Tracking the Trends

This year’s most notable home-building trends include luxurious kitchens, spa-like bathrooms and bigger and better family spaces.

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From the June 2014 edition

In talking with local homebuilders, one thing is very clear: Central Ohioans know what they want, and they’re not afraid to ask for it. From more space, more detail and more openness to bigger and better, well, just about everything, Coumbusites and their suburban neighbors are making big demands of local builders, and the builders are happy to comply. We inquired about 2014’s building trends, and what reps from Rockford Homes, Compass Homes and Truberry Custom Homes shared speaks volumes about the newfound optimism characterizing the Central Ohio housing market.

TREND: HISTORIC ARCHITECTURE & EVEN MORE CUSTOMIZATION

“For years, a lot of Columbus was made up of mismatched architectural styles,” says Pamela Cinelli, director of sales and marketing for Compass Homes. “I jokingly call it 50 shades of beige.” But in 2014, Cinelli notes, we’ll see an uptick in classic architecture—think Colonial, Georgian, Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian shingle—and exteriors that mimic the way homes were built in early America, with bold colors like slate blue, barn red and buttery yellow. “For years, a lot of Columbus was made up of mismatched architectural styles,” says Pamela Cinelli, director of sales and marketing for . “I jokingly call it 50 shades of beige.” But in 2014, Cinelli notes, we’ll see an uptick in classic architecture—think Colonial, Georgian, Greek Revival, Italianate, Victorian shingle—and exteriors that mimic the way homes were built in early America, with bold colors like slate blue, barn red and buttery yellow.

“Another of the biggest trends for 2014 is color,” Cinelli says. “And a lot of that reflects the new optimism that people have coming out of the recession. It’s happier, brighter. I’m working on our Jerome Village model, and we’re going with a deep red and a buttercream-ivory trim.”

Truberry Custom Homes—a company that, like Compass Homes, builds primarily in the Dublin and Olentangy school districts and specializes in homes from $400,000—is also seeing a move away from the traditional “Columbus look,” which has been dominated by Craftsman homes, president Lori Steiner says. —a company that, like Compass Homes, builds primarily in the Dublin and Olentangy school districts and specializes in homes from $400,000—is also seeing a move away from the traditional “Columbus look,” which has been dominated by Craftsman homes, president Lori Steiner says.

And, she adds, the second-story home is making a comeback: “For a while, the first-floor master bedroom style of home was so popular, and that’s changed.”

Another notable trend for Rockford Homes—a family-owned custom-meets-production company that builds primarily in Delaware and Grove City—is production that looks custom. Basically, a cookie-cutter home that is, in reality, not so cookie-cutter. Another notable trend for —a family-owned custom-meets-production company that builds primarily in Delaware and Grove City—is production that looks custom. Basically, a cookie-cutter home that is, in reality, not so cookie-cutter.

“The biggest trend we’ve seen in the last year or so … is an increase in requests for tweaks and changes to production homes,” says Brian Pol, director of marketing and sales for Rockford Homes. “One of the biggest trends we’ve seen is simply an increased desire for customization. What we’re offering is a semi-custom approach.”

The most common requests Rockford’s builders receive include bump-outs—extensions that make rooms more spacious—the addition of guest suites and more elegant finishing touches.

TREND: BIGGER IS BETTER

Whereas national trends are skewing toward less space and more efficiency, in Central Ohio space is still the building buzzword. And floor plans are growing.

“Space is the biggest demand. Everyone wants more of it,” Pol says. “One of our most popular floor plans is our multilevel, which is a really neat floor plan for Central Ohio, as not many builders offer it.”

Cinelli notes Compass Homes does offer a multilevel plan, but the company—which takes their tagline “more thought per square foot” pretty seriously—tries to dissuade homeowners from this option, as multilevel homes are not the most efficient.

Central Ohio builders can agree on one thing, however: Open floor plans are still trending, and a compartmentalized first floor is a thing of the past. Also, cathedral ceilings, which were all the building rage in the 1980s and ’90s, are less popular for both aesthetic and energy-efficiency reasons. Instead, Steiner says, builders and homeowners are opting for 9- and 10-foot ceilings.

Flex and bonus multigenerational rooms are also still on trend, as more families find themselves with grown children or grandparents moving in temporarily or for good. Rockford Homes offers an above-the-garage room option that’s “economical,” Pol says.

Of course, people don’t want more space just in their homes.

“Today, the three-car garage is a ‘have to have,’ ” Steiner says.

TREND: MARVELOUS KITCHENS

If mom and dad are the king and queen of the home, then the kitchen is their throne.

“The kitchen has always been the focal point of a home, really … but now people are going all out,” Cinelli says. “They’re becoming bejeweled … brighter colors, better finishes.”

