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Home buyers are looking for open floor plans, energy-efficient features and lots of closet space, according to panelists who spoke at two design trends seminars during the NAHB International Builders’ Show in Orlando earlier this month.
Large living rooms and soaking tubs, on the other hand, are falling out of favor, and consumers don’t want second-floor laundry rooms because they think they make too much noise when people are trying to sleep.
Mostly, prospective buyers are looking for small details: the built-in desk under a stairway, the courtyard tucked between the two downstairs bedrooms. To be successful in the current marketplace, builders should be using such features to “create memory points,” said Kate Brennan of the Chicago design firm Mary Cook and Associates.
Brennan spoke at a seminar for custom builders looking for new ideas in home design for floor plans measuring 2,500 square feet or less.
She and co-presenters John Thatch, of the Dahlin Group Architecture Planning, and Gale Seves, of Open House Production, suggested that these single-family home builders take ideas from successful condominium projects where architects and designers have to make the most of limited space.
For instance, an open floor plan is not only more practical for entertaining — allowing the hosts to interact with their dinner guests in a spacious kitchen while they are preparing food — but having fewer walls and closed-off spaces makes the home seem much larger, panelists said.
More than ever, the kitchen is the hub of the house, even if busy families are bringing home takeout. A kitchen island needs to be larger to double as a homework spot, craft table and bill-paying desk — and a place to enjoy coffee on a Sunday morning.
Natural finishes are also more popular, the panelists said. Recycled flooring, a mix of wood grains on cabinets and architectural details that reflect the indigenous building of the region — like stucco in the Southwest — are more important to today’s buyers.
The panelists also talked about a growing group of home buyers: WINKs — Women With No Kids. These single women have preferences that are distinct from those of the households designers are more accustomed to addressing: the first-time buyers who tend to be singles and young professionals; the move-up buyers, who usually have children; and the empty-nesters.
These women have more buying power than their counterparts a generation ago and are seeking smaller homes, multipurpose rooms for entertaining and intimate “retreat” spaces for themselves.
A survey of 20,000 home buyers in the United States and Canada identified a number of features in new homes that are considered non-negotiable across almost all demographic groups, said Paul Cardis of AVID Ratings, who spoke at a seminar on new design preferences.
The top five features include walk-in closets — mentioned by 66% of first-time buyers as a “must have” — energy-efficient appliances, linen closets, a large kitchen and the overall efficiency of the home, Cardis said.
For more information on design resources available from NAHB, e-mail Jaclyn Toole, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8469.