According to The American Institute of Architects' (AIA) first quarter 2009 "Home Design Trends Survey," demand for less living space and overall smaller-sized homes has increased in recent years. Homeowners also are showing a greater preference for lower ceilings and fewer two-story foyers than in past years. The costs of heating and cooling homes with high-volume living spaces and excess square footage have become onerous for many homeowners, particularly during the housing and economic downturn.

Architects report that interest in home improvements such as finished basements and attics and outdoor living features remain popular. "As the housing boom has passed, there seems to be a renewed interest in investing in properties to make homes more livable, as opposed to real estate that can be resold quickly for a profit," AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, said in a statement about the survey. The survey focused specifically on home layout and use.

Interest in enhancements that improve accessibility and enable homeowners to remain in their homes as their physical abilities change has remained high, despite slight drops in reported increases from last year. Sixty-three percent of surveyed architects reported increased inquiries for in-home accessibility features; 49 percent said access into and out of homes were top concerns for homeowners. Respondents also indicated increased client interest in open layouts (50 percent) and more requests for single-floor plans (34 percent).

Interest in outdoor living elements also remains high, although it decreased slightly from last year's reported numbers. Topping the list of outdoor living and landscaping trends are low-maintenance landscaping (67 percent), outdoor living space (60 percent), and blended indoor/outdoor living (51 percent).

The AIA will publish a full report of the first quarter 2009 "Home Design Trends Survey" in an upcoming edition of AIArchitect.