But we don’t stop there. Instead of simply reporting trends, we believe in setting them! And you should too!
Housing starts are still low, but are expected to pick up in the first quarter. Will they remain strong? Only time will tell. Renovations and major additions, on the other hand, have stayed the course and will continue to pick up speed.
Without further adieu, here’s what we’re seeing and what we predict will be the hottest trends for 2013.
13. Location, Location, Location
Firstly, let’s discuss location. There is a big trend towards returning to the City, but this isn’t reserved for just the Big Cities. Many smaller towns around the large cities offer not only affordable housing stock, but some wonderful historic homes. What’s more is that these Towns are “walkable communities” in the original sense of the phrase. They offer small mom & pop type shops; quaint and quite trendy restaurants; and can afford easy commutes for a day in the Big City. The services are often better, as is the attitude of the community.
Planned communities can be wonderful places to settle. But not all are alike. Many offer a host of amenities and you will be part of a larger community – sort of.
New Towns are communities that have been designed with people and community in mind, rather than developers’ bottom lines. They are walk-able. They are friendly. They have trees, and water, and the houses don’t all look the same. New Towns are designed by planners, not engineers and developers. If you haven’t been to one, go for a drive. Kentlands, in Maryland was one of the earlier ones, as was Seaside in Florida. You will know these communities because they have charm, and character, and they look like they’ve been there for years. They are often concentrated developments, though that does not mean they are small. A colleague of mine is doing one that is 2000+ units. And there are mid-range New Towns, and Upscale New Towns, like Windsor just outside Vero Beach, Florida.
Those that are doing better than most, allow purchasers flexibility in the actual design of their home, knowing that if a homeowner is invested in the design, they are more likely stay. The best will allow you to bring your own architect or designer, but will have a set of architectural guidelines to follow.
Another trend is to go beyond the suburbs to an existing “small town”. A Forty-five minute drive out of most major cities is the minimum, but you will pay dearly for the quaintness and proximity to the metro area. Instead, be adventurous and travel a bit further out. At two hours, you can usually get a better home for your dollar, and you will have a great weekend retreat for your friends still in the city.
12. Aging in Place & Multi-Generational Living
Aging in Place is the motto of 2013 and beyond! This doesn’t mean staying in place necessarily, but is most often seen through renovations of an existing home. It can also be downsizing to a fixer-upper and increasing the value and functionality of the home through improvements that will allow aging persons to remain in a place of comfort.
Like other real estate improvements, kitchens and baths have the highest return. Aging in Place improvements often consist of readying the home for wheel chair accessibility, should it ever be needed. This means showers without curbs, so a wheel chair can easily roll in. Kitchens with wheel-chair height counters can be helpful. A larger renovation might include adding a master suite to a lower level for single-level living (the bonus being that the upstairs bedrooms are reserved for guests, children and grandchildren! Or, if you’re a bit younger, but with aging parents, the Granny Flat, and the newer “Granny Pod” is the hottest things around!
Fifty-five and older communities (aka “Retirement Communities”) are quickly dying off – pun intended. While the number of Boomers is at an all time high, the generation following them is not so keen on such communities. And the boomers are wising up to the high costs of such communities. These communities will eventually become, at best, the new ghettos of the 21st century, and at worst ghost towns. (Don’t believe us? Pick up a book called “Leisureville” by Andrew Blechman. It’s a quick read about large-scale retirement communities.)
I suppose there is some lure to the micro-demographics of such a community where you won’t have to put up with the neighbors’ kids trampling your prized roses. However, these communities can be rather stifling and boring. Instead, invest in a New Town Community.
Now that we’ve cleared those out of the way, let’s discuss the actual home.
11. Classic is Back
Much like your wardrobe, Classic never goes out of style. Ralph Lauren lunched its New York City Flagship store in late 2010, and it is high-classical fashion. Everyone loves it. The whole design is very controlled, yet fresh and engaging. There is an increasing number of architects and designers who have returned to studying antiquity in order to understand classical beauty. Yes, we’re talking columns, entablatures and triglyphs! Good riddance, Frank Gehry; Hello, Bob Stern. But that’s just the beginning.
While the glossy mags continue to present cutting edge designs, the market is growing weary of sleek and bleak exteriors and interiors, void of personality. Those who have lived in such austere abodes attest to how unforgiving they can be. The masses want something they can relate to – designs with character and human proportions. And Traditional (which is rooted in the classical) is being re-found.
