Design Trends

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Why do so many people choose to live in Southern California?

One reason is our nearly perfect weather, so it’s no wonder that the latest home design trends take advantage of our opportunities to enjoy outdoor living.

In 2014 reported that two of the year’s top design trends were centered on the use of outdoor space. Then in June 2015, many of top honors conferred at The Gold Nugget Awards were bestowed on homes featuring seamless indoor/outdoor transitions through collapsible floor to ceiling glazed doors. Using a bi-fold configuration, these doors fold completely out of the way, allowing passage to outdoors across the entire room.

When closed, these glassed doors flood the home with light and offer unhampered views of the outdoors. When open, they turn a patio or deck into an extension of the living area.

While traditional sliding or French doors flanked by windows do offer both the view and easy access, folding doors actually cause the wall to “disappear.”

Several Southern California builders are incorporating this idea into their new homes, not only opening up living areas to the outdoors, but creating entire living spaces outdoors. Amenities include outdoor kitchens and/or wet bars, wiring for electronics, large screen TV’s, and of course, seating areas.

Design elements of the homes are being incorporated into the outdoor living area to further enhance the feeling that the outdoors is an integral part of the home.

While optional outdoor amenities such as ranges, refrigeration, and plumbing add to the expense, outdoor space does cost less to construct, so homeowners can save dollars when choosing to add square footage outdoors rather than indoors.

These “disappearing” window walls now come in a variety of metal, vinyl, or wood frames to blend with any décor.

Disappearing walls are a remodeling option for some…

Given the right configuration, existing homes can also be remodeled to take advantage of this trend, and not just in the living areas.

A company named NanaWall Kitchen Transition has given the idea a different twist.

Instead of expanding a living room or great room, they’re opening kitchens to backyard patios and decks. Using folding windows installed above kitchen cabinets, while opening an adjoining wall with floor to ceiling bi-fold doors, they’re effectively bringing the kitchen outdoors – eliminating the need for separate cooking facilities outdoors.

Whether opening a home to the peace of a backyard sanctuary or a panoramic view, today’s wall systems allow homeowners to take full advantage of Southern California’s sunshine and mild temperatures.


Are McMansions on the Way Out?

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Yes, according to the National Association of Home Builder’s “The New Home in 2015″ survey results.

When asked what trends they foresee for this year and into the future, 74% of the home builders, residential architects and designers, and others involved in new home construction predicted that new homes will get smaller, while 68% believe they’ll get “greener.”

The majority of respondents believe the average new home will shrink another 10% – down to 2,152 square feet. This is still a far cry from the average of 1,500 square feet in the mid-70’s – or the 600 square foot bungalows of the early 20th century.

The primary reason for both of these predictions seems to be that consumers are giving a more realistic look to housing. Instead of focusing on all the features they want, they’re considering what they need. They’re also taking a more conservative view when it comes to spending money.

Consumers bent on practicality are now shunning “extra” rooms such as media and hobby rooms, mud rooms, and dining rooms. They’re also seeking homes with “great rooms,” which combine spaces for living, working, entertaining, cooking, and eating.

Larger rooms and fewer walls help reduce the cost of building a new home while providing a sense of living in a much larger home than the footprint would indicate.

A second factor driving the trend toward smaller homes is the large population of empty nesters and baby boomers who wish to downsize.

An interesting side effect of this trend could be more family togetherness. Research shows that in the past 30 years or so the average family size shrunk by 25% while home size increased 50%. It became more common for family members to each have their own private domain, complete with TV, computer, stereo, and work space. Thus, they began to spend less time together. Could smaller homes reverse this trend?

Going greener
While it is encouraging to note that consumers want to go green, it appears that the reasons are more financial than environmental.

They’re looking for energy saving features that give an immediate financial payback. For instance, low-E windows, water-efficient fixtures, and Energy Star Home ratings. Energy saving features that would increase the green quotient of a new home but cost considerably more up front and come with longer payback periods are not popular choices.

What do you say?
Is 2,152 a square foot home about the right size? Or not?