By Kelly McCall Branson
In the coming year, Triangle new-home builders will answer the growing call for less is more. Home buyers are seeking a little less in terms of square footage, but an absolute maximization of space. While the newest homes may have fewer rooms, buyers want more flexibility in how the spaces they have can be used. They definitely want less work in the yard and the kitchen and all over the house, but more functionality than ever before. And using less power and water and other natural resources is a must, but not at the expense of state-of-the-art appliances and top-of-the-line finishes. Fortunately, thanks to new technologies and materials, along with sleek, open design innovations, for the new homes of 2017 less really is more.
One of the fastest growing trends for new homes in 2017 is automation. There have been huge leaps in technology in just the past few years, when it comes to home systems that not only activate with the touch of a button, but can be controlled remotely and even learn from our habits. Smart thermostats like nest and iComfort use sensors and your phone’s location to adjust your home’s temperature when you’re home and when you’re away. They “learn” from your behavior — you wake up at 6:45 and like the temperature around 70 degrees while eating breakfast in the winter — and adapt their programming accordingly. The iComfort measures outside temperature and humidity so that when a home owner sets it at 72 degrees, it actually feels like 72 degrees in the home. It also monitors air quality based on ZIP code, and automatically turns on the fan to clean the air.
And new technology, like the Control4 system used by Triangle home builder, Toll Brothers, allows homeowners to control everything from door locks to lights to security systems by voice commands or from just about anywhere with a variety of devices. “The Z-Wave protocol lets you turn on lights from your phone before you get home or open and close a garage door to take a delivery,” says Stephanie Miller, Sales Manager for Drees Homes. With new smart devices you can activate sprinklers, set security systems or control surveillance cameras and entertainment systems.
Today’s savvy new-home buyers recognize the value — to the environment and to their wallet — of green features in the home, and are willing to invest a little in the beginning to reap ongoing cost savings down the road. Recent advances in construction techniques and components allow for energy-saving strategies from the ground up. From wrapping the building envelope to sealing ducts to radiant barrier roof sheathing, area builders are incorporating high-tech solutions starting with the very bones of the house. “Crawl spaces are sealed, insulated and conditioned in our homes,” says Drees Homes’ Miller, “and TechShield radiant barriers reflect the sun’s rays, keeping attics cooler.” Cool roofs, made from highly reflective shingles, can stay more than 50 degrees cooler, conserving energy and perhaps extending the life of the roof.
Toll Brothers makes use of engineered wood products in its roof trusses, floor systems and wall panels, with enhanced stability, reduced waste and preservation of old-growth forests by using fast-growing sustainably raised trees. High performance, low-E windows are more effective than ever at controlling energy costs while allowing plenty of natural light. High-efficiency air conditioners and furnaces, Energy Star appliances and compact fluorescent or LED lighting are in high demand for the energy-miser homes of 2017.
Water conservation is also a high priority for today’s new homes. Dual flush, low-flow toilets, tankless water heaters and water-saving faucets for kitchens and baths are a must for new homes. Trends in landscaping, too, are toward drought-resistant, native plantings and ground covers (that have the added benefit of being low-maintenance).
Home buyers are more conscious than ever about indoor air quality, and manufacturers have responded with products, from paint to cabinets to flooring, that minimize outgassing of VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
Millennials are coming of age, and bringing their own aesthetic to new home construction. The trend toward smaller homes will remain strong in 2017. But at the same time, homebuyers want more wide open spaces in these homes, with site lines extending through multiple rooms and even beyond, to outdoor spaces. Flow is everything in 2017 new-home design. Rather than rooms bound by walls, zones are defined by subtle variations in lighting, flooring, kitchen islands, dual-sided fireplaces — all with a goal to maintain space and volume.
And more than ever, interior spaces cascade, visually and functionally, into outdoor spaces. Advances in glass technology make huge expanses of windows and doors possible, without sacrificing comfort and energy efficiency. “Every one of our homes has a screened porch or patio,” says Miller.” It’s typically off the living area, and we call it the living triangle — the living area, kitchen and patio. Open flow is really more important than size.”
