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New homes are smaller but more personal


When buying a new home, individuals aren’t looking to accumulate their “stuff.”

They’re looking to buy an experience. That experiential purchasing behavior is especially true when it comes to selecting items for the home.

Current home decorating is not about flashy, over-the-top design; rather, it’s about decorating for real life — a home that’s smaller, more well-equipped and custom-made for its owners’ lifestyles.

“Homeowners are getting back to basics,” says Rebecca Kolls, senior director at Iconoculture, a consumer trends advisory firm. “They are putting roots down and investing in items to increase their quality of life.”

How are homeowners making their spaces more practical and livable for the long term? What exactly are the hot trends for 2012? Kolls points to several distinct ideas, including: practicality, rightsizing, style-telling and universal design.

Practical and perfectly sized homes. Today’s average new home is smaller than those from recent years at 2,135 square feet. It emphasizes inviting, livable spaces, and downplays the formal, untouched rooms of yesterday.

Despite a decrease in overall square footage, kitchens are growing, homeowners are adding more porches, ditching the conventional living room concept and embracing fewer — yet larger — rooms.

To fill those rooms, homeowners are looking for products that provide function, as well as fashion. They are no longer buying for the sake of buying.

“The first question consumers are asking is, ‘Do I need this or do I want this?’” says Kolls. They’re looking for more practical solutions for everyday life, like items that promote health and overall well-being, versus over-the-top indulgences.

Instead of one purely decorative element, homeowners are springing for more affordable luxuries with experiential benefits.

In the bedroom, these purchases include new mattresses for increased comfort and a better night’s sleep, plus items like improved lighting and window coverings that facilitate a gentle transition from sleeping to waking.

Bathroom remodels include items like towel warmers, steam showers and multiple body spray outlets that promote relaxation and spa-like indulgence.

Style-telling solutions. Gone are the days of perfectly-matched rooms and pristine homes. Today’s homeowners are looking to tell a story through their decorating, with pieces that put a personal stamp on their spaces.

People are stylizing the most-used room in the home — the kitchen — by adding workstations, artwork, photography and more furniture-like cabinetry enhanced by decorative cabinet knobs and pulls.

Homeowners mix-and-match more now than ever before, complementing a great-grandmother’s antique dining room table with modern, geometric dinnerware; putting vintage photos into new stainless steel frames; storing K-cup coffee pods in antique coffee bins.

“Homeowners are adding pieces that make sense: items that enhance their experience and put a personal stamp on a room,” Kolls says.

Flexible design. Baby boomers are the first generation to collectively fight aging. These individuals are caring for their parents, their children, and even their grandchildren, all while making plans for their own future.

Boomers want to spend the rest of their lives in their own home, and they’re looking for universally designed products to help them do just that.

In addition to more accessible everyday items, homes with several generations under one roof are also utilizing technology to help keep all members of the family safe and well.

In fact, according to Kolls, wireless home health monitoring technologies are expected to grow by $4.4 billion by the year 2013. Smart mirrors that can monitor day-to-day health, including changes in appearance, plus alerts that report whether an aging parent has commenced his or her daily routine, are just a couple of examples of how technology is bringing additional security and flexibility to the lives of caregivers.

Today’s home may have a smaller footprint, but it is much more personal and memorable than houses of the past. Families are spending more time in the home and incorporating multiple generations under one roof, which makes for richer design — and even richer experiences — than ever before.


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