3 minute read

Expect smaller but healthier homes in the next decade

By Erik J. Martin CTW Features

With all of us spending a lot more time indoors at home over the last year, common sense would dictate that it’s easy to feel cooped up and desirous of more living space – especially with remote working and learning likely to remain in place for many households. But here’s a surprise: New research suggests that American homes will actually shrink over the next decade. A recent poll conducted by the International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA) found that nearly 63% of Americans surveyed expect to live in a home with smaller space versus approximately 37% who expect to live in spaces that are larger (3.67%) or the same size (33.94%). Nearly two in three anticipate the formal living room to disappear, and about 58% believe a separate dining room will become extinct. Respondents also expect homes to get a lot healthier and greener in the coming 10 years, as well. Around three in four surveyed believe sustainability and green design will become more important, and a whopping 95% expect wellness to be emphasized more in design planning. Paul Foresman, vice president of Design Basics in Omaha, Nebraska, isn’t surprised by these findings. “Single-family homebuilding lots dropped to a record of just 8,177 square feet in 2019, per the US Census Bureau. Dictated by smaller homesites, it’s generally true that new homes are getting smaller – a trend that’s likely to continue,” he says. “Typically, the home plans we are selling today are considerably smaller in terms of their overall width and depth, and they’re also a little smaller in terms of total finished square footage. Overall, homes are being designed to more fully utilize space within a given footprint, and builders are looking to maximize finished space under the roof.” George Sheaffer, owner of Sheaffer Construction in Warrenton, Virginia, says downsized homes make sense as a likely trend. “The thing about bigger homes is that they cost a lot of money. Homes will probably shrink in size over the next decade due to the high cost of materials. Consider that, for every 1,000 square feet today, you pay $100,000 to $150,000,” says Sheaffer. Liam Anderson, principal designer at Liam Anderson Interiors in Philadelphia, notes that larger homes are harder to clean and sanitize. “Given the public’s awareness of the importance of keeping a clean and sanitized home in light of the pandemic, it makes sense that consumers will increasingly choose smaller homes in the years ahead,” explains Anderson. As for the expected push toward healthier and more sustainable residences, Kadi Kohea, CEO of New York City-based Merati Homes, doesn’t doubt it. “Homes will become healthier due to increased consumer awareness of the mental and physical health impacts of our residences. This will drive policy to require change, as well,” she says. An increased desire for homes that foster wellness features will lead to changes in design that accent more natural light, Foresman believes. “Studies show that sunlight triggers the release of serotonin, which can improve our mood and calm us. In response, window size and placement are receiving more attention in today’s homes, as is having windows on two sides of a room – ushering in daylight from two directions as well as fresh air,” explains Foresman. “And a growing push to decrease unwanted noise and distraction, especially as we continue to work from home, explains why improved air sealing and better windows are a priority today, as are improved soundproofing measures like quieter drywall, sound-deadening insulation, and solid-core interior doors.” Staci Siegel, a Realtor with Engel & Voelkers, Santa Monica, California, equates the growing popularity of healthier home design with the burgeoning trend toward choosing organic foods. “Homes are bound to get healthier as we collectively continue to recognize all the toxins from decades past and how they affect our interiors,” she says. “Americans realize the necessary steps we need to take to improve air quality and choose green and sustainable materials and processes.”