Findings from the 2012 first quarter Home Design Trends Survey indicate that kitchen and bath updates, whole-house renovations or additions, and outdoor spaces are leading the way in increased commissions and project inquiries. Overall, billings and prospects for residential architects are at their highest in six years. Also, for the first time since 2006, the sizes of new houses as well as volumes within houses have started to trend larger.

Kitchen and bath remodels have maintained dominance as one bright spot in the market throughout the housing downturn. In the most recent survey results, 53 percent of the 500 participating residential architecture firms say they have had increased jobs in this area. The next largest growth is in renovations and additions with a positive score of 52 percent.

Several of the most popular design trends also apply specifically to kitchens and baths. Twenty percent of firms report that room sizes are growing for the first time in years, with kitchens being at the crux of that change. In addition to kitchens gaining square footage, more functions are being added to this crucial living space, according to the survey answers. Two-thirds of firms say that requests for accessibility, especially in baths, continue to grow. Open, informal spaces along with water- and energy-conserving features are among other rising trends executed primarily in kitchens and baths.

Although house and volume sizes may have hit bottom, lot sizes continue to fall, according to 24 percent of participating firms. However, smaller lots have led to bigger investments in outdoor spaces (64 percent) and low-irrigation landscaping (65 percent). Kermit Baker, chief economist for the AIA, says in the survey release that “in the last few years, outdoor living spaces have become the new ‘great room’ in terms of must-have items for homeowners.”