2 Person Showers Among Trends in Custom Homes

Jennifer Landers, the president of New Dimensions, Inc., shows off a wine cabinet in the new home at 6521 33rd Street. (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press)
Jennifer Landers, the president of New Dimensions, Inc., shows off a wine cabinet in the new home at 6521 33rd Street. (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press)

Open spaces, flex spaces, white kitchens and showers built for two are some of the popular trends area homebuilders say buyers want in new homes today.

“We are definitely seeing the trend towards flex space which can be adopted over time to meet the needs of changing lifestyles,” said Jennifer Landers, the president of New Dimensions, Inc. “There’s a huge demand.”

Almost 20 percent of adults in the U.S. now live in “grand houses” with three generations, double the amount from 1980, according to figures supplied by Doug Smith, the president of Miller & Smith.

And about 50 percent of buyers older than 55 say they prefer a home with an “in-law suite,” which is about double the percentage of 2007, according to Smith.

Accommodating this shift means new home designs which feature a downstairs home office which can transition into a bedroom with private bath for Grandma.

Many dwellings are built for teleworking residents since “so many people are working from home now, often two people,” Landers said.

The marketplace has little tolerance now for closed-off rooms, and buyers want open spaces, wrote Smith in a statement.

What should we do about the living room?

It’s going the way of the dinosaur, and the dining room is not far behind, Landers said.

“People don’t really use living rooms that often any more,” and opt instead for a home office.

A New Dimensions home of 5,700 square feet at 6521 33rd Street has no formal living room. It has been replaced by a private study or home office with glass-paned interior windows and doors which sits across the entryway from a dining room with a modern chandelier.

Another popular trend which is likely second on the popularity list after “flex space,” said Landers, is an upstairs laundry room near large bedrooms and bathrooms, the latter the size of 1950s bedrooms, and please include a bathroom for every bedroom.

Smith and Landers agreed that big tubs which gobble up vast quantities of water and space are on the “outs” now, but fancy showers the size of large closets with sit-down spaces and fancy gadgets are hot.

Almost like a museum piece, a standalone tub is the centerpiece of the master bathroom at the new 33rd Street house which has huge master closets, including a “seasonal” closet for out-of-season apparel.

What kind of role in new home building does technology play? A big one.

Smith writes that “the Internet of Things” is “one of the most exciting trends” in home development.

Technology now enables Smartphone users to remotely control thermostats and lighting, and sensors can alert residents about a leaking hot water heater, for example.

In the kitchen, microwaves tucked inside lower drawers are in style and everything is going white, Landers said. “People want light and bright.”

As for the outdoors, its spaciousness, open air, and feel are especially appealing, and more buyers want indoor conveniences moved to outside spaces, according to Smith.

The home on 33rd Street has both a screened-in porch and an uncovered porch.

In Falls Church and Arlington, Adam Bean’s GreenBuilt Homes are typically 4,000 square feet and include five bedrooms and four and a half baths and cost in the range of $1.5 million.
He’s a teardown expert who buys lots, tears down old houses and constructs new ones.

His homes are “Energy Star” approved which meet green standards and save the typical resident about $200 on energy bills and are up to 50 percent more efficient than most.

Although Bean doesn’t think his environmentally friendly houses are the Number One priority on most buyers’ lists, he does think many home buyers like his approach which is “an added bonus.”
In a telephone interview, he said “I’ve always built green houses for personal reasons.”

He relies on his instincts about what home buyers want, and so far, they’ve been spot on.

All his homes are “spec houses,” and although he does not build custom designs, he pre-sells them, and he recycles parts.

About 70 percent of his teardowns go to charity (working refrigerators), or are used in other construction projects.

What goes around comes around, a la standalone Victorian tubs.

That big old soaking tub which consumes half your bathroom space can be preserved and stored under a new porch or, like a family in McLean, used year-round for outdoor bathing. They promise it’s “refreshing,” even in winter.