THEN: Grand foyers NOW: 'Drop zones'
Once a must-have in the McMansion floor plan, double-story entrance foyers are now seen as a waste of space and energy-inefficient, homeowners and builders say. Few suburban families actually enter their homes through the front door, so the grand entryway is a vestige of a house meant to impress others. Replacing the foyer is the so-called drop zone. As large as 10 feet by 10 feet, these rooms are bigger versions of the mud rooms once common to homes, with places to unload clutter before it's deposited throughout the house. They feature baskets for mail, hooks for backpacks and coats, and storage for shoes and winter wear. Some even have lockers. The drop zone is being brought into older homes, too where entries become mud rooms, hall closets or basement walls. A place to actually put stuff is a much more sought-after area.
THEN: Formal living rooms NOW: Open family rooms
Formal living rooms were often just for the Christmas tree. Families want an integrated and open area encompassing the kitchen, family room and dining area. A separate great room—a cavernous bonus room for the piano or wicker furniture—is out.
THEN: Second staircase NOW: Room for elevator
A spiral staircase out front, with a secondary set off the family room or kitchen, is another bygone feature. More buyers who plan to grow old in their homes foresee the day when those stairs become an obstacle. This has prompted more builders to add a bedroom and full bathroom onto the ground floor—and leave enough space for an elevator.
THEN: Dad's office NOW: 'Lifestyle center'
Mobile devices and laptops allow work to be done all over the house now, meaning no one needs a large mahogany desk in a home office. Some new builder properties feature a special area for tasks dubbed the "lifestyle center": a multi-functional area as part of the kitchen where parents can work from home, kids can print school assignments, and everyone can do crafts and wrap presents.
THEN: Soaker tubs NOW: Steam showers
Jacuzzis and big soaker tubs are boom-era legacies that families say were rarely used. Replacing them are bigger shower stalls which allow men and women to shave comfortably and steam their pores. Some families hold onto their tubs to help preserve resale value. Others install more modern ones with gentler hydrotherapy bubblers instead of strong water jets. A tub featuring a wall that can be lowered—allowing elderly bathers to easily enter and exit—is growing in popularity.