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3 top trends from the past decade (plus the future of home design)

Maryalene LaPonsie | Improvement Center Columnist | February 3, 2014

If you want to see one of the defining trends of the past decade, you only need to look to the McMansion next door.

"A big influence [of the past decade] was more is better," says Roger Hazard.

For nearly 10 years, he followed the trends as the designer on A&E's Sell This House and Sell This House: Extreme. Now, he runs Roger+Chris, a design company he co-owns with husband Chris Stout-Hazard.

ImprovementCenter.com talked to Roger and Chris to get their picks for the top three design trends from the past decade as well as what they think will be the next hot thing in home remodeling.

Top trend #1: Bigger and blander is better

The big house trend has certainly been an influence for more than a decade, but housing sizes have ballooned in the past ten years.

Consider that the U.S Census Bureau didn't even begin to record new home construction in excess of 3,000 square feet until 1988. By 2003, one in five new homes exceeded that size. Then, in 2012, more than 25 percent of new construction had more than 3,000 square feet of floor space, and the average square footage was 2,505.

Along with the big size came cookie cutter layouts and beige everywhere. Roger and Chris say the past decade saw a lot of home designs created with resale in mind.

"People were terrified to be different for a while," notes Chris.

Will the trend last? Say good-bye to big houses and boring home design. The National Association of Home Builders anticipates the average size of new homes will drop to 2,152 square feet in 2015. That's 10 percent smaller than the new houses of 2010.

In addition, Roger and Chris say people are going to look more toward creating their own space rather than something mimicking what they see on the home design shows.

"The focus will be more on functionalizing and personalizing homes," says Roger.

Chris adds, "Beige is boring, and [people] don't want to be boring."

Top trend #2: Reclaimed materials and industrial design

A second defining trend of the past decade has been the use of reclaimed materials.

"There seems to be that hunger for anything reclaimed," says Chris. "People like rustic."

Roger agrees saying there has been a fixation in some circles about making everything either reclaimed or industrial.

The popularity of reclaimed materials and industrial design may be fueled by eco-conscious consumers who crave a stripped down, simplified style. Certainly, sleek lines and a minimalist approach have featured prominently in many homes during the past decade. For example, the National Kitchen & Bath Association found 67 percent of surveyed kitchen projects opted for white painted cabinetry.

Will the trend last? It seems to be a mixed bag when it comes to the future of reclaimed materials and industrial design. You will probably still see reclaimed and industrial items, but they may be softened by other design elements.

"People are craving some warmer touches," Chris says.

Plus, they don't necessarily want to have the same design style as everyone else.

"They want to do something unique," says Roger.

Chris concurs. "Rather than keeping up with the Joneses, we want to be different from the Joneses."

Top trend #3: Solar power and integrated technology

Those who live in overcast, northern states may not see it, but solar power has become big business during the past ten years.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the third quarter of 2013 was the largest ever in terms of residential installations. What's more, the cost of completed solar power systems dropped 16 percent in the last year while the average price of a solar shingle has gone down 60 percent since 2011.

At the same time, new technologies have continued to develop at break-neck speed. For example, homeowners can now install smart thermostats which learn their preferences and adjust automatically or security systems that can be accessed and controlled via a mobile device.

"Technology has been a big influence," says Roger, suggesting tech elements have become a central component of many remodeling projects.

Will the trend last? "We don't see heating and cooling costs going down any time soon," says Roger. He predicts the trend toward solar power is here to stay.

For those concerned about the aesthetics of having solar panels, he notes new products are being developed that look more like traditional shingles. In addition, leasing panels may be an option for those concerned about the price.

Roger says, "Leasing solar panels is a model we're seeing, and people in our communities are taking advantage of that."

Both Roger and Chris see the U.S. following the European model of solar panels eventually becoming a standard feature on most homes.

New trends coming soon

As for what else the future holds, Roger and Chris offer three predictions.

  • Quartz is the new counter of choice: Roger predicts, "Quartz products are going to have a much bigger influence than granite."
  • Watch for white glass in the kitchen: "Stainless steel will be a thing of the past," Roger declares. Instead, white glass will replace high-maintenance stainless steel. "White glass will be used on high-end projects at first, but it will trickle down," he says.
  • Personalize, personalize, personalize: As the big, bland houses disappear, the new trend will be all about designing custom spaces. "People are really excited about personalizing," says Chris. "People are starting to slow down and work on creating spaces that work for them."

The past decade may have been about being bigger and better, but the next few years will be all about you. Whether you are remodeling a room or your entire house, Roger and Chris suggest the trends of the future will have you creating unique livable spaces rather than copying showroom styles.