New Home-Building Trends: From Steam Showers to Copper Accents

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Your abode: It's where, ideally, you spend most of your time. It's where memories are made, bonds are created, children are raised, pets are trained and, in theory, where you make a statement about who you are stylistically. Open floor plans, lots of natural light, a spacious kitchen, his-and-hers closet space. These aren't simply elements of a home; they're part of the story of your family. How you live your life here says a great deal about how you live your life everywhere.

Many of us work with-and within-what we have, and the focus is on decoration, not design. But for those lucky enough to build a custom home in 2015, there are seemingly endless opportunities to blend form and function. That's why, Columbus Monthly Home & Garden has done the home-trend homework for you. Read on for Central Ohio builders' take on current building trends, from the rise of the urban farmhouse to the death of formal living space.

Luxury is the only buzzword that matters when it comes to designing the master bathroom. And this is where customers are most comfortable spending big money, says Pamela Cinelli, director of sales and marketing for Compass Homes.

The once popular master shower is fading in lieu of a spa shower, while the traditional tub is gone altogether. "They're nice, but no one uses them," Cinelli says. "And we haven't sold a whirlpool tub in more than five years."

Instead-especially in the highest-end homes-homeowners are opting for large walk-in steam showers with frameless doors. "We're actually doing fewer rain-head showerheads; our buyers tend to have already had those, and they know they can drip and be annoying," Cinelli adds. "Our customers are putting their money into steam. And all of this goes along with the trend of larger showers."

Demand for freestanding, vintage-esque tubs has risen as well, making them more affordable. In the last year, Compass Homes put a freestanding tub in nearly 75 percent of its builds.

And, while larger pendants are all the rage in the kitchen, lighting in the bathroom is trending softer and more elegant. Think sink-side sconces instead of above-the-mirror bar lighting.

"People love, love, love the urban farmhouse," Cinelli says. Though it's an instance of aesthetics trumping function-few of us are farmers, after all-it's a trend that seems to have staying power.

"Typically, this translates to a very white home with maybe a slat front and window grids instead of the traditional tic-tac-toe pattern," Cinelli says. You're likely to find urban farmhouse models with galvanized metal accents, like gutters and downspouts, without any color as well. "Overall, it's a look that's very traditional," Cinelli adds. "We're seeing this look all across the country, not just here in Central Ohio."

Lori Steiner, president of Truberry Custom Homes, agrees: "This trend is huge." She notes all-white in general-both inside and out-is an ask her company is receiving with more frequency. And the coastal cottage look? "It's on its way out," Steiner says.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Tuscan-style home is evolving toward more of a mission-style layout, while the industrial vibe is still big, says Steiner, whose team attended the International Builders Show in Las Vegas at the end of January.

At the show, she says, "we noticed a lot of design that was traditional with a modern twist; it's transitional, modern-traditional." Unexpected combinations of materials like distressed wood and wrought iron were on display throughout the show. "It's about mixing rugged and sleek … that industrial look," she says.

Contemporary does not mean modern-at least not in Central Ohio. While residents in Columbus and its suburbs are slowly embracing elements of modern design-especially in Upper Arlington, Worthington and the Downtown area-the bulk of home buyers, local experts say, want a traditional home with a more elegant appeal.

"Also trending are cleaner lines, but I do not mean modern," Cinelli says. "People want clean, streamlined elegance-we're seeing a lot of that, but nothing ultra-modern. People want warmth, but what's out is the overly ornate dark woodwork with a lot of detail. Customers just want their homes clean."

This refined look translates to the landscaping, too. "Adding elegant accents outside is big," says Brian Pol, director of sales and marketing for Rockford Homes. "Stone accents, garage-door window treatments … customers want to be just as proud walking up to their home as walking inside it."

Speaking of garages, the three-car option is the new normal for Compass Homes. "We do have some floor plans with four-car garages," Cinelli says. "And customers no longer want single-bay garage doors, because they've realized how difficult they are to get in and out of."

Kitchens, while still large, are being simplified, Steiner says. "The European trend of smaller … we're not there," she says. "But our version is to streamline the space." This may mean slab cabinet doors and drawers, less hardware and smaller islands.

One of the most exciting things Steiner experienced at the Las Vegas show was a behind-the-scenes island; different levels of the island appeared at the touch of a button, only to disappear when no longer needed. "Islands are becoming ergonomic, opening up, closing, raising and lowering," she says. "I saw one that opened up to expose the cook top in the middle. Once it cooled off, you just pushed a button to hide it."

