At the 2013 Builders’ Show, some of the most creative minds in the business looked into their respective crystal balls to talk about the trends we’ll be seeing in 2013. For “2013 Trends: 90 Design Ideas in 90 Minutes,” 15 speakers had 5 minutes each to share their thoughts in this version of speed dating for designers. “This is total chaos,” warned moderator and timekeeper Steve Moore. “There’s nothing in sequence, and you’ll have to be on your toes.”  He was right. Though the trend slam didn’t deliver 90 completely new ideas we’ve never heard before, it provided more than enough to chew on. Here’s what matters most.

1. Functional Foyers. Entry spaces are back (even if it means pinching square feet from other rooms in the house). But Heather McCune of Bassenian-Lagoni warns that simply expressing the sense of an entry isn’t enough. These spaces need to be functional, with benches, bookcases, sitting areas, reading areas, or a nicely-appointed place to hang your hat or put on lipstick.

2. Inside Out All Over. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again. The California-born trend of blurring inside and outside is going strong all across the nation, and it’s an important feature of many multi-gen homes. Now, both grandma suites and great rooms need to orient to the outdoors. 

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3. Island Living. Kitchen islands are getting bigger and harder-working, with increased storage space that allows for fewer upper cabinets and more windows. In a new trend that bodes well for a sleek, modern look, islands are wrapped in solid surfacing, such as marble, Caesarstone, or Vetrazzo. In this enlarged island layout, some designers are offsetting the dining space, making it separate from the kitchen island. In many instances, this can create an extra wall for cabinetry or the oft-requested “Costco closet.” One designer described the kitchen island as “the jewel in the setting” of the house.

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4. Master Plan. With the continued uptick in multi-gen households, all master suites need to be designed for living. Orienting the suites so as to create a view without losing hallway space was mentioned as an inventive solution.

5. Flex Appeal. Great rooms are still going strong, but the need to make them flexible is more important than ever, whether you’re marketing to move-up buyers, move-down buyers, or big families. 


6. Street Life. Who’s walking by, and what are the neighbors up to? The rise in traditional neighborhood developments (TNDs) are spawning more living at the front of the house. That includes porch-sitting, and even moving the vegetable garden to the front yard. Master-planned communities are being designed with pedestrian walkways that cut right though the project, fostering a sense of place.  

7. Saving Face. Going lockstep with TNDs is more interest in a home’s authenticity, continuity, and architectural correctness, and the expectation is that the builder will know the difference. Whether the house is a Victorian, a Bungalow, or a Craftsman is of much more concern than it was previously, and that interest extends to landscaping, too. 


8. Looking Up. Computers are changing the way we perceive our surroundings, and that includes the amount of time we spend looking up. In an effort to get us to look up, designers are drawing more attention to ceiling detail with use of molding, varied heights, and varied materials. Ceiling articulation also happens to be a smart way to give an open space increased definition.  

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9. Quick Hit. The new generation of 20-something buyers is design savvy, but they’re not looking 20 years down the road right now. Generation Now, as some have called them, wants quick, easily implemented design touches that won’t necessarily be permanent. 

10. Come Together. As America ages out, the utopian dream of home being one’s castle is being modified from being cosseted to being in company. Community gardens and multi-purpose work rooms are two responses to the natural human need to be with others. 

11. Clean Sweep. Fireplaces, walls, backsplashes, exterior facades: Monolithic surfaces that are one clean sweep of the same material—composite, stone veneer, wood—in a slab construction are making for a clean look that’s noticeably free of ornamentation. Tiles are still being used, but on walls and floors, they’re getting bigger.


12. It’s Organic. Natural materials such as coral, driftwood, and pebbles bring warm and texture to modern design, especially rooms with big, monolithic sweeps of white, or of one material.  Organic materials can give life and even a hand-hewn touch to monochromatic or modern spaces.  


13. Off the Books. Word is that bookcases are going away, likely due to the advent of digital reading material and a shortage of space. Yeah, it’s sad. Even less-than-diehard book hounds appreciate how bound volumes personalize and warm a room like nothing else. Designers are answering that need by providing areas for homeowners to display personal items. These take the form of wall niches, floating lucite shelves, cantilevered shelves, and glass collection cabinets in front of glass windows.

14. Modern Yet Traditional. Remodeling old homes and adaptive reuse are two ways that old buildings are thriving. But inside, even if the stylings are traditional, the open plan—a distinctly modern idea—rules. Modern style is being softened to include traditional elements, and traditional style is being smoothed so it’s sleeker.

15. City Slickers. Transit-oriented developments appeal to home buyers young and old, says John Thatch of the Dahlin Group. Proximity to public transportation, shopping, and entertainment means driving less, walking more, and living in an interesting, lively place. Many of these new developments are loaded with amenities for residents, such as a fitness center, yoga room, entertainment kitchen, and a clubhouse. Unit plans are smaller but much more efficient and include features like galley kitchens, open kitchens, a sleeping nook brought to the center of the plan, and open living spaces whose zones are defined by varying ceiling treatments. In senior communities, the guy’s garage—a place to tinker—is starting to emerge. In Los Angeles, where the food truck trend was born, multi-family buildings now have dedicated spaces just for the trucks to park. As condos come back, this may be a more common occurrence. 

16. Green Is a Given. Sustainability is no longer being given as an option. Natural ventilation, salvage materials, greywater management, Energy Star rated appliances, and more are expected. 

17. Take a Bath. The master bath is the most commonly remodeled room of the house. Many builders now offer several configurations that work within an allocated floor plan. Options include his and hers closets versus one large closet, or having the shower or bath in a private alcove separate from the vanity versus one open space. 


18. Main Squeeze. Building for density isn’t a new trend. What is, though, is the degree to which architects and builders are able to squeeze value out of land by building wood-frame apartment buildings. Architect Manny Gonzalez of KTGY spoke of getting as much as 200-plus units per acre, and John Thatch of Dahlin Group spoke of building 34 single-family detached homes to the acre. 


19. A Universe of Universal. When design for density takes the form of stacked flats, you’ve got a great solution for senior living, and for universal design as a whole. Wet rooms, lower sinks, and microwaves at lower level aren’t just ADA compliant—they can make life easier for young children, too.  

20. Sell Smart. Architects are tailoring a townhome’s footprints to offer the right fit for various markets. Architect Victor Mirontshuk of EDI International uses three floor plans of varying widths (31, 26, and 18 feet) with different layouts and varied price points. 

21. Outside Job. Well-designed outdoor spaces, even if the lot is a tiny one, are a common client request. Having “one hand in the garden and one foot in the city” is how architect Steve James of DTJ Design puts it. What he’s talking about ranges from tiny plots in single-family houses to a garden that’s the heart and soul of a master-planned community.  

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Click here for a recap of the 2012 trend slam at last year’s International Builder’s Show.