10. Less is More
In the ongoing concern of the global economy, “Less is More” will be a continuing design trend for at least the next 10 years – not in a minimalist sort of way though. We’re talking the whole envelope of the home. Homes are becoming less fussy. This isn’t a bad thing. The McMansion era is dead (thank gawd!) – thought there are a few still hanging on out there.
But how does less is more translate into contemporary living? It’s all about downsizing. Rather than simply doing with less, the idea here is Quality over Quantity. It is also about rethinking values in design.
The early 1990’s gave way to bigger, but not necessarily better. It’s as if the Big Hair of the ‘80’s carried over to homes and lasted well into 2010. Not anymore. Whatever your budget, work towards a higher price per square foot rather than a larger footprint. Like a piece of Tiffany jewelry, it doesn’t have to scream big to be valued (yes, okay, sometimes bigger is better, but not when it comes to heating a gargantuan home.)
As an example, you could spend $1M to have a home of 6,600 square feet, but at a cost of only $150/square foot. This price per square foot amounts to vinyl siding and drywall. At this price per square foot, you only get builder-grade quality. Contrast this to scaling the square footage back to 2,500 square feet, but spending $400/square foot. You now have a home that is not only full of the best quality materials and design on the market, but is much more manageable in regards to maintenance and utility bills. It is also highly marketable! (Incidentally, highly custom designed homes - you know, the ones with all the great details that make it to all the magazines - range closer to $750-1000/s.f.)
9. Simple, but not Simpler
We’re talking Efficiency in Design, not stark minimalism here. Rather, the idea is to keep the floor plans and elevations of a new home streamlined, purposeful and multi-functional.
Superfluous gables – you know all those pointed roofs on the outside of a home - no longer have meaning. It seems like the more gables a home had, the more homes would sell according to what the National Homebuilders were offering. Instead, squeezing out every inch of usable floor space is imperative. Designing spaces that have multiple purposes is a way to achieve a simple floor plan while maintaining a level of complexity and interest. Perhaps a dining room is incorporated fully into the kitchen. Or, the home office doubles as a library. A master bath with integral master closet helps to consolidate private functions while maintaining a level of luxury. Such “simpler” designs require lots of refining during the design process.
Also, add value through energy efficiency. The design of the home’s systems needs to be simple, but not simpler. Better energy efficiency can sometimes be complex. Take radiant heat as an example: The Romans had it, and now so do we! Heat rises, and radiant floor heat puts the heat where it makes the most sense: at the level of the inhabitants. This means you are getting the maximum comforting effects of the heat, and not having to always turn the heat up to get warmer. Plus, the products have come a long way from the seventies.
Tankless water heaters are another simple, but not simpler approach. They afford on-demand water rather than constantly heating a tank of water for some time in the future when it might be needed. However, they need to be sized properly, and many builders are still unfamiliar with the technology.
8. Bold and Beautiful
Strong lines and bold patterns. Ornamentation is making a comeback, but not in a Rocco way of doing it. Rather than simply painting walls, bold patterns overlaid on the wall will make for a striking presentation. One suggestion here: paint it on. Wallpaper is riff with headaches in the long term. A stenciled bold pattern is far easier to maintain and can easily be painted over when you grow tired of it.
Large florals are a here to stay. Rigorous geometric patterns are going BIG. Be bold and make a statement. If you don’t like it in a few years, just paint it over!
Again, refine, refine and refine some more.
7. "Something Old, something New, something Rough, something Luxe…"
One word: Texture. Add it to walls, floors, even ceilings . We’re not talking popcorn ceilings. Think moldings, woods, fabrics.
Rough Luxe is here to stay, at least for a while yet. The Wall Street Journal published a story last week stating that the world of interiors has a new manifesto. Rough Luxe is “a study in contradictions, an attempt to reconcile the antique or the just plain old with the contemporary, the accumulated with the newly acquired, the decrepit with the pristine.” Rough Luxe is about being purposeful, but mixing things up a bit. Be careful though: this style can quickly become cluttered. No one wants that!
Use salvaged materials next to shiny new fixtures and hardware. Up-cycling is now a HUGE industry. It’s neither for everybody nor every home. But it has its place.
For a truly responsible up-cycling venture, purchase an old property and give it new life!
Borrow pieces from other places. Use industrial pieces for a rustic feel. Re-purpose other items, such as old barn beams for everything from stair treads to beams in the living room. Find a great antique door from France or Turkey and have your designer incorporate it in to the design. One of my personal favorites is taking antique doors, and mounting them to the wall with barn door hardware. Saves the space from having a door swing and uses a really neat old door.
6. Natural Products & Traditional Craftsmanship
There has been a long-standing myth that man-made products are “maintenance-free” and that natural products are pricey. It’s simply not true.
