Open spaces: Homebuilders reshape designs, amenities to meet changing needs


Well into the pandemic, more homeowners are seeking spaces for a relaxing refuge at home. Builders are taking more requests for backyard amenities like hardscaping and fire pits. CRAFTMASTER HOMES

Homebuyers’ changing preferences continue to push builders toward new design trends in the wake of COVID-19, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Increased desire for bigger homes, suburban locations and more outdoor amenities are driving new home design.

“Right now, buyers are looking for availability and timing as the most important feature when starting their search,” says Tim Parent, general manager of CraftMaster Homes, a division of Mungo Homes. “Those seem to be the first questions about what product is available.”

Prospective buyers are also looking for homes that range between 2,500 square feet and 3,500 square feet.

“We have seen many people go to the maximum size in case they decide that this will be their forever home, so they do not have to move from the home or finish parts of the home later,” Parent says.

Modern styles and clean lines are gaining popularity among buyers, says Regina Perkinson, owner of Perkinson Homes. “Linear fireplaces, custom iron decorative balusters and floating staircases have been highly requested,” she says, adding that larger glass exterior doors and windows that bring the outdoors in are requested items as well. “Also popular for porches currently are retractable screens called Phantom screens.”

People want homes that are not only beautiful but also functional for their lifestyles.

“This could mean anything from spacious walk-in closets and pantries, extra storage space or the option to install a Ring camera or Nest thermostat,” Parent says. “They also want spacious kitchens with an open concept to the family room, large bedrooms for everyone and not just the primary bedroom, loft space for the kids and covered porches for an outside space.”

Since the start of the pandemic, many families are opting to put more money into their own backyards rather than spend it on travel.

“We are seeing more emphasis on outdoor living than ever before,” Perkinson says. “Not just patios and pools but also full outdoor kitchens, seating areas, outdoor dining, fireplaces, detached pool houses, detached garages and more detailed landscaping for the rear yard.”

Prospective buyers want homes with more square footage, homebuilders say. CRAFTMASTER HOMES

There is a “healthy mix of people who are creating beautiful paver patios with fire pits and gas grills on one side and others who would prefer a covered and screened in porch with a double-sided fireplace and a TV setup,” Parent says. “Both options are easily customizable based on each customer’s preferences.”

Many homebuyers are looking for anything that will make their life easier – think smart technology.

“We have an increased demand for integrated lighting controls,” Perkinson says. “Clients want to be able to control all the lights in their whole house from just one button as well as control natural light with motorized window solutions.”

Many of Parent’s customers are focusing on getting functional options first.

Homebuilders say prospective buyers want to put more money into their backyards and are looking for maximum space — 2,500 square feet or more. GORDON GREGORY

“Then they are designing their most-lived spaces that guests will see and making plans for all the little ways that they can add their personal touch once the home is complete,” he says.

Interiors today are trending toward clean, modern lines, especially in trim packages.

“Staircase and fireplace designs are becoming more unique in style and are now considered a more important statement piece of the home,” Perkinson says. “Natural elements are often desired to warm interiors. Clients are requesting more glass on the rear exterior of their homes to bring in more light and create a seamless transition to the outdoors.”

Office spaces are also in demand since more people are working from home. Often these spaces will replace formal dining or living rooms.

“Formal living rooms are not something we get many request for, however there are people who use extra space in an owner’s bedroom to create a sitting space,” Parent says.

As always, the kitchen is the center of the home, and many buyers are looking for farmhouse kitchens with white cabinets and wood stain accents. More kitchen designs now include larger breakfast nooks to replace formal dining rooms.

“The biggest shift we are seeing for functional kitchens is adding deep drawers instead of cabinets with pullouts,” Parent says. “Among other things, the trends we are seeing are granite or quartz composite sinks, larger islands that also have quality storage and some ‘statement’ wood hoods.” These particular vents offer an additional eye-catching accent to what’s usually a house’s busiest room.

First-floor master bedrooms still hold allure for buyers because they give people the flexibility to age in place.

“We build homes that people can feel like the home is growing with them,” Parent says, noting that designs include ADA-compliant doors and extra blocking in the walls for future handrails.”

Perkinson says she has had more requests for “dual master bedrooms – with the option of making the first floor a full spacious guest suite for visiting family members and friends,” she says.

Homebuyers who are 55 and older often prefer living in 55-plus neighborhoods with amenities, activities and a “general feeling of community as they approach retirement,” Parent says.

“The ability to have such low maintenance and still live in a beautiful home surrounded by a very desirable area has been received incredibly well and is highly sought after,” he says.

This article appeared in print in Casa, a special section of the Chesterfield Observer.