Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).
21 Hot Housing Trends for 2015
Everyone wants to be hip, and the latest trends in design can help distinguish one home from another. And it’s not all flash; many new home fads are geared to pare maintenance and energy use and deliver information faster. Here’s a look at what’s coming.
December 8, 2014
This time of the year, we hear from just about every sector of the economy what’s expected to be popular in the coming year. Foodies with their fingers on the pulse of the restaurant industry and hot TV chefs will tell us to say goodbye to beet-and-goat cheese salad and hello roasted cauliflower, and there’s no end to the gadgets touted as the next big thing.
In real estate, however, trends typically come slowly, often well after they appear in commercial spaces and fashion. And though they may entice buyers and sellers, remind them that trends are just that—a change in direction that may captivate, go mainstream, then disappear (though some will gain momentum and remain as classics). Which way they’ll go is hard to predict, but here are 21 trends that experts expect to draw great appeal this year:
- Off-the-shelf plans. Buyers who don’t want to spend time or money for a custom house have another option. House plan companies offer myriad blueprints to modify for site, code, budget, and climate conditions, says James Roche, whose Houseplans.com firm has 40,000 choices. There are lots of companies to consider, but the best bets are ones that are updating layouts for today’s wish lists—open-plan living, multiple master suites, greater energy efficiency, and smaller footprints for downsizers (in fact, Roche says, their plans’ average now is 2,300 square feet, versus 3,500 a few years ago). Many builders will accept these outsiders’ plans, though they may charge to adapt them.
- Freestanding tubs. Freestanding tubs may conjure images of Victorian-era opulence, but the newest iteration from companies like Kohler shows a cool sculptural hand. One caveat: Some may find it hard to climb in and out. These tubs complement other bathroom trends: open wall niches and single wash basins, since two people rarely use the room simultaneously.
- Quartzite. While granite still appeals, quartzite is becoming the new hot contender, thanks to its reputation as a natural stone that’s virtually indestructible. It also more closely resembles the most luxe classic—marble—without the drawbacks of staining easily. Quartzite is moving ahead of last year’s favorite, quartz, which is also tough but is manmade.
- Almost Jetson-ready. Prices have come down for technologies such as web-controlled security cameras and motion sensors for pets. Newer models are also easier to install and operate since many are powered by batteries, rather than requiring an electrician to rewire an entire house,says Bob Cooper at Zonoff, which offers a software platform that allows multiple smart devices to communicate with each other. “You no longer have to worry about different standards,” Cooper says.
- Charging stations. With the size of electronic devices shrinking and the proliferation of Wi-Fi, demand for large desks and separate home office is waning. However, home owners still need a dedicated space for charging devices, and the most popular locations are a corner of a kitchen, entrance from the garage, and the mud room. In some two-story Lexington Homes plans, a niche is set aside on a landing everyone passes by daily.
- Multiple master suites. Having two master bedroom suites, each with its own adjoining bathroom, makes a house work better for multiple generations. Such an arrangement allows grown children and aging parents to move in for long- or short-term stays, but the arrangement also welcomes out-of-town guests, according to Nurzia Construction. When both suites are located on the main level, you hit the jackpot.
- Fireplaces and fire pits. The sight of a flame—real or faux—has universal appeal as a signal of warmth, romance, and togetherness. New versions on the market make this amenity more accessible with more compact design and fewer venting concerns. This year, be on the lookout for the latest iteration on this classic: chic, modern takes on the humble wood stove.
- Wellness systems. Builders are now addressing environmental and health concerns with holistic solutions, such as heat recovery ventilation systems that filter air continuously and use little energy, says real estate developer Gregory Malin of Troon Pacific. Other new ways to improve healthfulness include lighting systems that utilize sunshine, swimming pools that eschew chlorine and salt by featuring a second adjacent pool with plants and gravel that cleanse water, and edible gardens starring ingredients such as curly blue kale.
- Keyless entry. Forget your key (again)? No big deal as builders start to switch to biometric fingerprint door locks with numerical algorithms entered in a database. Some systems permit home owners to track who entered and when, says Malin of Troon Pacific.
- Water conservation. The concerns of drought-ravaged California are spreading nationwide. Home owners can now purchase rainwater harvesting tanks and cisterns, graywater systems, weather-controlled watering stations, permeable pavers, drought-tolerant plants, and no- or low-mow grasses.
- Return to human scale. During the McMansion craze, kitchens got so big they almost required skates to get around. This year we’ll see a return to a more human, comfortable scale, says Mark Cutler, chief designer of design platform nousDecor. In many living or family rooms that will mean just enough space for one conversation grouping, and in kitchens one set of appliances, fewer countertops, and smaller islands.
- Outdoor living. Interest in spending time outdoors keeps mushrooming, and 2015 will hold a few new options for enhancing the space, including outdoor showers adjacent to pools and hot tubs along with better-equipped roof decks for urban dwellers. Also expect to see improvements in perks for pets, such as private dog runs and wash stations, says landscape architect Jean Garbarini of Damon Farber Associates.
While it’s fun to be au courant with the latest trends, it’s also wise to put what’s newest in perspective for your clients. Remind them that the ultimate decision to update should hinge on their needs and budgets, not stargazers’ tempting predictions.