MAR 8, 2019

Model homes out front in current design trends

Daily Herald

This spring, new homes bloom with innovative designs, new colors and finishes and a more personal approach to interiors. Will you embrace the matte finishes for a more relaxed look, the soft touch of velvet or the flirty vibe of tassels and fringe? What about the curves. After years of squares and rectangles, curvy sofas and round or oval dining tables are good news.

Kitchens and baths take center stage in today's new homes with buyers spending a lot of money dressing these rooms to the hilt. Rather than a place to cook, kitchens have evolved into a wonderful gathering place for family and friends; and with a purpose beyond utility, master baths provide homeowners with a refreshing spa experience. Are open floor plans here to stay? There's no sign of builders closing the door on today's popular open designs. Open plans make a space feel larger, create sight lines through to the outdoors and encourage a sense of easy living.

Kitchen highlights

What's heating up in the kitchen? Islands are getting bigger and better and are often the most popular spot in the home. Plote Homes' floor plans illustrate this trend.

"Some of our plans allow for a 9-foot island, and people are getting away from the dining room as they look to the island for eating and congregating," said Scott Ballard, Plote director of homebuilding.

Granite or quartz? Quartz reigns in today's kitchens with its clean, consistent look, and it comes in a variety of colors.

"The product is a little more expensive than granite, but it has a more even color flow without the different veins of granite," said Jay Dulla, executive vice president for Meritus Homes. "Buyers often choose a shade of gray, not the beiges that were popular in the past."

Quartz is durable, never needs to be replaced or refinished and visually mimics the look of even more expensive materials such as marble and slate.

While stainless steel appliances remain on trend, black matte and slate matte are stepping into the spotlight, said Kate Brennan, designer for Eleni Interiors of Naperville.

"On the very high end, you'll see coral appliances and a lot of built-in cabinetry," she said. "This speaks to upper-level buyers making a statement, and it gives them more choices at a higher price point. They're not worried about resale and are very much in tune with what they like and enjoy."

With the kitchen more integrated into the rest of the home, many people like to add panels that match the cabinetry to the appliances. When the appliances are hidden, other features of the kitchen can shine.

Expect to see more copper accents this year along with a mixture of other metals. Mixing metals has been prevalent in light fixtures for some time, but now it's seen in faucets with some really cool combinations, Brennan said. With brass and gold making a comeback, along with bronze and other metals, there is no reason to stick with just one finish. Brass is a warm alternative to the expected steel accents.

Connect with the great outdoors

Blurring the line between indoors and outdoors is big as homeowners desire to connect with nature and their natural surroundings, Brennan said. Some builders even integrate outdoor living spaces into their home design as they focus on a stronger indoor-outdoor connection.

Many builders offer an optional morning room with vaulted ceiling, which is light and bright and accesses the deck. And the No. 1 structural option for Plote Homes is a screened porch with an open deck where homeowners can enjoy grilling out with friends. The morning room and screened porch often extend from the house, and being in the space feels like being outdoors.

Also, as designers feature fewer kitchen cabinets, it allows for an expansive window wall that lets in lots of natural light and offers views of the outdoors.

Large sliding or collapsible doors that open to patios and decks provide a connection with the yard and garden. Planters and potted plants bring color outdoors while lighting allows owners to enjoy entertaining outdoors. Light posts, lanterns and string lights can also illuminate the space. And solar lighting is becoming a popular option.

Personalizing floor plans

Buyers not only want well-designed floor plans, but plans that allow it to be shaped and personalized to fit the buyer with adjacent or flex areas that aren't defined rooms, Brennan said. "The art of putting that together really speaks about the person living in the home. Homes tell us a story about who lives there, their personal style and tastes."

Forever gray?

Jeremy Lund, sales director at Shodeen Homes, believes whites and grays will stay around for a while. A lot of people coming from older homes realize it's better to go neutral so homes stand the test of time, he said.

All whites are not created equal though, and many people are moving away from the bright, stark whites and embracing off-whites that feel warmer and cozier.

Brennan is seeing a lot of people loving shades of blue, which is kind of refreshing after a long run of neutrals, she said. "It's nice to have a little color again."

Some designers see deeper, darker, moodier colors making an appearance.

What's underfoot matters

Does hardwood still rule? Lund of Shodeen Homes says many people are moving away from hardwood flooring and favoring a engineered wood or laminate flooring. With the range of weather in the Midwest, solid wood flooring expands, contracts and requires maintenance.

Laminate is a non-wood product that's good for wear and tear when owners have dogs, kids and traffic in the house. A luxury apartment building in Chicago showed laminate flooring, which offers ease of care and is not considered inferior.

Fewer and fewer people want high maintenance products, and solid wood flooring always means maintenance, Lund said.

Even in the bathroom, tile flooring that resembles wood is on trend. The wood look planks come in many styles and colors and look very authentic.

The luxury vinyl plank flooring (LVP) is also popular. It's a wood-look vinyl, very durable, and it mimics the look of expensive woods.

"I was a first time home buyer and I had been looking for a few months and was having a hard time finding my dream home."

- Megan Lockwald