Thehottest new home trends of 2008


A new year brings new trends. We spoke with area builders, architects and designers and this is what they say are going to be big in 2008.

Homes are becoming more energy efficient
Carter Morrow, Owner, Bay Homes, Round

Energy Star-rated homes will move from 5 percent of the market to over 50 percent in next five years.

The trend is more passive solar energy and solar landscaping (lighting the outside path with solar lights). More active solar and renewable energy. More solar domestic hot water heaters with free hot water for family of four from April to September!

There is also a trend in energy-efficient homes moving towards a more photovoltaic array used for backup power and under net metering agreement feeding back to the utility.

In regards to solar space heating, there are more alternative, local and sustainable building products available, such as recycled plastics and woods for decking, flooring and corn-based carpets (a brand new release). And more pellet and wood stoves rather than gas fireplaces.

Actual houses or building projects are going smaller — smaller houses, less total square footage — but more interesting and flexible spaces. There is less redundancy in floor plan features, such as dining room and eating area or formal foyer and mudrooms. Less two-story space but more varied ceiling heights and compressions from room to room. There is more Not So Big House designs with less size but more flexibility and flair. Less formal floor plans. Bigger and more built in mudrooms Costco Rooms with lots of outlets for charging Garmins, cell phones, kids’ games, rechargeable batteries. There are bigger eating areas with two tables so one can be used for meals and the other for kids’ computer stations (where mom can keep an eye on them) and homework. Essentially the kids’ home office area as well as casual eating area are right off the kitchen.

There tends to be more main-level living plans without a second floor but with two additional bedrooms and kitchenette for visitors in a walkout basement. And the exterior is moving towards the Farmhouse and/or Craftsman exterior architecture of stone and siding versus the once-popular brick or stucco.

We are seeing a return of the screened porch.
Bill Sutton, Sutton Yantis Architects, Vienna
We are seeing a return of the screened porch, which had sort of disappeared. It was very big in the ’50s and ’60s, but as more of us got air-conditioned houses, we changed to all-season rooms with decks instead. Then suddenly we were hit by the West Nile virus. (And screened porches kept mosquitoes away).

The huge houses may come back, and to an extent there will always be a demand, but I have a feeling that in the next five years you will see more attention given to quality and less to sheer size. People will be looking at any means they have for more energy efficiency. I am not going to downplay the green movement, but for the vast majority, we are going to make decisions based on our pocketbooks, and that means making our houses energy efficient.

This includes building with better insulation, perhaps even less glass, because glass is a very poor insulator, and a glass room is hard to heat and cool. This means fewer of the big glass conservatories.

People will be much more likely to buy efficient furnace and insulation packages. You will also see less water-intensive landscaping.

Heating and cooling are a function of cubic footage. That will take us away from the two-story foyer and family room. People will want a more efficient use of space, and 9-foot ceilings will be quite satisfactory. They had the wow factor, but there was a lot that I call kindergarten wow, showing a low understanding of design. But it does challenge people who design to create the wow! with less volume and more sophisticated flow pattern and use of space.

A good example is the Ashcroft model at Brambleton, which I designed for the Gulick Group in Reston. It was 3,500 square feet but not 5,000, an exciting, open flow and 9-foot ceilings.

On the other hand … the three-car garage is coming back, because the two-car garages were used largely for storage while the second car stayed in the driveway.

We are coming to the end of a cycle now, which was the age of the Colonial house. In the 1980s, both production and custom builders created some version of the Colonial for 80 percent of their houses. But it has been challenged by other styles like French country and Southern Colonial with large porches.

Another thing we will see … the aging baby boomers will be moving out of the larger houses and into smaller homes with main-floor masters (ironically, a typical feature of the historical Colonial house). They will be 3,000 square feet with a main-floor master bedroom. I am designing a home for Brookfield with a lower-floor master suite plus an identical suite on the upper floor.

Carpet One Floor & Home also sees homeowners going green, with natural products like cork and bamboo. Cork is made from bark and can be harvested without harming the tree, while bamboo renews itself rapidly.
For decor, the trend is to color, with bright shades replacing the blah neutrals.

Hummer versus Prius
Kenneth L. Bonner, Bonner Metropolitan Architecture Group, Reston
In a discussion of current trends in housing, I would first observe there are diverse, countervailing trends at work. On the one hand, there has been much clear-cutting of land to make way for subdivisions of larger and larger homes on smaller and smaller lots, i.e., the Hummer Home and lifestyle choice. In this there seems to be little concern regarding efficient use of space, energy use, destruction of natural habitat, or global warming. This has been fueled by no-money-down, low-interest-rate financing. Much of our growth is taking place in environmentally sensitive areas and arid regions that have threatened long-term water resources.

In contrast to this trend is the growing movement toward the preservation and incorporation of the natural environment into our built environment. Architect Sarah Susanka has had a big impact with her Not So Big House book and subsequent titles that stress high-quality design, creative use of space, efficiency, appropriateness, personality and just plain beauty. This is what I call the Prius lifestyle choice.

As the cost of energy escalates, saving that energy is becoming more of a part of our built environment. Solar heating and cooling were showcased at this summer’s semi-annual Solar Challenge on the Washington Mall, where solar homes were designed and constructed by university students from across the country and from Spain and Germany. The reception was great and the lines to see the homes long. The homes also featured many new, sustainable (green) products in their construction and furnishing.

Some of the trends we are seeing have a universal appeal and apply across the board. They would include:

1. Home offices for the self-employed, consultant or the telecommuter.

2. More technology incorporated in the home, such as home theaters and electronic control systems for the home and yard.

3. Universal Design for improved accessibility for people with handicaps and aging problems. We have normally associated this need with the elderly; however it only takes a fall or an automobile accident to put us into that category. Even people with active lifestyles who exercise and play sports regularly can find themselves as candidates for hip or knee problems because of wear and tear on the joints.

…parents coming to live with them.
Josh Baker, president, Bowa Builders McLean
They are looking for comfortable spaces that are family oriented, to encourage people to spend more time at home. There is also a lot of interest in using the exterior lot to create a resort feeling, with pools, outdoor fireplaces to create outdoor rooms, be
cause in this area they can be used through most of the year. Also, they want spaces for kids to live for short periods when they are home from college. That can mean an apartment space that can also be used for (the owners’) parents. They are doing renovations thinking of the parents coming to live with them. This may be a second master suite on the first floor with a modest kitchen or, alternatively, elevators providing access to the second story.

(The American Institute of Architects has seen the trend, too. Almost 75 percent of the 500 surveyed firms said that buyers were demanding “greater accessibility.”)

People are also continuing to expand the garage to provide more space for the kids’ things, like bikes and sports equipment. They are also making the garages nicer with finished floors and heaters.

They are also paying attention to the family foyers, the informal entrance through the garage, which is how most people enter their homes. In this back hall, there are also lots of lockers for kids and pantries for the cook, and the area must withstand water and pets coming through.

Wine cellars
Lisa Weiss, The Wine Cellar Company, McLean
Wine enthusiasts are no longer just storing wine. They are entertaining around their cellars with tasting rooms and dinners.

Wine cellars have come a long way. The two biggest differences I see are that cellars no longer have to be in the basement.