Flexibility is also the new buzzword for today’s homes. “Buyers want the option of rooms with more than one use,” says Deanna Stanley, Senior Design Studio Manager at Toll Brothers. “By changing options ever so slightly — simply adding double doors can transform a dining room to a study.” Add a closet and a small bathroom, and the study becomes a downstairs guest room.
Along with these wide open spaces, the trend for 2017 is toward cleaner lines and sleeker finishes. This is especially prevalent in kitchens. “We’re seeing a transition from heavily decorated kitchens, to a crisper, cleaner look,” says Toll Brother’s Stanley. “Instead of adding rope moldings and elaborate trim, people want simpler more vertical, Craftsman-style lines.”
Painted cabinets will reign in 2017, especially the tuxedo look of one color for upper cabinets and a complimentary color on base cabinets or islands. Cabinet styles will be cleaner too — still traditional, but closer to the sleek lines seen in many European-style kitchens. Less curves, more angles.
Counters, as well, take on a less cluttered look, with the more subtle surfaces of quartz supplanting the busy patterns of granite. “These cleaner counters will be dressed up with a more unique edging,” says Drees Homes’ Miller, “with a larger or multi level ogee edge.”
Flooring trends are likewise cleaning up their act. Wide plank, darker wood floors are still on-trend for 2017 (though not quite as dark as recent years), “but we’re seeing less hand-scraping and chatter,” says Toll Brother’s Stanley. “It’s a cleaner look with maybe a little wash.”
Matte is the finish for appliances. In stainless steel or black, these new surfaces are far more resistant to the streaks and fingerprints that can plague shinier surfaces. Copper and bronze surfaces are also becoming more popular, and homeowners are mixing it up, combining black, stainless and other finishes in the same kitchen.
Colors for walls and cabinets and backsplashes are trending toward soft, crisp shades of gray or copper or spicy bronze. “Greige — a slightly warmer gray — is a fresher alternative to beige,” says Stanley.
Bathrooms, as well, will be more simple and sleek in 2017. Gone are the elaborate garden tub thrones with their columns and arches. In their place are oversized showers with nearly invisible frameless-glass surrounds. Larger floor tiles and simple lines in vanities and fixtures transform yesterday’s Roman baths to today’s serene Zen retreats.
White is bright! White cabinets are king for 2017, especially in bathrooms, where wide-tiled white floors and crisp white trim, along with white porcelain soaking tubs and white-tile decks and surrounds, all make for a sharp-focus ambience. And bright, shiny chrome follows this new aesthetic; “We’re seeing a big move from the Old-World rubbed bronze back to chrome,” says Stanley.
More and larger windows, huge room-width glass doors and multiple skylights are all a part of this trend toward light bright spaces. Natural light and crisper brighter finishes are working hand-in-hand with the clean lines and open floorplans of tomorrow’s new homes to make even smaller spaces feel spacious and new.
The new home buyers of 2017 are also demanding more free time. Just as smart technology features make running the home easier, new options in home construction make keeping the home up so much easier. Buyers are looking for low maintenance siding, like fiber-cement HardiePlank and HardieShingle, which is rot-, fire- and insect-resistant and requires far less frequent painting. Fiberglass windows are more durable and hassle-free than vinyl. Composite decking materials, like Trex and Fiberon, won’t chip, splinter, fade or rot and are impervious to insects.
Yard work is a dirty word for tomorrow’s homeowners. Weather-sensing irrigation systems and native and drought-resistant landscaping are not just water conserving, they make for much less work maintaining. High-maintenance lawns are fast shrinking in favor of xeriscape plans that virtually take care of themselves.
Clear up the clutter, brighten up the gloom, ramp up the efficiency, smarten up the systems and make it all easier to take care of — this is the definition of 2017’s less-is-more new home.
Copyright© 2016 Kelly McCall Branson – All Rights Reserved