Tubs and Laundry Rooms Gain Prominence as Builders Update Floor Plans

February 22, 2019

Designing houses with features buyers want is a continuous process for the home building industry. During a Feb. 19 session at the 2019 International Builders' Show in Las Vegas, builders and designers took a break from their work to talk about some of the changes they're seeing.

Curved entryway staircases step back.

A curved stairway leading to the upper floor can make for a grand entrance into a home, and certainly serves as a focal point for people when they go in. But architect Todd Hallett, president of TK Design and Associates, told a builders at the session “Do This, Not That! Design Do’s and Don’ts for 2019” that curved staircases are a “not” in today’s floor plans. They take up too much space and can make an entryway feel crowded, he said. Also, when you first enter a home, the stairway disrupts your line of sight, making it hard to see through to the back of the house. Plus, he added, curved staircases can be costly to build.

Instead, builders are looking at simplifying staircases and putting them in where more of the action is. “This might be a stairway leading upstairs that is off the great room or the kitchen,” Hallett said. Or, if the staircase does go in the entryway, it may be tucked off to the side so it’s not the first thing you see when you walk through the front door.

Bathtubs bubble back up.

Large bathtub in sumptuous bathroom

© Jeff Davis/Jeffrey A. Davis Photography

For the last few years, homeowners have traded bathtubs for large, luxurious showers. But while expansive showers are still a hot trend, Hallett said tubs are reclaiming their place in the bathroom. A standalone bathtub “is becoming a focal point when you walk into the bathroom,” Hallett said. “When you walk in, you look directly ahead to see the tub and the shower then behind it. … It becomes a dramatic space.”

A clean look at the laundry room.

The laundry room is the most “essential” and “desirable” feature in a home, according to an NAHB consumer preference survey released this week. As such, builders want to transform the space from a small room tucked away to conceal the washer and dryer into a more prominent part of the home.

“The appliances are getting bigger .. and they’re getting better-looking now,” Hallett said. “We don’t have to close off the laundry room.” In more new-home floor plans, the laundry room is becoming part of a larger family entry area—a large open space off the garage. It features not only the washer and dryer but also cabinetry, a mudroom, and maybe even a desk and computer area, shelving, and benches, Hallett said. “It’s a lot more open, and you’re no longer walking into this tight hallway space,” he said.

Closets come together.

Drawers with countertop in walk-in closet

© Jeff Davis/Jeffrey A. Davis Photography

Builders are moving away from having to squeeze two separate closets into the owner’s suite. “The trend now is going back to just one big closet,” Hallett said.

Hallett said builders can do more with one larger space than by dividing it into two. For example, one large walk-in closet can feature a large island in the middle with extra drawers and a long countertop. A window can also be added to let in natural light.

You can also dress up a bigger closet with artwork and a seating area. At The New American Home, a showcase home in Henderson, Nev., unveiled during the conference, the master suite closet (in photo at left) features a large carmel stone hanging on the wall that was backlit to illuminate the space. It also served as a centerpiece for the adjoining master bathroom.