Single-family homes will continue to shrink as the economy stabilizes and moves toward a recovery, spurred by continuing homeowner preferences for functionality and efficiency in home design. Kitchens and bathrooms in particular will reflect the growing interest in reducing home water and energy usage, maximizing usage of space, and eschewing unnecessary frills in favor of functional, adaptable, and environmentally friendly features. So says the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) Fourth-Quarter 2009 Home Design Trends Survey, which specifically focused on kitchen and bathroom design.
The survey asked residential architects about emerging home building and remodeling trends they're observing. According to the architects surveyed, the rapid growth of kitchens and bathrooms that occurred during the boom years has reversed. Of surveyed architects, 14 percent see the number of separate kitchen facilities or secondary food storage and prep areas increasing while 19 percent report a decrease; 18 percent see kitchen sizes decreasing, while 14 percent see kitchens increasing in size. The majority reported that both number of kitchen facilities and size are remaining stable.
Because kitchens remain the most important space in the home, architects now have to do more within a smaller footprint. Many of the kitchen features that rose to prominence during the housing boom—large pantries, computer work stations and recharging areas, integrated kitchen and family/living spaces, accessibility and adaptability—are still popular.
Surveyed architects reported increasing interest in recycling centers (52 percent), large pantry spaces (47 percent), renewable flooring and countertop materials (46 percent each), computer area/recharging station (43 percent), and integration with family spaces (41 percent). Smaller percentages of practitioners reported increasing interest in features such as drinking water filtration systems (30 percent), adaptability/universal design (28 percent), and double islands (20 percent).
Emphasis on bathrooms is changing, the survey found. Most of those surveyed report size and number are remaining stable, but 17 percent see an increase in the number of bathrooms and nearly as many (16 percent) say bathrooms are getting larger. Only 8 percent say that fewer bathrooms are the norm, but 12 percent see size reductions.
During the boom years, the ideal bathroom was a luxurious, spalike retreat from the rigors of day-to-day responsibilities, and in high-end homes often featured many-headed shower systems, jetted tubs, towel warmers, and separate his-and-hers vanity areas. Now, architects report, bathrooms are smaller and more likely to emphasize sustainable, resource-efficient features, as well as features that make it easier for occupants of all abilities to use the facilities.
According to the survey, residential architects saw increasing use of water-saving toilets (63 percent), accessibility and universal design features (50 percent), LED lighting (49 percent), and doorless and zero-threshold showers (47 percent). Fewer practitioners report increasing use of hand showers (36 percent) and linen closets/storage features (29 percent). While fewer luxury features are being used, the survey found, architects reported increasing interest in one luxury system that is also energy-efficient: radiant heated floors (52 percent).
To read the AIA's complete report on the findings of its Fourth-Quarter 2009 Home Design Trends Survey, read the latest edition of AIArchitect.