The Ever-Evolving Home

You’ve heard it before: our spending habits have changed for good, and in every aspect of our lives. Rather than clutter the closet with five sale-rack shirts that last just one season, we might opt for high-quality classic or two that will last a decade. Likewise, homeowners might hold off on a previously planned move and contemplate a kitchen remodel instead.

We’ve even coined terms for our more conservative mindset: “aging in place” and “universal design.” Replacing the old adage that a homeowner moves every few years, aging in place is all about prepping or choosing a home that allows you to live there for a long time. Universal design has been around for a while, but in the times we’re living in, the concept of making a home universally accessible for all ages and abilities makes even more sense, says Nancy Kaiser, project design manager with TDS Custom Construction and a Universal Design Certified Remodeler. Here’s what homeowners are looking for in every stage of life.

FamilIes On the Move

The Drop Zone It’s the twenty-first-century mudroom, says Brian McKee, president of Midwest Homes and McKee Associated. It’s a specially designed place to drop your backpack, your violin and your soccer gear when you get home without cluttering up the kitchen or family room. The room can be equipped with cubbies, closets, and as a new addition, outlets for kids (or parents) to charge their cell phones, iPods and MP3 players, adds Kaiser.

Home Layout An open floor plan for the main living area is key for family to connect at the start and end of the day, but more importantly
parents can watch over young children while they’re multi-tasking in the kitchen. McKee says families are also looking for master suites on the same floor when the kids are little, but moving to separate floors as they age.

Bathroom Trends We’re used to seeing double vanities in master baths but now they’re popular for kids’ baths, too. Since children
usually share a bathroom it’s important that more than one person at a time be able to use the space, so pocket doors to separate the toilet area from the rest of the bath also facilitate better living. Sinks of varying heights also help younger kids reach the counter, says Kaiser.

Teen Scene

Work Spaces Kaiser says having a centrally located technology station where the family can plug in and hang out together is important. Plus, many parents want to monitor internet use no matter the child’s age. McKee says he’s definitely seeing a resurgence in dedicated desk or work areas in the kitchen or family room.

Hang-out Heaven: A theater room offers family time for favorite TV shows, movies and video games as well as a fun space for both grownups and kids to entertain.

 

The New Rec Room

Teens can’t get enough privacy. “In new construction homeowners are thinking of a game or social area, typically in the lower level, for kids to congregate rather than being out and about looking for things to do outside the house. The room might be equipped for kids to play Wii or Xbox type of games,” says McKee. Maybe there’s even room left over for good old-fashioned ping pong, darts or pool.

 

 

Safety First It’s hard to admit, but we want to keep track of when teens come and go, too. An alarm system isn’t just for intruders anymore—it’s a way to give parents that added sense of security. Day or night, the system can chime when anyone enters and exits the home.

Empty Nesters and Grandparents

The Not-So-Big Trend “We’re finding that instead of [homes] getting larger like in the ’80s to the 2000s, people are going smaller but using more high-end finishes and detail like columns, wood details, nicer flooring, high-end cabinetry and granite countertops,” says
McKee. “They’re enjoying the wealth they’ve accumulated over the years for the space they’re living in. On average, McKee says homes are now 1,800–2,000 square feet, down from 2,800–3,000 square feet in the past.

Digital Accessories Home automation systems not only monitor your house when you’re away, they assist those with accessibility issues, too. “You can program these for various users so that someone with limited eyesight can have a higher light level than a younger person,” points out Kaiser. And this system really is a boon for snowbirds who are gone for several months: homeowners can monitor security cameras, home temperature and lighting—all by pulling up your home’s dedicated website from thousands of miles away.

Universal Living “When you hear universal design most people think of aging in place but it would apply to somebody who has a disability or just needs more ease of use,” says Kaiser. Small enhancements—like lever doorknobs and faucets, wider hallways, no thresholds in doors, redesigned bathrooms—all can accommodate older folks or people with disabilities. “Even if a homeowner isn’t going to age there, a second buyer might look at that,” notes McKee. “Design accessibility is really in the design forefront.”

Shayna Miller is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

Read more Habitat articles here.

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