What do you get when you put 13 architects and designers in one room for 90 minutes? There are several possible answers to that one, but when you give them only 6 minutes each to talk about what’s current, you get an hour and a half that’s chockablock with concise talk about current concepts. The session, an idea slam of sorts, promised 90 design ideas in 90 minutes, and while it probably didn’t deliver the promised four-score and ten, there was lots of inspiration. Repeats were inevitable, of course—multi-gen, urban infill, sustainability, small homes, and the great room were all recurring themes. Here are 20 highlights:
1. New Boom. Gen Yers are having families, and they’ll need homes. (In 2010, 48% of new homes had 4 bedrooms). This age group seems to be drawn to sleek and contemporary houses with modern, rectilinear designs—in other words, the opposite of what their parents brought them up in.
2. Boomer Bust. Boomers still have purchasing power, but for many, the economy has thrown a wrench in the plan to move into active adult communities. Instead, boomers are opting for multi-generational setups.
3. Make it a Double. Showers for two are in demand, often displacing bathtubs.
4. Sun Spots. Increasingly, production homes are being designed with reversible roof plans to accommodate solar collectors.
5. Workhorse House. Smaller, 30-foot-wide production homes with alley-loaded garages have great selling power at present, says Jerry Gloss.
6. NIMBY No More. Workforce housing for firemen, teachers, medical workers, and policemen is coming to a neighborhood near you, and NIMBYism won’t cut it, says Michele Evans. A big population of essential workers needs to live near where they work, because they can’t afford the fuel costs involved in long commutes.
7. Do the Right Thing. Evans notices a demand for responsible architecture: homes with manageable upkeep and down payments, as well as eco features like rain catchment, solar panels, and bigger windows.
8. Façade Facelifts. For a high market segment that won’t rebound easily, rehab and renovation are the order of the day. It’s not just on the inside: Homes are getting updates in the form of a new skin with modern vernacular.
9. Less than Xeri. In dry climates especially, there’s a push for xeriscaping, as well as for indigenous plants, restoring lots to how the land once was. There’s also a realization that, in many cases, lawn upkeep just doesn’t make sense.
10. Gray Power. Putting senior housing out in the middle of nowhere isn’t acceptable anymore. Seniors need an address in an active, thriving area for many reasons: They’re closer to amenities, they can walk, and they can help with childcare, because it’s often the grandparents who are watching kids after school.
11. Micro-’Hoods. Mike Woodley pointed out that right now in the U.S., more people than ever before live alone. Urban infill projects that serve as mini- neighborhoods make sense. Community-oriented, they include inviting outdoor spaces, playful use of color on the exterior, and community gardens.
12. Take a Walk. Multifamily residential building in transit-oriented places is one aspect of the infill theme. The draw here is clear, both for those starting out and those scaling down: A thriving infrastructure that’s already in place, less need for a car, and more chances to walk and bike.
13. Amazing Amenities. Apartment buildings are turning resort-like, boasting features like concierge services, screening rooms, fitness centers, yoga rooms, and e-lounges for business. Square footage of the apartments themselves has decreased in exchange for kitted-out common areas.
14. Lean and Mean. A good 50% of construction waste is brought onsite through plans and specs, says Todd Hallett. He advocates intensive planning on the front end, insisting on teamwork, and designing in 2-foot increments.
15. In the Pocket. Taking the place of the formal study are pocket offices and desk spaces set underneath stairways, in unused closets, and in transitional spaces.
16. Core Strength. Mike Rosen of Martin Architectural Group is taking prefab to a deeper level. His firm is using a method called Corewall, where the mechanicals of a home are factory built and then brought to the site. This centralizes them in the factory—ideally, the bugs get worked out beforehand—and in the home, where they’re all brought to the middle of the house.
17. A Room of One’s Own. It need not be big; sometimes a small room makes you feel cozy and more comfortable, says Steve James. But every home needs a quiet place to go—or to send teenagers with laptops.
18. Take It Outside. Outdoor living with an indoor attitude includes fireplaces, wood-burning ovens, super-comfy furniture, and a roof overhead so the space can be used rain or shine.
19.Dial Up the Density. Scott Adams of Bassenian Lagoni is having success with first-time buyers opting for small, single-family homes (1,000 to 1,800 square feet) on small lots that are built densely (15 homes to the acre).
20. It Never Hurts To Ask. On the subject of density, Adams suggested that community development officials are willing to listen a lot more than they were a few years ago. Projects built for density that might not have been previously possible may get more latitude these days.
Participants: Jerry Gloss, KGA StudioThe Evans Group; Mike Woodley, Woodley Architecture Group; Monica Robertson, Hord Coplan Macht; Mary Dewalt, Mary Dewalt Design Group; Kathy Browning, Design Consultants; David O'Sullivan, O'Sullivan Architects; Todd Hallett, TK Design and Architecture; Mike Rosen, Martin Architectural Group, Cynthia Shonaiya, Hord Coplan Macht; Steve James, DTJ Architects; Scott Adams, Bassenian-Lagoni; Michael Ohara, KTGY Group.