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This article first appeared in the PB June 2006 issue of Pro Builder.

In 2005, the American Institute of Architects asked residential architectural firms nationwide to participate in its four-part survey to determine the latest home design trends across the country. The new survey found designers crafting for aging adults, catering to communities complete with shopping and transportation, and allowing space for gatherings.

Accessible Features

The first part of the survey focused on baby boomers ready for retirement. Because they will generate a majority of home sales for years to come, there is more demand for greater accessibility and single-floor design to promote easy mobility within the home, the survey found.

Of the firms surveyed, 62 percent reported homes are becoming more accessible with features for the aging and handicapped. Accessible features include wider hallways, fewer steps and more single-floor designs.

Forty nine percent of the firms reported finished basements and attics becoming more popular, while owners of older homes are looking to increase their living space.

Home Features

The second part of the survey results show a rise in telecommuting costs as well as higher gasoline prices that have led owners to add offices to their homes. Almost half the survey participants said they are being asked to design home offices more than ever.

Home theaters ranked high on this survey, too. A drop in price and the better availability of audio and video options added to the demand for home theaters.

Other special features gaining popularity: hobby and/or game rooms by 30 percent; in-law suites by 22 percent; security systems by 32 percent; and fire-safety by 23 percent.

Easy Access

The third portion of the survey focused on community and neighborhood planning and showed mixed-use development is all the rage. Many consumers are on board for shorter commutes from work to home and want shopping, public transportation and recreational activities within their communities.

"To combat the isolation caused by distant residential construction and to increase accessibility for households, we are seeing a strong increase in community design trends that are integrating more activities into housing development," says AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker.

"In addition to mixed-use development strategies, 63 percent of residential architecture firms reported that infill development — where smaller land parcels closer to urban centers are targeted for development — is another strategy that is increasing in popularity," says Baker.

Kitchen & Bath

For years, the kitchen has been the focal point of the home, which hasn't changed, according to AIA's survey. Homeowners want more pantry space, high-end appliances and family space integrated within the kitchen.

"Both the square feet devoted to kitchens and the number of separate cooking facilities throughout the home are increasing, including the additions of outdoor kitchens in many areas of the country," says Baker. "As far as specific trends in kitchen design, granite countertops, natural wood cabinets and drinking water filtration systems are especially popular," says Baker.

Bathrooms, the second focal point of the home, are being designed with his and her vanities. Multi-head showers, heated floors and towel racks also topped the bathroom trends list. "Upscale products and features are going into bathroom design as well," says Baker, "noted by heated floors and towel racks, and even fireplaces becoming more common in homes, while heat lamps and whirlpools aren't nearly as prevalent."