materials, energy, high-speed wiring, and basements are
among today's hottest trends in custom-built home design,
according to architects and builders who construct such
houses in California.
Custom-built home design trends are important
because they give builders a valuable glimpse into what
sophisticated, savvy - and oftentimes repeat - buyers want
most in their new homes. Many, although certainly not all,
of these trends also can be modified to fit a smaller budget
of production homes. Therefore, all builders can benefit
from information about custom-built trends, regardless
of whether they build custom, semi-custom, production,
or a combination thereof.
"We do a fair amount of custom homes, although
our dominant work is in production homes. We're working
on four custom homes right now. We use what we learn from
them to bring into the production home," says Michael Woodley,
president of Woodley Architectural Group in Costa Mesa.
What Buyers Want in
BY MARCI GEFFNER
Back to nature
Perhaps the hottest trends in custom-home
design is the use of natural materials - such as rock,
stone, and woods - or
artificial materials that very closely replicate the
look of natural materials, according to custom-home builders.
Natural materials tend to be more expensive than manufactured
substitutes, but today's high-end custom-home buyers
have budgets that can accommodate the extra cost.
"We are using a lot of natural stone and
natural wood, and a lot of limestone. Stone is back because
people can afford it," says Garry
Losk, president of Galli
Heritage, a custom builder in Burlingame.
Losk says some custom-home designs call
for a stone carver to replicate a grand traditional fireplace,
and at least one buyer traveled to Europe and brought back
a grand fireplace mantel to be installed in a new custom-built
home. He adds that antiquing is back in style as well.
"New is out, and old is in," Losk says.
One trend that experts agree on is decidedly
on its way out of style in custom-built houses is the movement
toward environmental green building for the sole purpose
of preserving Mother Earth. While air purification systems,
solar-supplemented electrical power systems, new radiant
heat technologies, and the like are much in demand, buyers
typically want those amenities to protect their health
and cut their energy bills, not to save the planet.
"We use a lot of air filtration and ionic
or electronic air purifiers and incorporate that into the
HVAC system. That's not new, but (the systems) are more
sophisticated. You have the fresh air exchangers that tap
into an electronic particulate ionizer, and it cleans the
air for kids who have allergies or what have you," Losk says.
Homebuyers have become "a lot more conscious
about health issues" in their homes and much more aware
that some building materials can be pretty toxic," says
Chris Satterfield, chief executive officer of Lifespaces
Corporation in Nevada City. Health concerns are partially
a result of publicity about stachybotrys, a type of mold
that can make itself at home in some houses. Some buyers
also express concerns about fiberglass, fluorocarbons,
polyurethane, adhesives, and other building materials,
according to Satterfield. Those concerns might prompt some
builders to use alternative materials.
family TV room has matured into an adult lounge ,
complete with a martini bar, a large entertainment system,
and comfortable seating for as many as a dozen
or more people.
Wide open spaces
Large formal dining rooms are still very
much in vogue, as are great rooms that replace the traditional
smaller and separate living room and dining room, according
to Woodley. He adds that energy-efficient heating and cooling
is also a recent and important consideration for great
rooms and other large spaces within the house.
"(Buyers want) a lot of drama in the dining
room because they entertain. They want informal spaces
and formal spaces. They want the kitchen and dining area
or family room to open into a great room," he says.
Wired at home
The typical Galli Heritage custom home
contains "a boatload
of electronics" and "miles of wiring," some of which might
be fiber optic, Losk says. Every house also has a smart
panel that can control the distribution of audio, video,
telephone, and Internet services throughout the rooms within
the house. Front door security cameras are in demand as
well, particularly among residents who have to lock-and
leave-their residences because they are vacation or second
homes that are not occupied year-round.
Satterfield also says custom-built houses
today are "wired
to the hilt to keep up with the technology," even when
wiring may not be needed upon occupancy.
"Otherwise, you are going back two or three
years down the road and putting in T# wiring when you could
have put it in when you built the house. Even if it's not
for immediate use, they are keeping it there for the future," he
Custom-home buyers are "not bashful" about
their preferences in their bedrooms, bathrooms, and other
private living spaces, according to Woodley. That means
custom-home designers, architects, and builders sometimes
find out more than they really want to know about buyers'
"The master suite is interesting," Woodley
is not really one trend, but you get some pretty wild (requests).
are doing one custom home where (the buyers) each have
their own bathroom. Jokingly, I said, 'You don't want
to see each other until you are dressed, right?' And
they said yes. So, they have completely separate bathrooms.
His has a huge shower and a urinal, and it's like a guy's
gym; and hers is completely different."
Separate bathrooms for children, as well
as for adults, are now common in custom-built homes, according
"Every bedroom has its own walk-in closet
and bathroom. We don't do the Jack-and-Jill thing anymore," he
("Jack-and-Jill" refers to a floor plan
that has one shared children's bathroom between two children's
Laundries get respect
Master suites with bedroom-sized walk-in
closets and separate secondary laundry facilities also
make the list of custom-built home trends. An overwhelming
95 percent of respondents in a National Association of
Home Builders consumer survey last year said they wanted
or required a separate laundry room in their new home.
Laundries are now located adjacent to kitchens,
bedrooms, and bathrooms. Some even have crown moulding
and hardwood or tiled floor to match the adjacent rooms,
according to NAHB Remodelers Council.
The need to maximize the use of space without
constructing an illegal McMansion on a too-small lot has
created a basements craze in California houses. Below-ground
rooms are common in other parts of the country, but traditionally
have not been a feature of homes in California.
Homebuyers today are willing to pay for
a basement because an extra 3,000 square feet can be added
to the house if the extra square footage is underground,
Land is a critical factor in high-end,
custom-quality home budgets due to a scarcity of lots large
enough to accommodate such residences, according to Kurt
Nelson, vice president of JCC Homes, a high-end homebuilder
in Torrance. As a rule, the land cost is extremely high
in areas of Southern California that are attractive to
the target buyer.
"When the lot could cost you several million
dollars you have to choose your projects very carefully
and then you control your design and construction costs
in order to be competitive," Nelson says.