Steiner is seeing an increased demand for super professional kitchens with massive ranges, beverage centers—so the kids aren’t constantly in and out of the refrigerator, she says—and creative hoods.

“We have a master trim carpenter who also builds range hoods,” Steiner says. “He can build them so that they work in with the cabinets just beautifully. Hoods are evolving. [These new models] are not what we’re used to seeing.”

Brass and polished chrome finishes are making a mark on new kitchens, too. “Brass has been big nationally for some time, but Columbus is just coming onto the trend,” Cinelli notes. “This trend is also linked to that historical element. Our new model in Jerome Village won’t just be historically correct on the outside. It will be on the inside, too … and the kitchen will showcase that.”

As for counters, granite, Pol notes, is basically expected in new kitchens—it’s no longer a luxe finish; it’s a must-have.

“People want their kitchen to be grand and well finished and appointed,” he says. “Our most popular home plans involve kitchens with islands, lots of windows, multiple seating spaces.” In short, homebuyers want the works.

Reclaimed-style wood is still the flooring choice for most new homes in Central Ohio, but today’s buyers are favoring lighter finishes.

“People still like that reclaimed barn-wood look—although it really is just a look, as few can actually afford reclaimed wood,” Cinelli says. “And they’re realizing that lighter flooring is much more forgiving.”

Steiner says larger tiles are also trending, with a common tile size increasing in recent years from 4 by 6 inches to 24 by 24 inches.

Kitchen lighting is also bigger and better, but ornate doesn’t necessarily mean crystal, Cinelli notes. “We’re using a lot of ornate lighting fixtures, but not chandeliers,” she says. “Just interesting, eye-catching features.”

TREND: CASUAL LIVING

While the importance of the kitchen grows, the dining room is all but disappearing in contemporary homes. Now, it’s all about the casual eating space.

“They’re still vanishing,” Cinelli says of dining rooms. Just as in the late 1990s, when the formal living room lost favor, today’s throwaway is the formal dining space. Four out of five of Compass Homes’ new-build clients opt not to include one—as long as the home still has a large eating space off the kitchen.

Of course, in homes that cost between $850,000 and $1 million, Compass will still include a formal dining room. “In those homes, you just need one,” Cinelli adds.

But while formal living and dining spaces have lost appeal, family space is as important as ever. Game rooms, bar areas (particularly in basements) and home entertainment spaces are top building requests throughout Central Ohio. And some households take family space up a notch, including basketball courts, batting cages and other recreation areas in the building plans.

Basements remain the go-to family entertainment spot. Eighty percent of Compass Homes’ new builds are designed with finished basements during the building phase, and Truberry is building more and more walk-out basements. Lookout basements—basements that include windows but don’t have outdoor access—are popular when lots don’t allow for a walk-out feature.

“The lower level has become the place where there’s something for everybody,” Steiner says. “Maybe there’s an extra bedroom and a full bath … and there’s almost always a bar or a game space for the kids.”

Gradually losing trend traction are the over-the-top home theaters with tiered seating. “People no longer want the separate theater experience,” Cinelli says. “For a long time, the ‘I have arrived’ statement was made with a big theater. But our customers don’t want that anymore. Instead, they want an open entertainment space … a gathering space that feels more like a sports bar environment.”

As for basement bars, Cinelli says Compass Homes is building fewer pub-like spaces with dark wood and heavy stone and more streamlined, contemporary in-home watering holes. “They’re much brighter,” she says.

TREND: AT-HOME SPAS

Perhaps the “more is more” trend is most apparent in the bathroom. Though “home spa” is a better descriptor these days.

“Amazing master baths” is how Steiner describes the trend. Truberry’s homes increasingly include two sets of water spouts in large, spa-like showers, and a recent client’s favorite element of the entire home was the steam feature in his extra-large bathroom.

Tailored down, freestanding soaking tubs are popular among Compass Homes’ clients.

“We’re getting a lot of requests for those … the traditional 3-foot-by-4-foot shower with a soaking tub is falling along the wayside,” she says. “[Freestanding tubs] look sharp, but they’re expensive … the plumbing is tricky. We’ve put more thought into it and found smart compromises, but they’re pricey.”

Rockford Homes almost always receives requests for more bathroom-area space, particularly when it comes to closets, Pol says.

“People are starting to want true wardrobe rooms,” Cinelli adds. “They want their walk-in closets to be more than just closets. They’re no longer spaces for just hanging clothes. Now people are including cushioned benches and islands or peninsulas for accessories and more.”

Of course, the elaborate a la Carrie Bradshaw walk-ins are primarily built in high-end homes. In homes at lower price points, though, customization is still important. In these homes, custom shelving, gorgeous trim and upgraded lighting add to the space without adding (too much) to the building tab.