May 29, 2013

Then and now: what's right in a new home.

Home design has more practical features in lieu of wasted space and fussy details. New layouts are showing up in homes under construction as well as in the remodeling of older homes.   The key features are open spaces, simple living and easy care yet elegant finishes. Disappearing are formal living and dining rooms, two-story foyers and second staircases. Space is opening up for shoes and sports equipment, schoolwork and textbooks, crafting and even room for an elevator shaft.  Here are some fading features and the new designs that are replacing them:

THEN: Grand foyers                                NOW: 'Drop zones'

Once a must-have to impress visitors, double-story entrance foyers are now seen as a waste of space and energy-inefficient. Few people actually enter their homes through the front door.  Replacing the foyer is a drop zone. As large as 10' x 10', these rooms are versions of a mud room with places to unload clutter. 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 are 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 room for just piano or unused furniture—is out. 

THEN: Second staircase                          NOW: Room for elevator

A secondary staircase 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 instead of stairs, 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 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 homeowners say were rarely used. Replacing them are bigger shower stalls which allow joint and family showering, comfortable space for shaving,  and possibly adding steam feature. Some families hold onto their tubs to help preserve resale value. Others prefer 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.

THEN: Breakfast nook                              NOW: Outdoor living space

As the kitchen has opened up into the dining room, there's less need for a separate, small table for breakfast. Installing sliding glass doors into the back of houses, blurs the lines between indoors and outdoors providing more space during mild weather.