What design features are most important to home buyers right now?
What are the key trends that are driving new home design?
What are some trendy design features I can include in my homes that buyers won’t regret in five years?
We get asked these questions a lot, so much so that we headlined a session devoted to them at this year’s International Builders Show. KGA’s Senior Architect Travis Hendrix and Lita Dirks & Co.’s Director of Business of Development Erin Hurley discussed timeless and trendy features that, when well integrated, create authentic home designs with lasting appeal.
In an uncertain housing market, design matters. The buyers who are out there shopping are motivated by more than just base price or locking an interest rate. They are more discerning and looking for something special, a home that has all their must-haves and nice-to-haves. Homes should appeal to them on a personal and emotional level, which is where authentic design comes into play.
Foundations of Timeless Design
Timeless design is first and foremost defined through principles that guide placement and proportion. We humans are biologically hardwired to be drawn to certain proportions and spatial relationships. Our eyes seek order, scale, and patterns that are similar to those found in nature because it feels good to look at them. They inspire feelings of shelter, warmth, and security — exactly what buyers want to feel when searching for a home.
“The root of these concepts is based on human neurology and biology in our connection with nature. We’re simply seeking out similar orders and proportions.”Travis Hendrix, Senior Architect, KGA
What we find visually appealing is intrinsic and has informed architecture and art for millennia. It’s the reason why ancient ruins have design similarities with many of today’s homes and structures. Timeless design is the philosophy of recreating what we find appealing in nature in architecture and home interiors. It’s about integrating a combination of forms, proportions, textures, and palettes that call up all these positive and cozy feelings into how a home is designed and built.
Timeless Design Vs. Trend
Distinguishing between timeless and trendy design features is simple if you know what to look for. Timeless design stands the test of time, with compositions that are in tune with the foundational elements mentioned above.
Trends tend to have shorter shelf lives, often only lasting under five years before they begin to phase out and look dated. Trendy design is also known to break design rules and push boundaries. Sometimes it reflects a specific design moment in time or cultural zeitgeist that loses relevancy as they’re replaced with new movements and current events.
Integrating timeless and trendy design in a home can be tricky. You want your homes to feel fresh and of-the-moment, however, you don’t want to overwhelm buyers with too many trendy features. “I advise clients to start with a classic and timeless style as the home’s base design then add layers of trending pieces that can be easily changed over time,” recommends Hurley.
Examples of Timeless and Trendy Home Design
Timeless design principles represent the common thread that runs through the home design trends that have an authentic feel and staying power. The key to integrating trendy features into your homes is understanding who your buyers are and staying true to the value your brand brings to the marketplace. It’s also about knowing the design rules so you know when and how to break them to create a refreshed look and distinguish your homes from the competition.
First Impressions Still Count
The old adage still rings true: You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Set your new communities apart from the rest by wowing your buyers before they even step through the front door. Curb appeal still helps sell homes and can even improve resale value by 7%. Create a distinctive design foundation with an exterior that pays attention to the details.
A memorable sense of arrival is one of the first steps to creating a cohesive home design. Small details can make a big visual impression. Even a smaller front porch needs shelter to make entering and leaving the home more comfortable. Pay attention to things buyers notice, like entry light fixtures. The front door should make a memorable impression, with a high-quality latch that feels good to open and close.
Carefully consider hardscapes, grasses, plants, and shrubs so they complement the homes’ scale and architecture. Install what makes sense in your geographic region, paying attention to water conservation concerns, native plants, and homeowner maintenance. Buyers tend to appreciate smaller yards if there is a neighborhood outdoor amenity space nearby.
Making Natural Connections
Forms and palettes as they occur in nature are pleasing to the eyes. In your exteriors, consider layering materials that are rooted in nature and that make a connection with the natural world.
Buyers tend to be willing to overlook synthetic materials as long as they focus on colors, grains, and textures that reflect the natural environment.
Neutrals never go out of style, but buyers are adopting more of a “go for it” attitude in their approach to color. This extends to stone slabs for kitchen counters, islands, backsplashes, and bathrooms. Rich, deeply veined natural stone in bolder hues imparts that one-of-a-kind look buyers are searching for.
These high-impact statement stones create a focal point and pack a powerful design punch. They also can play well with neutral countertop materials for a custom combination. For example, a statement stone at the coffee station can pair with Carrera marble countertops for the remaining kitchen counters and island.
The pendulum is swinging away from the rigid minimalism that has dominated interior design. Perfection is boring — buyers are increasingly drawn to bespoke interiors that take a design stand, so to speak. Don’t be afraid to imbue your model homes with splashes of personality.
