The Design Side



One of the latest trends in community development is the farm—an integrated space for the production of organic food. I don’t think this is a brand-new idea, but it’s certainly one that has enjoyed renewed popularity ever since the baby boomers starting retiring or, if you will, reinventing themselves. The sustainability movement and the emphasis on organic, locally grown food play right into this trend.

A number of homebuilders in the Washington, D.C., area have stopped using the term “master” to describe the largest bedroom in the house. According to an article in the Baltimore Business Journal, Winchester Homes, Pulte Homes, NV Homes, Ryan Homes, Van Metre Cos. and D.R. Horton have all replaced “master” in their floor plans with such terms as “owner’s suite” or “owner’s bedroom.”

In an earlier blog post, I talked about being inspired by the home improvement shows on HGTV. But I know at least one builder who gets design ideas from other types of television programs, such as dramas and reality shows.  

Art and architecture lovers, rejoice: Tour season is about to begin at architect Philip Johnson’s Glass House campus in New Canaan, Conn. From May to November, the public is invited to view 14 Johnson-designed structures and a variety of paintings and sculpture on the 49-acre campus.

Active-adult communities sure have come a long way. We all know that the massive numbers of baby boomers hitting retirement age want to remain active in their golden years, and they’re very demanding about home and community design. But some of the newer projects coming online are over the top. Think four-star-quality cuisine and state-of-the-art gyms with personal trainers and Zumba classes.

Seattle architect Ross Chapin has been designing and writing about small homes for 30 years. Examples of Chapin’s work can be found in various parts of the country. Some of his techniques for maximizing space will be featured in the May issue of Professional Builder, but Chapin has many more ideas than I could fit in a single article.

Here are a few good ones:

There’s an interesting article in the March 25 issue of Time magazine called “10 Big Ideas” (read the digital version here). Some of the ideas are fanciful, but idea #2 resonated with me: Shrink your living space.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal shed light on investors who are buying foreclosed homes, fixing them up, and renting them out. Flippers and speculators were blamed for inflating the housing bubble of the past 10 years; now they’re getting prospective buyers, who are afraid of missing out on cheap homes, off the fence. How times have changed.

The courtyard, an ancient concept for bringing natural light into homes while preserving privacy, is in full flower in America today as lots get tighter and the popularity of outdoor rooms increases. Courtyard homes have been around for years in those parts of the U.S. that get plentiful sunlight for a good part of the year (such as California and Colorado). But there’s no reason a home in Massachusetts or Minnesota can’t have one too, as long as it’s designed properly.

Last June, Retrofit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative was launched as part of the Obama Administration’s Better Buildings Challenge. Today 32 buildings are participating in the CBI, a voluntary effort to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings larger than 200,000 square feet. The goal is to reduce energy use by at least 20 percent within five years.

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