As builders enjoy the renewed demand for custom homes, they also look to attract buyers with the latest and greatest styles and trends. We asked some of the top homebuilders in North Texas to look into their crystal balls and make predictions about what will be hot in 2015. If we had to sum it up in a word: technology.
1. Home automation
Technology integration was the biggest trend mentioned by our builders, and it’s showing up in home design requests across the board. “Everyone wants to control their house from their iPhones,” says Les Owens, president of LRO Residential.
“It will not be long until every new home has all exterior locks on Wi-Fi, controlled by phone or interior home controls.”
Homeowners want to use their phones to control the thermostat, lighting, pool equipment, security systems, surveillance cameras, appliances, garage doors and more. Builders predict continued demand for home automation with expanded capabilities.
“Integrating technology throughout the home is making modern life easier, like [building] charging stations, being able to control everything from one place and while you’re on the go,” says Mark Danuser, owner of Tatum Brown Custom Homes. “I’m personally excited about how smarter technology is going to evolve homebuilding, especially in regard to better energy efficiency and connectivity.”
2. Big, gorgeous outdoor spaces
Buyers desire larger, more impressive outdoor spaces. “We recently finished a project that has an 800-square-foot outdoor loggia and an almost 1,000-square-foot courtyard,” says Kyle Belew, Veranda Fine Homes founder and president.
“We added a pool bath to this loggia, separated from the main house entirely, which the homeowners absolutely love, as well as a fireplace with a raised hearth and an outdoor kitchen with a separate eating area and sitting area.”
According to the Realtors, architects and builders surveyed for the Starside Custom Builders design amenities survey in September 2014, 90 percent preferred estate-sized lots. One commented that with the relocation of Toyota, State Farm and FedEx, people are coming to Texas looking for large lots.
“We are seeing more demand for exceptional, contemporary backyards,”says S&R Development president and CEO Saad Chehabi. “My favorite trend has to be a smaller, energy-efficient home with a larger, over-the-top backyard.”
3. Seamless flow between indoor-outdoor spaces
If they are going to have a gorgeous backyard, loggia or pergola, homeowners want easy access and great views of those features. “I see a continuing demand for homes that the living areas open onto the exterior spaces,” says Greico Modern Homes designer and builder Tom Greico. “Our clients are wanting modern-style homes that feature multipurpose spaces with large expanses of glass and seamless access to the exterior.”
Screened-in porches and motorized screens will be popular, Owens adds, as the connection between indoor and outdoor living spaces continues to evolve.
“We have many examples of exterior walls continuing into the inside of the home,” says Classic Urban Homes owner Michael Turner, who also notes the popularity of outdoor living spaces and the importance of connecting all living areas.
4. Bright, open rooms with large windows
Our builders say bright, open floor plans will be in demand this year, with walls of windows and modern lighting. “Clients want clear, unobstructed views to the outdoors,” Turner says, which ties back to other trends of impressive outdoor spaces and a seamless transition to them.
“Floor-to-ceiling windows and doors have been ongoing trends that we see continuing,” Danuser says. “Now we’re seeing curtain wall systems that typically you’d only see in more ultra-modern or commercial settings used in homes that are more soft contemporary or transitional.”
Several builders mentioned the demand for LED lighting, which is now available in more options and sizes than ever before.
5. “Warmly contemporary” architecture
Gone are the days of sterile modernity in home design, our builders say, but the demand for modern architecture is huge. People want designs to be clean and open, yet warm, with a lot of natural materials and textures.
“Everyone wants a little contemporary feel in their homes, from plumbing fixtures to lighting; even traditional homes have taken on a clean line feel,” Owens says. “I am seeing people start to push back from some of the more transitional/contemporary features and instead want a clean-lined, but very warm and livable home.”
The demand for modern houses in Dallas started about two years ago, Bauhaus Custom Homes president Marc Kleinmann says, and will be a major trend in 2015.
“Modern architecture is gaining steam, and many more modern homes are going up around town than ever before,” Turner says. “I think ‘old world’ is out. People want something new and different and much cleaner in design.”
