After reviewing hundreds of entrants for the 2005 Best in American Living Awards, this year's judges discussed a number trends that emerged both regionally and around the country, including baby boomers' affinity for second homes as well as an occasional occurrence of lime green. Several previously hyped trends were notably absent from the pack, such as energy efficient and green building products.
For judge Tony Crasi, president of The Crasi Company, a residential design/build firm based in Akron, Ohio, it was more the lack of discernable trends that caught his attention. "Nothing jumped out at me," he said. "Maybe things have been too good, and no one has pushed the envelope."
Fellow judge Chip Pierson, principal and general manager of Dahlin Group Architecture Planning in San Ramon, Calif., agreed, "No trend is sweeping the country. It's not like the Northeast is suddenly doing Haciendas."
Here we've mapped out some of the more marked trends, as well as take-away tips for custom builders across the country.Indoor/outdoor living
While the concept of indoor/outdoor living was first architecturally realized in the 20th century by Frank Lloyd Wright, it's certainly been around since humans lived in caves. Today's well-designed homes treat open-air spaces as livable rooms, not just as part of the yard. There are many ways you can integrate the interior and exterior spaces:
The BALA judges found the use of courtyards — and often multiple outdoor areas — was growing more strongly in areas other than in the Southwest. Rather than just a single courtyard, today's trend is homes with as many as three outdoor areas. Offer outdoor living to your clients with these ideas:
Home sizes are returning to a more human scale, with less emphasis on wide open spaces and more on distinct rooms, such as the traditional formal living and dining rooms. "You're no longer seeing the homes where you walk in and see right through to the back," says Crasi. Instead, he recommends controlling the view with focal points and interesting vistas, so it unfolds and evolves. Here are other suggestions on how to bring houses back down to size:
Forget what you learned in kindergarten — you don't really have to share everything.
"Baby boomers are asking for — and getting — two of everything," says Derick. "Even two homes: one near the grandchildren and one home for that vacation retreat." Here are some suggestions on how you can double the fun for interested clients:
This two-fold trend speaks to both the revitalization of the nation's cities, as well as the use of exterior materials and commercial materials in residences as part of the popularity of lofts and loft-like spaces. What started with the renovation of New York City warehouses — with large open space, huge windows, and columns — now implies contemporary style, industrial materials such as open ductwork and exposed brick, and tall spaces. Urban infill building is now prevalent in the Midwest, with Chicago, Minneapolis and Denver leading the charge.
Kephart observed this trend as a lifestyle change, "a look toward more urban, less sprawl." Different types of people are looking to live downtown. Both Pierson and Kephart noted that right now it's only young families that are not buying in urban areas.
If you've ever worked on infill projects or are contemplating it, consider the following:
One particular trend that doesn't have a quick takeaway is the evolution of the community. Real estate agents are famous for touting "location, location, location," but, as Kephart says, "location is really the community or the network of neighborhoods that have what [people] really need. Cities did a lousy job of preserving community and preventing sprawl."
On the whole, the judges noted that people choose where they live first by the community and then by the house, and that people now are electing to live together in communities linked by interest rather than by age. One said, "birds of a feather flock together, whether they're 60 or 23. If you are into living in the city or suburbs, or like golf, you're going to go wherever the thing that makes you tick is going to be."Regional Trends
Here's what's going on around the country:
The venerable Northeast still showed a lot of applied trims, such as moldings and use of beadboard in formal spaces. "People are really responding to those materials." The use of stone in Northeast farmhouses and historical homes, as well as on the inside was not apparent in other entries. "There was a formality that you don't see in other markets, as with the crystal chandeliers."
In addition to the urban infills in the Southeast, the judges saw both retirement or pre-retirement second homes. "A lot of people are moving into those areas, and this reflects that." Pierson saw more impressive, luxurious projects coming out of Florida.
The Midwest is losing some of its Craftsman roots in favor for urbanized infill projects, yet the style itself was still strong nationwide.
The Texas McMansions seemed to be fading away, one judge remarked.
It was Tuscan time in the desert Southwest and California, as well as a little of the 1920s and '30s Spanish style.
The Northwest was represented with a few luxury homes in Montana that "used a lot of trees to build," as one judge put it.
|Jennifer Block Martin is a San Francisco-based writer whose articles have appeared in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens' Special Interest Publications, Sunset magazine, and Women's Day Home Remodeling and Makeovers. In the past, she was a production editor for Professional Builder.|