward multigenerational living, which means adaptability is key. A client might not need room for grandparents now, but in a couple of years that may change. Alternatively, debt-saddled young adults who don’t establish independent households right after college might need some privacy while living with mom and dad. Flexible, adaptable spaces easily can help meet these needs.
While in-law suites have been around for a long time, the trend today makes them much more accessible by placing the bedroom (typically with an ensuite or adjacent full bathroom) on the first floor. When not in use for guests or relatives, this room, which often is in the front of the home, can be outfitted as an office or study.
A move toward practicality—making the most of what you have – is evident when looking at the amenities in today’s home plans. Storage has become more than just a walk-in closet (though you’ll find plenty of them, increasingly in secondary bedrooms as well as in master suites).
Mudrooms and laundry areas provide spots to keep the clutter of everyday living organized. This is especially important in a home with an open layout, where there’s little room to hide footwear, backpacks, and coats. Mudrooms with hooks, lockers, and benches greet homeowners with a place to sit down, take off shoes, and store gym bags and schoolbooks. Meanwhile, smarter storage for laundry necessities—such as detergents and drying racks—is also accompanied by smarter placement in the home. This simple change makes it easy to throw in a load of laundry without lugging a basket through the house.
For furry members of the family, pet amenities have become more common in new house designs. There are creative solutions for the discreet placement of a pet’s food and water dishes or a cat’s litter box. Incorporating “pet centers” in layouts, which include dog-washing stations and other storage, are now common occurrences.
A home office can be viewed as a storage solution if it’s able to also serve as a guest suite. This provides a multi-purpose room in the truest sense of the word.
Looking at current house plans, creating larger showers has become the norm. Many layouts from recent years include a standalone shower in the master suite. If you haven’t already, kiss the tub/shower combo goodbye. Current trends involve two sinks, and a freestanding tub. In smaller plans, the tub gets nixed, but the shower always remains. Why? While a bath sounds relaxing, it can be hard to fit into a busy schedule. And forget those ornate tubs of yore, with their elaborate steps and big surrounds. When they are included, today’s tubs typically provide a spacious but simple place to unwind.
With showers, however, more is more. Walk-in showers, especially those without a curb, look elegant and work well for aging in place—add a well-anchored grab bar and a bench. A few particularly upscale plans even arrange the shower so that it can be entered from two sides. But a massive amount of square footage is not required to have a chic, contemporary bathroom. Many plans keep it simple and streamlined with the must-haves: double sinks and a spacious shower.