With touches of maximalism, the glam aesthetic is all about the “more is more” philosophy. Palettes can pop with jewel tones reminiscent of old-world royalty. “There’s a reason lavish jewel tones and velvet flash across our brains when we think of nobility—they’ve historically signified material wealth and status,” says Hurley.
Layer rich and soft textures and fixtures and honed finishes with saturated hues like sapphire, emerald, and deep burgundy.
Unique and Eclectic
This style approach works best when you really know who your buyers are, including their hobbies and interests. Mixing styles also works well here, so be brave and pull inspiration from a couple of different eras and themes. Lend a bespoke, just-for-you vibe with original art and found objects. A kind of mish-mash of styles feels real and original, and is an effective way to mirror back to buyers how they live in (or aspire to live in) their own homes.
Cycles and Nostalgia
What’s old becomes new in interesting and reimagined ways. Boho, grand millennial, and coastal grandma are a few style examples that lean in on idiosyncrasy to satisfy buyers’ thirst for authenticity and individuality.
Workhorse areas of the home are also being reconceived. In the absence of more square footage, buyers desire kitchens and home offices to efficiently make use of every inch of space. Kitchens, living rooms, home offices — these are the spaces where people tend to spend the most time in a home. They’re crucial to get right, so be sure you identify your target market and customize accordingly (from a high-volume production community to a custom home plan).
Thoughtful programming should also be attuned to buyers’ needs for individualized and luxurious spaces. Mudrooms with functional drop zones, pet washing stations, wet bars, and game rooms are a few examples of how buyers may want to designate certain areas of their homes for specific interests.
Wellness and Self-Care
Home as a place of retreat has become even more of a priority. Buyers appreciate homes that prioritize comfort and encourage better habits and health through architecture and interior design. Create sanctuary-style environments with large windows that create light-filled spaces — integrating natural stone tile, warm woods, and calming palettes to anchor and balance these areas. Just as important, establish boundaries between the home and the outside world. Setbacks, private spaces, and layouts that separate home and work life promote a more balanced lifestyle.
All rooms should layer light sources to balance natural light and artificial light to promote health and wellness. Amounts of ambient, accent and task lighting should be appropriate to the room and its primary functions. For example, the type and amount of illumination needed for a kitchen will differ from that of a living room. Automated window shades and dimmer switches can control the amount and intensity of light for circadian health and improve sleep.
All the Curves
Come home to cozy and feel-good features and furnishings with curves, circles, and rounded corners that are replacing the lines and angles that defined a more minimal aesthetic. “People really want softer paint colors, textures, and shapes, for instance, curves rather than angular and straight lines,” says Hurley.
Architectural features like arches and curved doors are up and coming and expected to stick around. Also here to stay are curved sofas and chairs in materials that are soft on the eyes and feel good to the touch.
Americans spend 90% of their lives indoors, yet studies show we’re happiest when we’re outside in nature. Set your homes apart with a distinctive outdoor living environment and by integrating forms and colors throughout interiors that reflect the natural world.
Blur the Line Between Inside and Outside
Moving from inside to outside should be easy, seamless, and comfortable. Outdoor rooms should be covered and protected from the elements with multiple areas for different activities. Windows and glass doors should be open and ample to pull the outdoors in, even when they’re closed. Multiple sets of French doors in particular work well in a home because they act as a design element that’s also incredibly functional.
“I like a sequencing of French doors because you can still open them up based on what you need,” says Hendrix. Unlike a window wall that requires a large area to be open and exposed to the outdoors, French doors offer some flexibility. “They’re very functional, and a series of three French doors look really great because orders of 3, 5, and 7 are naturally appealing to the human eye.”
Homes can establish more equilibrium with the natural environment to create a sense of calm and harmony. For your homes’ finishes and architectural elements, consider integrating patterns and orders found in nature that appeal to people on a psychobiological level.
Biophilia encompasses palettes, materials, forms, and textures that are closer to their natural state. Organic shapes and tonal finishes like greenery, driftwood furnishings, and tonal flooring are a few examples of biophilic design that can be easily incorporated into a home.
Sustainability and Values-Based Design
Buyers are more aware of how homes and buildings affect health and the natural environment. They’re asking questions about and requesting materials that come from renewable sources, that are low VOC, and that are locally sourced to lessen their homes’ environmental burden.
Timeless Design Takeaways
Authentic home design successfully integrates time-tested architecture and interior features with trendier elements to keep things fresh and interesting. To create a memorable new home, understand your buyers and meet them where they are, all while staying true to your company’s brand and value proposition.
Today’s buyers are more discerning than ever as they’re on the hunt for “the one.” Create their unicorn that checks all their boxes — a home that prioritizes a sense of retreat and well-being while reflecting their unique personalities and desire to stay connected to nature.
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