A: Let’s face it, most trend spotting is just smoke-and-mirrors: “gold” faucets, wallpaper and the color Marsala are all predicted to be hot in 2015. That’s fine if you want to update a powder room (but please skip the gold faucets). For those that have serious remodeling in mind, or want to build a new house, there is a fact-based resource for making decisions that will increase the resale value of your home: the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey. Kermit Baker, the AIA’s Chief Economist, analyzed the key findings and I’ve summarize them below:

1. Outdoor living areas.
Special function rooms are back. During the recession, these spaces were often eliminated to save money. Now they are reappearing and at the top of the list are outdoor living areas. In moderate climates like Seattle, these can be used year round–not only adding extra space to a home–but also allowing homeowners to enjoy the outdoors.

2. Home offices more popular than home theatres.

We are an industrious nation and put in long hours. Having a designated place to work at home can make all the difference in productivity, professionalism and sanity (this is from someone who early on had to clear drawings off the dining room table before dinner). If you’re going to work at home, even if only telecommuting a few days a week, you will benefit from a designated, well-designed space. It will make a difference, plus in many cases it is tax deductible.

3. Mudrooms are a must.
I covered how mudrooms are key to making life easier for families in a past article. I prefer to call them “drop zones” since it’s not really about dirty boots, but about organizing all of the stuff that flows in and out of a house daily. This is a room adjacent to the main entry where everyone drops their backpack, laptop, mail, sports equipment—even the dog leash—when they come home.

4. Nanny and/or in-law suites.
Increasing employment numbers mean that many dual-income families need childcare. For those who hire an au pair, having a separate suite helps to attract and maintain qualified childcare professionals while providing privacy–for all concerned–when needed. Separate suites are also attractive as families become caretakers for aging relatives.

Interior Design Trends

 

5. Improved accessibility is key.
Baby boomers are starting to retire and many want to be able to age-in-place. First-floor master bedrooms, ramps and elevators are popular home features to build into a new home or major remodel for accessibility. The good news is that many of the changes that make a home more accessible also make it easier for able-bodied people.

6. Smart homes are, well, smart.
Smart thermostats are at the top of popular home products and there are a growing number of devices that allow homeowners to control their appliances and mechanical systems while there are away. While I wish my fridge would email me when I am low on milk (or ideally email Amazon to deliver more), the energy savings smart homes provide has more of an impact on the world.

Sustainable Design

7. Sustainable technology valued.
Solar panels, energy management systems and geothermal heating/cooling heat pumps are popular home systems. Electric docking stations in particular are seeing strong growth as electric cars become more common. My professional goal this year is to slip in as many “greens” as I can into every project, kind of like putting spinach in brownies, but only more important.

8. LED lighting takes off.
The most notable trend in the AIA survey is the increase in LED lighting. This is duein part to code changes that require energy efficient lighting, but advances in LED technology have improved the quality of light and combined with its controllability and long life, make it irresistible. (I’ll give more to this topic in an upcoming article.)

9. Storm safety a consideration.
In the wake of devastating weather, hurricane resistant design, safe rooms for storm shelter and backup power generation are increasingly in demand.

10. Low-maintenance materials.
Homeowners look for materials that stand the test of time. This doesn’t always mean selecting synthetic or engineered materials. In some cases, such as decking, a natural material like Ipe wood has advantages over Trex. You may ask why? That’s for another Ask an Architect article.

View Kermit Barker’s full report here.

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