Home Design Trends Shift from Cocooning to Hiving

New styles incorporate livelier colors, multi-use spaces, and more opportunity to interact at home.

September 1, 2004

Some of the country’s housing markets may be slumbering, but not in neighborhoods with new or updated housing. That's why it’s mission-critical for real estate practitioners to know the latest in the styles and amenities homebuyers want.

The latest trends reflect the realities of life. After Sept. 11, 2001, a pall was cast over the nation, and people wanted to "nest" in their homes. Today, instead of cocooning, people are turning to "hiving" says interior designer Kathy Adcock-Smith. "They are doing more at home," she says, "they are multitasking with entertainment, food, theater, and work."

Home design hasn't changed overnight, but it is evolving. Nesting calls for soothing, quieter colors, plushier fabrics, and lots of pillows. Hiving means livelier color, less clutter, multifunctional workspaces, and more opportunity for interactivity. Why shouldn't you want to whistle while you work at home?

Moderate Luxury is In

Hiving also means having more luxury at home by scaling down. Homebuyers will own fewer things, but nicer versions of those things. And real estate professionals may find themselves showing and selling more homes that have been downsized for comfort. Luxury townhomes are in. McMansions are out.

Less is more, except in one area: bathrooms. While there is more interactivity in the "public spaces" of the home, residents want more privacy, which means that en suite bathrooms—perhaps decorated with lots of opaque glass—are becoming more popular.

Plan on new homes that appeal to empty nesters, young couples and singles to downsize from four bedrooms with two baths, to three bedrooms with three full baths and a half bath for guests. Another trend is the double master suite, which reflects more democratic luxury for non-traditional families and co-owners.

Residents still want to interact in open inviting living environments, but they also want to be able to multitask at the same time. That may mean running a quiet dishwasher while checking e-mail at the meal-planning desk, or starting the movie in the home theater while running the closet dry-cleaning system.

New Appliances Cater to Hiving

Much of what Adcock-Smith says is happening already is being supported by the latest kitchen and appliance designs. Michael Davis, president of Dallas-based kitchen and appliance showroom Capital Distributing Inc., says the hottest trends include details like color display technologies in ovens, glass-door refrigerators, and ultra-quiet dishwashers.

"I think the two strongest continuing design elements for the hive are light and horizontalness,” Adock-Smith says. “From translucency to transparency, our lives are enriched by materials that bring light into formerly dark areas. Horizontal lines have a grounding effect."

Here are some more examples from Davis of new home appliances that cater to hiving:

  • Designer ovens. Dacor has introduced two new oven lines; one comes in designer colors with the ability to program the control panel display colors. The other is a gas cooktop with a remote counter-mounted control panel. Dacor’s 30-inch-wide large capacity dishwasher introduced last year continues to be a hit.
  • Beautiful refrigerators. Sub-Zero expanded its 700 series refrigerators that are so popular with kitchen designers to include a 36-inch-wide refrigerator that is beautiful, integrated, and practical. The glass-door refrigerator Sub-Zero introduced last year also drew a lot of attention.
  • Cooking combos, quiet dishwashers. Thermador is showcasing its popular three-in-one SMW oven, which combines a warming drawer, microwave, and convection oven in a 30-inch-wide unit. The company also has incorporated the latest in touch-screen programming in its wall ovens. Thermador and Bosch have introduced new fully integrated dishwashers with hidden controls, so quiet that they have incorporated a small display light beam to shine on the floor to indicate when the unit is still washing. These dishwashers include a speed cycle capable of washing six place settings in 30 minutes.
  • Multi-use spaces. Whirlpool aggressively expanded its laundry and clothes care appliances to coincide with last year’s introduction of the Family Studio concept that combines the laundry room with the family play/activity room as a multi-use space within the home. Whirlpool also introduced several new garage organizational products under their Gladiator lineup. Under the Kitchenaid brand, it introduced a dish-drawer dishwasher to compete with Fisher & Pakel.
  • Efficient laundry machines. Laundry is seeing a revolution in quiet, efficient, attractive and practical products. Front-load laundry, which has been the mainstay overseas, has revolutionized the U.S. marketplace. Efficiency in energy, water usage, and detergent usage is here to stay. From washers and dryers that communicate with each other to a top load dryer that collects numerous drying cycles of lint to under-counter or stackable configurations, it’s clear that old models that damage clothes, are noisy, inefficient, and inflexible in design applications are becoming obsolete. Maytag introduced its new drying center designed to gently dry without tumbling the clothes. It’s ideal for delicates and sweaters.
  • High quality coffee makers. Systems that produce a quality cup of coffee and steam milk for cappuccino or lattés are hot, hot, hot! Built-in systems in new kitchens soon will be standard equipment. New countertop systems such as the one Bosch introduced make quality coffee and will be the answer for those who can’t build them into their cabinets. Starbucks, look out!
  • Better lighting. Lighting for task or mood lighting in or on appliances will continue to improve and grow. Dishwashers are now available with internal lighting. Mood lighting is expanding in hood, oven, refrigeration and other appliance designs.
  • No more plastic-tub dishwashers. Dishwashers with stainless steel interiors and tall tub design are replacing the old plastic tub models. Quiet operation and efficiency of operation continues to be the goal of every manufacturer.

(c) Copyright 2004 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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