Natural products are renewable products mostly. Stone lasts the longest. But wood, when maintained properly, can last centuries. Worried about maintenance? Natural products will not only age gracefully if not maintained, but they let you know when they are about to fail. Most synthetic products simply break down with little notice. And those man-made products typically have much shorter life cycles, which contributes to a vast amount of global waste.
There is a trend to return to age old techniques, like three part stucco and interior plaster work, but with the advantages of modern materials and technology. Did you know you can have an interior plaster finish that is as durable and as beautiful as the old horse-hair plaster of years gone by simply by applying a series of plaster layers atop drywall? Three-part stucco applied to the exterior of a house is a natural water barrier (meaning virtually maintenance free). The cracks in the outer level rarely make it to the two lower levels, meaning water stays out of the home, and a crack in the exterior stucco adds instant patina to a home. Wood siding, if primed and painted, can take a new color anytime you want, unlike vinyl siding.
Inside the home, there are many natural products, and especially reclaimed products from older homes, that can be used. Why have an engineered “wood-look” floor when you can have the real thing at a fraction of the price? There is so much reclaimed flooring on the market, that you can negotiate a pretty good deal with the dealers.
5. A Personal Touch
This doesn’t mean monogrammed linens (though those are nice too.) The key here is authenticity. For starters, design your own home. Hire your own designer and get something you REALLY want. This isn’t reserved for your dream home. Many architects and designers are happy to work within even limited budgets. Plus, there are a lot of products on the market that are “available to the trade only”. That’s how you get truly custom! If you must go into a national builders’ spec home, hire an interior designer. And, for even more custom, have one or two pieces designed and custom made – an entry foyer chandelier for example. These pieces will become family heirlooms.
4. Buying Local
Local (indigenous) materials should be used as much as possible. Before selecting materials, ask how they were made and where they originated. Granite, as an example, is mostly shipped to the U.S. from Brazil and other parts of the world. The fossil fuels used for this transportation render it non-sustainable. Soapstone is a far better choice for many applications such as countertops, flooring and even shower seats, and there is only one operational soapstone quarry in the U.S. - Alberene Soapstone! It’s bold and beautiful, and doesn’t need to be sealed. Color selection is quite limited, but it is local (to the US) and a 100% natural product that stands the test of time.
3. Waste Not, Want Not
Construction waste is a HUGE problem the world over. Demand better practices. Lumber can be ordered pre-cut so that there is little cutting on site and therefore less waste; but your architect/designer must specify it, and design to its specifications. Also, designing homes with industry standards in mind can cut waste, and project costs, dramatically. The standard for the US is 2’ increments. Plywood sheathing, as an example, comes in 4’x8’ sheets (as well as few other stock sizes). The less cuts, the less chance of waste.
Also, the use of “green” products, resources and technology is on the rise more than ever. The technology for solar hot water has come down in price substantially. Use it as a supplemental source. It can be combined with the tankless hot water heaters mentioned above. Natural Wool building insulation is now available in the States and is a wonderful alternative to sprays and other products that off-gas harmful contaminants in the home.
2. Smart Homes
With more and more Smartphones and apps on the market, creating a smart home is by far the most energy efficient and comfortable. Who wouldn’t want to be able to press a button while coming up the drive and have a pre-set configuration of lights turn on before you enter the home? A Smart Home allows you to remotely access everything from the home’s heating and cooling to the home’s drapes. This can be especially important for second homes, as you can turn on the heat from anywhere in the world and have the home warm and toasty by the time you arrive. You can even have your stereo set to the right mood music before you arrive home.
1. Live a Little, Live a Lot
Home will always be where the heart is. However, for whatever reasons, we all have a desire to have homes that are extensions of ourselves, yet will serve to be inviting to our families, friends and guests.
Your home says as much, if not more about you than your car or wardrobe. You can afford to keep it simple in order to maximize your relationship with your home. Focus on the rooms that matter most. If you like to entertain, put your budget into the public spaces. If you are a recluse, scale back on public spaces and maximize the design of the spaces you will use most - add little touches like a reading nook, or a spa-like bath. Work at home? Really do up the home office. Love to cook? Design a kitchen that will allow you the maximum cooking experience. Do you like long baths? Focus on a bathroom that will give the ultimate spa experience right at home. It doesn’t have to be big; just well appointed.
Bottom Line: Living Well with Less in 2013 – it is the new Chic!
*Gerald Forsburg, owner and principal designer at Gerald Forsburg Associates in Virginia, has over 20 years in architecture and design.