Warmth is big, especially in the kitchen, Cinelli notes. With that, copper is on the rise-hello, copper farmhouse sink!-as are statement light fixtures. "People are spending more and more time in the kitchen, and the lighting is really like the jewelry for the outfit," Cinelli says. "People are definitely spending more money on light fixtures."

"Light fixtures have always been the jewelry, but now more than ever," Steiner adds. "For a while we were doing the teeny pendant lights over the kitchen, but now we're seeing big lights. It's such a fun trend, because you can do so much with it. You can go rustic and dark or shiny and beautiful. And that's something that's easy for everyone to understand how to do. It's not scary like color."

White remains the predominant hue for kitchens, while deep mocha cabinetry is fading in favor for a soft black or gray-beige blend. "Twenty years ago, taupe was that special color," Steiner says. "Now, it's more of a smoky tone. The new neutral is what we call 'greige.' "

Chunky ranges are out, as is stainless steel ("If they can come up with an alternative," Steiner says). Also gone is the kitchen desk. "People do want a landing zone still, but that's taking shape as a pocket office off the kitchen" Cinelli says.

And then there's the pantry, where options range from adding a little extra storage to straight-up space age features.

"I saw one I'm dying to try in a home," Steiner says. "It's a full room that actually disappears behind a panel that looks like a chalkboard."

Large countertop pantries serve as modified versions of the appliance garage, where items from mixers to cookbooks were typically stored. Steiner is fond of pantry cabinets that hinge at the top and open with a button. "You push a button, it all opens-your ingredients, your tools, your towels-and you push it again and it's all cleaned up. This is all really high-end, and we're a couple years off, but when you're talking trends, this is it."

As for countertops, granite is now the pedestrian option. And, notes Cinelli, there's more flexibility with a material like quartz. "You can get a thicker edge with quartz, and people increasingly want edges that are four to six inches thick."

Always forgetting your charger at work? You may be in luck soon. Steiner notes a Corian countertop by DuPont that will wirelessly charge your phone. "All you have to do is lay your phone or your iPad down, and it charges," she says.

As we noted in 2014, formal living and dining rooms are the dinosaurs of home design. But that space isn't going away; flex space is now the biggest consumer ask.

If a Compass Homes' floor plan already has a formal space, that's the first thing to get repurposed, Cinelli says. Typically, that room becomes a first-floor in-law suite, something the company now does for half of its homes. If not an in-law suite, a wine room or a playroom are both common recommendations.

"But the bottom line is this space is flexible," Cinelli says. "It can be a playroom today and a wine room later when the kids are older."

Steiner calls these spaces "rooms that matter."

"Flex space is still incredibly important," she says, adding utility rooms for crafts, mudrooms with cubbies and whole-family workspaces as other options.

"These offices used to be for just dad, then the parents. But now, it's for the entire family," she says. "You might see up to four work spaces in an office. You can work anywhere now, but you still need that landing space for your stuff."

Separate teen laundry rooms, under-stair space for a dog cage and even larger walk-in closets are also worthy uses for flexible extra space.

What's In, What's Out

In: Copper, statement lighting, specialized storage, tech elements, steam showers, freestanding tubs, farmhouse appeal, barn doors, 9-foot ceilings, in-law suites, industrial touches, bonus rooms, cozy nooks, larger offices, small statement rooms

Out: Tiled countertops, brass and bronze, whirlpool tubs, cathedral ceilings, formal dining rooms, dark and detailed wood, formal rooms, chevron and ikat prints, wall decals

Layered Lighting

Using ambient, task and accent lighting together creates a warm, inviting space, especially in the kitchen. But it's about more than pleasing the eye, says Lori Steiner of Truberry Custom Homes: "Lighting is becoming more important because baby boomers are getting older! It's useful."

Tip: Add accent lighting inside shelves and cabinets to make the kitchen more user-friendly.

Creating Custom

"In our world, the biggest factor is customization," says Brian Pol of Rockford Homes. "That's prevalent more so than ever before. People want to have what they want."

It's fair to say the biggest trend in home building is customization. Builders take the best of a standard floor plan, keep some things and then make additions, Pol explains. Those additions tend to be extensions to great rooms, bonus rooms and the creation of family and in-law suites. "It's value-added square footage at a low cost," Pol says. Builders are making structural changes-foundational things that cost more to add later in the process-up-front. "Settling? It's not happening anymore," Pol continues. "We're seeing customers more willing to spend the money to see the home take shape the way they want it to be."

Photos courtesy of Rockford Homes, Compass Homes, Fred Squilante