This trend is also showing up in a demand for nontraditional interior elements and a blend of materials on the exterior.
“We are seeing clients migrate toward using typically exterior materials inside the home, like marble walls, steel accents, and brick or stone,” Danuser says. “Overall, there’s been a change in the way people think about exterior features, like the use of copper or zinc paneling on the exterior and a blending of different materials, like wood, stone, plaster and paint. People aren’t afraid to mix it up.”
6. Green elements
Environmentally friendly homebuilding isn’t just about sustainability and social responsibility; it also saves on energy bills, which buyers like. Expect to see more elements like foam spray insulation, tankless water heaters, and air conditioning units with a higher seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER-16 and up) and variable speeds.
“The last few years we have seen a significant shift in it being the standard rather than the variance,” Kleinmann says. “I am optimistic it will become the norm for our industry.”
Builders also predict a trend toward smaller houses, which use less energy than their larger neighbors.
“I think we still overbuild,” Turner says. “I would like to see people build smaller, more efficient homes. I think they would find they could live in them their entire lives. We just completed a new home for a couple in the Bird Streets. It was just under 2,500 square feet and a one story, and we got a ton of interest in this home while it was under construction.”
Belew has been advocating for smaller spaces for years and will continue to do so. “When the market turned a few years ago, we started giving each of our customers Sarah Susanka’s book, The Not So Big House,” he says. “I love this book and am still passing it out to each new customer, which is always a huge help when going through the architecture process.”
Greico says he’s getting more requests for solar panels, which are also a natural fit for his flat-roofed houses. “I see an acceptance and availability of cost-effective systems that employ the sun to generate power, making the home almost self-sufficient,” he says.
7. Rooms that serve multiple purposes
Many of our builders predict the demise of isolated home theaters and oversized formal areas, for example, which are often wasted spaces. Buyers want a more efficient use of square footage, and our builders predict in 2015 they’ll be designing houses with more multifunctional spaces that are integrated via technology.
“I think we are going to continue to see the demise of the master tub and the media room — they take up too much square footage for limited use,” says JLD Custom Homes president Jeff Dworkin.
These spaces are not necessarily disappearing from the architectural plans, but they’re becoming more casual and functional.
“Instead of having a library full of books nobody uses, we may make that the media room, so now it’s got two purposes,” says Mickey Munir, founder and CEO of Sharif & Munir Uncustomary Custom Homes.
8. Adventuresome use of paint
The age of DIY creativity has many clients investigating new looks for their interior spaces, and they’re asking builders to bring a wider variety of colors into their homes. “We’ve seen clients embrace sites like Houzz and Pinterest, and as a result, they have confidence to use color in fun ways,” Danuser says.
Belew predicts cooler paint tones in 2015 and less use of stains. “People are becoming more open-minded to painting versus stained trim, doors and cabinets. This allows the customer a wider variety of design options, which is providing very comfortable living spaces,” he says.
9. Downstairs master suite
This is not so much a new trend but an ongoing force in Texas. “The only way you’re going to sell a house with an upstairs master is to an out-of-town person or a Highland Park or University Park person who’s used to it,” Munir says.
“Texas people, they want that master downstairs if they’ve got a big enough lot. Always.”
According to the Starside Amenities Survey, if customers build a two-story house, placing the master suite downstairs is a major plus. “We are seeing more demand for a first-floor master,” Chehabi says.
10. Smaller home offices
As automation becomes more common — and technology gets smaller and more streamlined — the need for a large home office is diminishing. “Smaller home offices are in line with efficiencies of today’s technology,” Danuser says. “You no longer need massive storage for papers; computers and printers are smaller and devices are multiuse.”
In fact, the “home office” doesn’t even need to be a separate room.
“A lot of our clients are asking for command centers, which is a dedicated area for them to keep the household items organized or pay bills,” Belew says. “[One] homeowner commented that this is her favorite space in the house and makes her life so much easier, as things are much more organized.”
A version of this story originally was published on Candy’s Dirt.