A home used to simply be a place to sleep, eat, relax and keep belongings. In recent years, however, it has transitioned into a lifestyle center where we work, exercise, play and entertain.
Admittedly, some residences are more up to date than others, featuring modern touches and the latest trends, but what about those to come? What does it take to live in your future home now? Experts say there are a variety of ways to make your residence “future-ready” — everything from the appliances chosen to the spaces created.
Andrew Brindley, owner of H-E Homes in Indianapolis, says the way people look at their homes and their function has changed. As a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic, he says people are seeing their homes as more important than ever and are spending more time in them.
“Where a home historically may have been just a stopping point for people, we’ve seen a change to where people are putting more importance on prioritizing families and people being together,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong. Everybody still wants their own space and a place to be apart, but they also want the opportunity to be together.”
Creating new spaces
A desire for togetherness has spurred a shift toward designing homes as intergenerational residences, Brindley says.
“Homeowners are asking for more spaces for their mother-in-law to come and stay with them or for their son to come home a few years after college to save money,” he says. “These are things that up until the last few years might have been seen as negative or a bit taboo, but they are becoming a sense of comfort for families to have the ability for everyone to be together.”
That means wider hallways, bigger doors and fewer stairs are often included in new designs, explains Gregg Kissel of Home Design Group in Evansville, Ind. “We’re planning for potential additional family members moving in.”
Others are dedicating spaces for specific activities. Brindley says home theater rooms and areas for singular activities are popular. “We’re seeing homeowners create dedicated spaces for some of their hobbies and interests. They are giving time, energy and effort into the things that give value to their family’s lives,” he says.
In a post-pandemic world, home offices are valuable, adds Kissel. Especially with more people working remotely or in hybrid arrangements, he says dedicated workspaces are a must.
Maximizing small places
At the same time, new homes are more compact. That’s the opinion of Jack Milarch Jr., CEO of the New Mexico Home Builders Association. “Spaces are just getting smaller,” he says. “It might be a function of interest rates, but sizes are coming down and builders are trying to be more efficient with space.”
That means the open-concept floor plan remains popular. “Open concept lends itself to being more comfortable in a small home,” he says. “The industry is able to do more with smaller homes.”
He also says lot sizes are getting smaller, leading many to what are called zero-lot-line parcels. These residences are built close to a property line, allowing more space for the home.
“This is so the home, which often is toward the front of the lot, isn’t taking up all the property. When you walk into one of these houses, you can have all of the bedrooms, living room and kitchen all with lots of glass and you can see outside onto a large yard. It brings the outdoors in and is appealing,” he says.
The trend to take living and gathering outdoors continues as well.
“Outdoor living, even before COVID, has given families a wonderful way to further enjoy their homes,” Brindley says. “It really sparked when homeowners couldn’t get away, so they decided to put in pools and outdoor kitchens and things like that.”
He says outdoor spaces are now considered critically important as a destination at home, with everything from firepits and seating areas to swimming pools and hot tubs. “The trend is to give these outdoor spaces a real sense of purpose,” says Brindley.
Donna Youngquist, owner of R&D Custom Homes in Lincoln, Neb., says it is not uncommon for clients to spend almost as much money on outdoor remodels as on ones inside the home. “I’ve seen people put $50,000 or more toward an outdoor living space,” she says.
“Outdoor covered areas are popular,” Kissel explains. “Even screened porches make great outdoor entertaining areas that can be used in many parts of the country at least three seasons in the year.”
Many cooks in the kitchen
Even in smaller homes, kitchens are growing. “The kitchen continues to be the gathering space,” Kissel says. “Instead of small kitchens, we’re seeing larger spaces with huge islands that people can gather around.”
Designers say people use their kitchens more, eat at home more often and entertain regularly, making the kitchen a center of attention. “It’s not uncommon for 12 or 15 people to gather in the kitchen,” Kissel says.
He says pantries are also getting bigger — even becoming stand-alone rooms or walk-in closets — and many of the appliances that used to clutter kitchen countertops are finding a new home in the pantry, making it “a secondary kitchen.”
With all the technology in our offices, cars and pockets, it is no surprise homes are becoming tech-savvy as well. In this sense, the homes of the future are being built now, says Youngquist.
“We’re doing a lot of smart homes with security systems, sound systems and LED lighting. People want all of this as well as smart appliances in the kitchen,” she says. “They want smart thermostats and smart doorbells. They want to be able to do everything with their phones.”
By everything, Youngquist means everything. She says consumers now can dim the lights, raise the window blinds, start the dishwasher, answer the door and lower the thermostat, all with apps on their phones.
“Smart homes mean different things to different people, but people are seeing the added value of these things,” Brindley says. “These have become an expectation of homebuyers. They want to look on an app and see if their garage door is opened or closed, for example, and if they forgot, they want to be able to close it remotely.”
Some designers even include “technology closets” in homes as a place for modems, routers and whatever other technological bases come along, explains Casey Ennis, owner of Dale Peer Home Design in Springfield, Mo.
All that technology requires electricity, and consumers are keeping energy efficiency in mind as they look to build, remodel or replace existing appliances and lighting. “Consumers are asking for the most energy-efficient products and appliances they can afford,” Milarch says.
It is all part of being proactive. “Homeowners are planning spaces not only for now but also for the future,” Brindley says. Adds Ennis, “People must remember they are going to live in whatever choices they make.”
Photos courtesy of H-E Homes