In the future, houses will look more like a home

— During these economic times, new housing design has adaped to the conditions by becoming smaller and with more thoughtful decisions by architects, builders and consumers about what goes into the home so that the best value is achieved.  Fortunately, Dreambuilder Custom Homes, a custom home designer and builder in Jacksonville, can help you imagine and create a home of any size, with just the amenities you want.  A custom home does not have to mean a large, million-dollar mansion.  It can mean 2,000 square feet of beautiful, livable, optimized space with the luxury touches you want, so you can live the life you’ve dreamed of.  To learn more about the affordability of our custom homes, click here.  We can also connect you with information on financing your dream. 

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – July 28, 2010 – The house of the near future could look more like, well, a home.

After the economic recession and collapse of the housing market, “smaller, better, smarter” may win out over grand, oversize showpieces, said Jacksonville architect Michael Dunlap. “That’s what I think they’ll be.”


Adds Kermit Baker of the American Institute of Architects: “The era of the McMansion could well be over.”

Baker, chief economist for the AIA, said the recession and an interest in lowering utility costs has already changed how houses are designed and built.

“As the housing boom has passed, there seems to be a renewed interest in investing in properties to make homes more livable, as opposed to real estate that can be resold quickly for a profit,” he wrote in an AIA report.

We interviewed architects and builders to try to figure out what new houses — both mass-production and custom — might look like in the next decade or so.

The consensus was that they might not appear that much different, at first glance. But here’s a way to picture the future home: Take a house built during the past 20 years, then start scaling back — or just plain taking away — some of the features.

All those different roof pitches, scattered over gable after gable? That big two-story vestibule? The formal dining room? Gone. That three-story garage? Down to two. That 3,500-square-foot house? Perhaps you’ll have to do with just 2,800.

It’s hardly deprivation though, say the experts. Instead, they say, think of it as more practical — and perhaps even more livable.

“The formal living room, the formal sitting room, the big grand open entry with huge stairwell and a 28-foot vault to the ceiling?” said Robert Leinenweber, owner of Eastern Shores Construction in Atlantic Beach. “All that’s going away.”

Jacksonville architect Richard Skinner said changes will be dictated by a more uncertain — and more realistic — approach to the house in which you live.

“It’s the ongoing cost of a house that kills you, the mortgage and the utility payments,” he said. “So if you can figure a way to cut those, you’re on the way to solving the problem.”

Baker compiles quarterly reports on home design trends for the AIA, based on information from architectural firms. He’s reluctant to predict what will be happening 10 or 15 years from now, but says you can get clues based on what’s been happening in the recent past.

The smaller house trend has been bubbling for some time. Factors include the influence of Sarah Susanka’s “The Not So Big House” books, increasing land and utility costs, and the fact that families aren’t as big as they used to be.

Last year, USA Today reported that U.S. Census data shows the average size of a new house dropped for the first time in more than a decade. It went from 2,629 feet in the second quarter of the year to 2,343 in the fourth.

“It was gaining some traction even before this downturn,” Baker said. “We don’t really need a 5,000- or 6,000-square-foot home with a big formal dining room, a big formal living room. That doesn’t really reflect us.”

Still, that doesn’t mean houses built in the next 10 or 15 years will be anything like the 1,100-square-foot houses put up after World War II. Those were considered just fine by returning G.I.s and their families, but Americans have grown to expect more.

Baker said lot sizes have been shrinking for a while, but that entry-level homebuyers often want houses that are as big as they can get — and that won’t change.

“I do believe that when the housing market recovers, those home sizes will begin to inch back up again,” he said. But it might take a long time to get back to as big as they were in the go-go years.

Andy Chambers has seen the boom and the bust. He’s president of both MasterCraft Builder Group and the Northeast Florida Builders Association. “Are people going to build bigger, higher-cost houses for the most part?” he said. “I think not.”

Rooms that encourage just a single use — formal living rooms and dining rooms, isolated media rooms –will be the first to go.

“People are just looking more carefully at the space that’s useful,” said Skinner.

In coming years, look for multi-use rooms of flexible design, featuring lots of open space. That central living area is more spacious, tied into a kitchen that’s functional but not over-the-top.

The family area will be focused even more so around the TV screen, which will be even larger, said Skinner: “The TV has taken the spotlight, and people aren’t as ashamed of it as they used to be.”

He also expects kitchens to be more practical than extravagant. And bathrooms? They won’t be the “palaces” of past years. They’ll be nice, sure. But who really needs a palace for a bathroom?

Skinner said there’s plenty of room in the future for modern-looking houses, but he expects something of a return to a more traditional look. “I think there’s this sense of what a home looks like,” he said. “Proportions will become closer to something that looks classically driven; the scale of homes will be more pleasing to the eye. There’s been a lot of movement in the directions of neighborhoods that are more into the Avondale, Riverside, San Marco design.”

For years, people have been envisioning smart “Jetsons”-style houses packed with centralized high-tech systems that will run the whole building.

Those predictions were likely overblown, said Chambers, the builders association president. “The high-tech houses, quite honestly, have never taken off, and I think that’s because technology has exceeded the high-tech houses, because of wireless for the most part.”

And the much-ballyhooed green house?

People are slowly moving that way, though Leinenweber points out that most green construction methods remain too expensive for widespread use. Better insulation and more efficient windows, however, have come down in price enough to be popular.

Leinenweber said he’s also seeing less reliance on conventional building materials. Instead, there’s more cement composite siding and recycled plastic and PVC trim.

Where will the houses be?

Looking at Northeast Florida, there still seems to be plenty of room and interest in development that keeps sprawling farther and farther from the city center.

Jacksonville itself, though, will soon run out of room to expand.

That’s what William “Bill” Killingsworth, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department, has said. He foresees a future in which aging areas of the city are redeveloped into new higher-density developments, ones close to shopping and public transit.

Baker said different parts of the country take different approaches to where to build. But trends seem to indicate one thing. “There seems to be more interest in proximity to something else rather than splendid isolation,” he said.

Copyright © 2010, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Matt Soergel. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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  • Ok I get what they're saying, but what if you can afford to have a 6,000 sqft house or even a 40,000 sqft mansion? Wonder if you have about 3 to 5 kids? A 2,800 sqft house isnt gonna cut it. Dining rooms, grand foyers, formal living rooms, great rooms, and gourmet kitchens isnt a waist. For holidays and get togethers you can use all of that for entertaining your family and friends. 3,000 sqtf homes and up might cost a lot of money but if you know you can't afford them, DONT BUY THEM!!!!!! But for the others that have well paid jobs and know they can afford them, then they shouldn't have a problem with foreclosures or nothing like that.

  • authr

    Jalen: Thanks for your comment, and yes, if one can afford the larger, more typical custom home, by all means — they should go for it! Most people, when they think of custom homes, think large and luxurious, which granted is the typical home. Our post regarding smaller homes is simply stating that custom does not have to mean large. A small home can be custom designed and filled with luxury — yet costs can be controlled due to the size. This means families that maybe think they have to settle for a production builder’s box could possibly afford to have a true custom home in their price range. It will be completely unique and perfectly fit their family, yet at a price that is competitive with production builders.