As a full-service real estate brokerage representing buyers and sellers of single-family and multi-unit homes, Rize has a front-row seat to see what’s happening in housing. We thought we’d share three of the biggest home trends you might want to know about, whether you are preparing to buy or sell home; rent out a property; or just want to give your own home some TLC made for the future.

Function over form

Homes of the future are getting leaner, smarter, healthier and more functional than ever before. That doesn’t mean living structures are sacrificing beauty for brains. Home design is simply using advances in interior design and technology to focus on

  • Functionality: how people actually live in homes
  • Accessibility: how people move through homes—now and as they age
  • Sustainability/efficiency: How homes live in harmony with the environment and homeowners’ budgets

New homes are coming with “smart” controls—automated features for temperature, security and lighting—while older homes are being retrofitted for the app-monitored technology where possible. Universal design elements like wider hallways, helpful handrails and single-level living spaces are also becoming more popular as the massive Baby Boomer generation prefers innovative, independent age-in-home adaptations to moving into assisted living.

Increasing environmental consciousness is leading to more use of paint and composite wood with low-volatile organic compounds; air purification systems; upholstery made of natural fibers; and carpets sans polyvinyl chloride backing. In the same vein, energy-efficiency elements are in high demand: solar panels, water reclamation systems and tankless water heaters. The goal is to make homes both healthier and cheaper to maintain.

Led by a concentration of people preferring to live in urban centers to be near jobs and public transportation, smaller city-living spaces are also being designed to function well even with limited layouts. The burgeoning tiny-house movement is also an example of just how innovative, personal and functional home design can be—even in petite format.

Kitchens to conduct life

Kitchens have always been considered the heart of the home, but now more than ever kitchens are the lifeblood—the central hub—of living in a home. Style-wise “industrial” and “farmhouse” themes are leading kitchen aesthetics, according to the 2016 Design Trends Survey from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. But there are a multitude of trends emerging in kitchen design:

  • Two-tone cabinets: Forty-two percent of designers report using a mix of color cabinets in recent remodels. This can also include using two different materials on complementary spaces: the island countertop and perimeter of the counter space, for example. Some homeowners are keeping upper cabinets white or neutral to maintain a clean look, while mixing in various wood or deeper tones on lower cabinets.
  • White with a kick: Americans still love the look of white walls and cabinets in kitchens, but increasingly designers are suggesting some ways to alleviate the “sterile” feel of white: off-whites, grays and beige, plus kicks of color via tiles, backsplashes, bookcases and other raw materials. Other eclectic modern materials include butcher-block countertops next to soapstone or marble, and dark-blue or olive-green cabinets accented by stainless steel appliances.
  • Simple is in: In addition to the favorite “open concept” of modern kitchens, designed to flow naturally into the rest of the home, this trend is going further with the “barely there” look that uses minimal upper cabinetry, open shelves, hidden appliances and raw materials rather than clunky, industrial-looking pieces.
  • Master islands: Islands are nearly indispensible in kitchens that are large enough to contain them, but these days islands are serving as much more than extra countertop space. They are multifunctional workhorses, often housing prep sinks, deep-storage areas, extra seating, even stovetops.
  • Exceptional appliances: This is one area where homeowners are splurging. We’re talking about everything from steam ovens (the healthier microwave) to kid-friendly induction stoves to built-in coffee stations. And when it comes to appliances, color is all the rage: new black or dark hues of stainless steel are replacing that too-shiny, too-scratch-able silver look.
  • All the bells and whistles: Other popular add-ons in modern kitchens include extra-deep, pull-out and tilt-out/in drawers and storage; wood flooring instead of tile; pocket doors; dedicated pet spaces; and charging stations.

Living more outdoors

Homes are increasingly incorporating the outdoors into indoors, either through transitional elements that can convert seasonally or through lifestyle and landscape enhancements to current patio, deck or yard spaces. Some homeowners are even adding fully furnished outdoor “rooms.” Not only does this make homes in temperate climates more livable, it makes them more saleable. A home’s exterior and the backyard are increasingly enticing to potential buyers.

Here are some of most interesting trends in outdoor home design:

  • Large-scale, fold-up door panels or giant pocket doors with retractable insect screens
  • Shady, private gazebos and pergolas for beautiful, functional spaces to relax with family
  • High-end sheds for superior storage or detached yard structures designed for office or hobby space
  • Outdoor kitchens complete with sinks, ranges and ovens
  • Specialized and solar outdoor lighting to accent decks and add warmth to outdoor rooms
  • Low-maintenance landscaping or xeriscaping with rocks, mulch and native grasses
  • Natural wood and stone accents to modernize home’s exterior and blend better with the environment
  • Simple fire pits to fancy fireplaces for enjoying more outdoor time, even in the colder months
  • Permanent “entertaining” seating built right into decks and patios rather than stacks of chairs and benches

How we live in our homes continues to evolve—and, fortunately, so does innovative home design. As you consider shopping for your dream home or adding value to your current house or rental property, focus on some of your favorites from these architecture and interior design trends. If you need help with any of your housing needs, don’t hesitate to reach out to a real estate broker or property management professional at Rize Homesource.