Real Estate

Gotta have it! The hottest features in homes today

Posted October 12, 2014 1:33 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:03 p.m. EDT

By Kelly McCall Branson

As times change, so do our homes. The choices we make about everything from size to location to how we configure our indoor and outdoor spaces evolve with our communities, our lifestyles and with ever-emerging new technologies. We asked area professionals what they are seeing as the must-have trends in homes today, and they told us about the latest and greatest in outfitting kitchens and baths, as well as making homes more sustainable and tech-savvy, but the biggest “trend,” It seems, is not really a trend at all; the hottest thing in homes today is all about individual choice.

No longer can you pull up to any new home and predict exactly the layout of rooms you’ll find inside — the ubiquitous formal living and dining rooms, great room and bedrooms upstairs. Armed with a wealth of information from magazines, home television shows and the internet, homeowners don’t want to be sold a stock floor plan that may or may not suit their family’s unique needs.

“We know home buyers are very focused now on the livability and functionality of their space,” says Kimberly Powell, Regional Marketing Director for Beazer Homes. “That’s why we offer our Choice Plans, with many structural options built into the overall layout — at no extra cost to the buyer.”

Photo courtesy of Beazer Homes

Photo courtesy of Beazer Homes

Individuation — truly personalizing a home’s functionality as well as its aesthetic with the next-generation open plan concept — is the overarching trend that seems to be shaping just about everything homeowners are demanding today. 

Customization and Flexibility

We are seeing that careful rethinking of space in the less-is-more movement toward smaller homes, with lower square footage, but extremely efficient use of space. “People are asking themselves, ’how often do I really use this room?’” says April Stephens of RE/MAX One Realty. “They definitely do not want just another room to put furniture in.” What began during the recent recession as a tightening of budgets has continued as more of a deliberate decision to live in smaller homes without sacrificing livability.

“Our plans are constantly evolving to meet the needs of today’s customers,” says Chris Stallings, sales consultant with Saussy Burbank. “The demand now is more about the use of space — being really efficient without wasting one bit — than it is about total square footage.”

And the next feature in our top ten gotta-have-it home trends dovetails with the notion of downsizing: clever, efficient storage, in every room of the home. “It’s all about maximizing the use of every single nook and cranny — spaces that might previously have just been sheetrocked over and forgotten,” says Stephens. Built-ins, slide-outs, drop stations and seating with storage, all work to make the most of whatever space you have.

And continuing the theme of customization, today’s homeowners don’t want spaces dedicated to a single function. Flexibility is key. A room that once might have been a formal dining room now could be a home office, a music room or even a craft space. The once lowly area between the garage and the kitchen offers myriad options for functionality. “Because this space has sight lines from the owners entry into the kitchen and other living areas,” says Rachel Bailey, a designer for Homes By Dickerson, “it lends itself to all kinds of possibilities — a com station, mud room, drop zone, homework nook, bill paying perch.“

Photo courtesy of Homes By Dickerson

Photo courtesy of Homes By Dickerson

“An oversized pantry area can also be a wine fridge, a half-bath, a laundry room,” says RE/MAX One Realty’s Stephens. “We’re really changing the way we look at things.”

Right along with the demand for flexibility in today’s floor plans is the desire for spaces that can accommodate multi-generational households as well as allowing for homeowners to age in place. Universal design features, such as grab bars, wider doorways and curbless roll-in showers are becoming more and more the standard. The real key here is the downstairs second master. A bedroom/bathroom suite on the ground floor offers privacy for guests, grandparents and bounce-back college grads alike. It also makes it possible for folks to stay in their homes well into retirement.

Smart, Green and the Great Outdoors

Green is still growing when it comes to must-haves in homes today. Energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainability in construction materials and healthier indoor air, once perhaps on the fringe of construction features, have become elements that homeowners expect. “People are really beginning to see that the resale value of green homes is better,” says Jenn Nowalk, Sales and Marketing Director of Homes By Dickerson, whose High Performance Certified Green Homes are not only Energy Star but also Bronze-level certified by the National Green Building Standards (NGBS).

Smart homes keep getting smarter. There are new apps available almost every day, it seems, for automating homes. It’s now possible to control everything from lights, to security systems to sprinklers from your smart phone. Homeowners are keeping a keen eye out for the latest and greatest technology — “anything to make life easier,” says Pam Craig, designer for Homes By Dickerson.

Programmable thermostats have been around for years, but the next generation has gotten even smarter. “The Nest thermostat learns your habits as you come and go,” says Saussy Burbank’s Stallings. “It programs itself to make efficient adjustments to your heating and cooling and can also be controlled from a computer or iPad.”

While some people are looking to smaller homes to meet their needs, they are at the same time looking for bigger outdoor living spaces. “Covered decks, sun porches, patios, with gas firepits,” says Beazer Homes’ Powell. “People want to do everything outdoors, from entertaining to relaxing.”

“Summer kitchens, grilling stations, wide-screen TVs, even horseshoe pits, are just a few of the features we’re seeing in outdoor spaces,” says Homes By Dickerson’s Craig.

Photo courtesy of Homes By Dickerson

Photo courtesy of Homes By Dickerson

Fit and Finish

Today’s dream kitchens are light, bright, wide open and minimum-maintenance. While stainless steel is still king, granite counters are giving way to engineered stones, commonly called quartz. This solid surface is nearly indestructible, requires very little maintenance and offers more regularity in pattern and color than natural stone. The top choice for kitchen cabinetry is still wood, but in a lighter (even painted) palette and simpler lines (less grooves and creases to clean). Specialty appliances, like steam ovens, warming drawers and built-in espresso machines, are the up-and-comers in modern kitchens.

The master bath as retreat is a movement that’s been building for some time. Oversized showers with separate free-standing tubs have replaced the ubiquitous garden tub. Elegant touches, such as chandeliers, furniture-like cabinetry and fireplaces are in high demand for the master bath. “With these spa-like features, I find myself actually using this space to relax and not just occupying it for 10 minutes a day,” says RE/MAX One Realty’s Stephens.