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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Changing lifestyles affect home designs…

I read an article yesterday about Bellevue Washington home builder who has started offering homes with two master bedroom suites. His rationale was that more home buyers have needs for a second master suite to house live-in parents or because there are two equal partners who opted to buy a house together, but who will not be sharing a bedroom and there were other reasons. I suppose a case could be made, too, that the “snore room” bedroom shouldn’t be a converted child’s room.

This all got me to thinking about how changing demographics and lifestyle changes in our culture are impacting home design or the use of existing home spaces. Almost no one really needs or uses a formal living room or a formal dining room anymore. Builders went to Great Rooms some time back, often combined with dens or office where the living rooms might have been in the past; and, buyers of older homes are just as likely to turn a dining room into the pool-table room as anything. Walls between some of these old rooms are being knocked out (if they are load bearing) to open up the homes and make them more user friendly for today’s lifestyles.

More and more clients that I deal with are asking about homes that can accommodate “blended families” that will include elderly parents. You can’t get by with just a spare bedroom on the second floor any more. In-laws suites are popular additions to homes both old and new. For the more affluent that might be an Au Pair suite or apartment.

Laundry rooms are another area where things changed with builders years ago and buyers of older homes are figuring out ways to get the old basement laundry rooms where they belong. I’ve seen more than one second floor linen closet converted to a stacked laundry room.

Some buyers of older home also will sacrifice a bedroom to get a bigger master bedroom or to accommodate a master bath. Be careful with that. Taking a four bedroom house down to three may still work, but one should never convert a three bedroom house to a two bedroom one. There just isn’t much market for two bedroom houses, so you’d likely be stuck with it or have to dump it at a significantly lower price when it comes to time for you to sell.

Exercise rooms are also a popular modern addition to new build houses and it is possible to put an exercise room in the basement of an older home, if it has high ceilings. It just doesn’t work if your head is bouncing off the dropped ceiling while you’re on the treadmill. And if you clean and jerk a couple hundred pounds you don’t want to be thrusting it through the acoustic ceiling tiles – you’d be the jerk, then.

Game rooms and home theater rooms are also popular these days and that may be one area where the dark, no-windows basements of older homes will work. The challenge there may be that home theaters, and even game rooms, also kind of beg for a close-by bathroom (so that you don’t have to run upstairs at every urge) and many older homes aren’t plumbed for that.

There is a resurgence of interest in gardening in America, too, and in the concept of “outdoor rooms,” with surrounding gardens, and a decline in interest in large wooden decks. Most outdoor rooms are patio-oriented, rather than deck oriented and gardening means having your work and entertaining areas done at ground level, in the dirt, so to speak, rather than perched up on a deck.

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