Housing Design Trends Q&A: How to Design and Build Better Homes

by joshe on September 5, 2012


Martin Reill is a Product Development Manager at Shea Homes, a role that has him keenly focused on developing new ideas and watching for trends in new home construction, residential architecture and new home design. With a background in construction and passion for music, art and architecture, Martin works with Shea’s Arizona team and helps develop new home floor plans for Shea communities around the country. In this interview, Martin shares his experience designing houses and his perspective on what’s trending in the housing markets.

Q: You were on the team that helped develop Shea SPACES; what’s the inspiration behind that home series?

Martin: During the housing downturn we recognized that homebuyers were open to the idea of down-sizing their homes but not at the cost of sacrificing quality of construction, energy efficiency, cost efficiency and impactful spaces. Our job was to design a house that satisfied the demand for affordability and efficiency while also delivering the ‘wow’ factor. At Shea SPACES that shows up in details like opaque glass separating master bedrooms and baths, modern, light, flexible spaces, and great products like solar tube lighting that produces light without consuming electricity.

Q: Some of the home designs you work on have to appeal to homebuyers in different market areas. What are examples of trends that work from one region to another?

Martin: Indoor/outdoor spaces integrated into floor plans were once unusual in areas considered to be too inclement, but now courtyards and outdoor rooms are popular home features even in colder climates like Denver and Seattle. We’re also seeing a continued move away from formal spaces in favor of large gathering rooms, which we integrated at SPACES while also including smaller, more intimate, less formal sections of the floor plan that have names like “Chat” and “Read”. Both of these design ideas – stronger outdoor lifestyle presentations and de-formalized spaces — have been very well received in the different regions.

Q: How is energy efficiency technology changing the design process at Shea Homes?

Martin: You can look at what we’re doing with SheaXero in our Active Lifestyle communities along with some of our other home series in Arizona and you’ll see some of the stronger trends in energy and resource efficiency. Everything from solar technology to insulation techniques to better building envelopes. Even with the uncertainty as to how long energy rebates and tax credits will be around, which can make people wary about investing in things like solar photovoltaics, Shea Homes continues to offer houses that either have zero electricity bills (like SheaXero) or utility bills that are less than half of a similar sized home. Those are compelling value propositions and we’re committed to the design and construction processes that make that possible.

Q: Are there any design details that represent a shift in how people are living in their homes?

Martin: Multigenerational households are becoming more common, so during the design process we want to make sure we’re accommodating those families. For example, some of our recent houses have oversized first-level bedrooms, similar to independent suites, with a private bath and kitchenette, which work well for grandparents living in the same house with two younger generations.

There are also small changes that indicate larger trends.  At some of our model homes we’re showing large showers – modern, luxurious showers with dry decks — in place of a bathtub or shower/tub combo in master bathrooms. Home buyers are responding favorably to the single shower, especially if they have at least one tub option in a secondary bathroom.

And of course, these days everything is wireless, so tech centers and workstations are becoming obsolete as great rooms become informal work zones where anyone can log in at any time. Technology will continue to play a role, but a home is more than tech features. House design affects how families interact and the quality of their lives. That’s what we’re focused on.

Key Takeaways

  • Homebuilders are moving away from move away from formal spaces in favor of large gathering rooms
  • Outdoor rooms are popular home features even in colder climates
  • Energy and resource efficiency are powerful incentives for today’s homebuyer

Learn more about the Shea Homes difference at Sheahomes.com

About the author

Josh Englander is a novelist and the founder of DesignLens, an online architectural publication that explores residential design and land planning concepts in America.



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