Tomorrow's homes are on the drawing board and they are nothing like the places you may recall from your childhood. New materials and new technologies are reshaping the way we build. Floor plans are also changing to accommodate the changing patterns of our lives. And yet, many architects and designers are also drawing upon ancient materials and building techniques. So, what will the homes of the future look like? Watch for these important home design trends.
Seaweed roof on farmhouse in Skoven, Nordjylland, Denmark ©seier+seier on flickr.com, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Perhaps the most exciting and most important trend in home design is the increased sensitivity to the environment. Architects and engineers taking a new look at ancient building techniques that used simple, bio-degradable materials. Far from primitive, today's "earth houses" are proving comfortable, economical, and rustically beautiful.
Prefabricated house by the German manufacturer Huf Haus. Photo courtesy Huf Haus
Factory-made prefabricated homes have come a long way from flimsy trailer park dwellings. Trend-setting architects and builders are using modular building materials to create bold new designs with lots of glass and steel. Prefabricated, manufactured and modular housing comes in all shapes and styles, from steamlined Bauhaus to undulating organic forms.
New buildings aren't always entirely new. A desire to protect the environment and to preserve historic architecture is inspiring architects to repurpose, or re-use, older structures. Trend-setting homes of the future may be constructed from the shell of an outdated factory, an empy warehouse, or an abandoned church.
Solar home built by students from Penn State has a living green wall for growing spices and herbs. Photo by Stefano Paltera/US Dept. of Energy 2009 Solar Decathlon
Some buildings can literally make you sick. Home designers are becoming increasingly aware of the ways our health is affected by synthetic materials and the chemical additives used in paints and composition wood products. The most innovative homes aren't necessarily the most unusual; they are the homes constructed without relying on plastics, laminates, and fume-producing glues.
Every shelter should be built to withstand the elements, and engineers are making steady progress in developing storm-ready home designs. In areas were hurricanes are prevalent, more and more builders are relying on insulated wall panels constructed of sturdy concrete.
To maximize space and flexibility, this solar powered home is arranged in living zones instead of rooms. Designed by students from the Technishe Universitat Darmstadt. Photo courtesy Kaye Evans-Lutterodt/Solar Decathlon
Changing lifestyles calls for changing living spaces. Tomorrow's homes have sliding doors, pocket doors, and other types of movable partitions allow flexibility in living arrangements. Dedicated living and dining rooms are being replaced by large multi-purpose family areas. In addition, many houses include private "bonus" rooms that can be used for office space or be adapted to a variety of specialized needs.
Forget the spiral staircases, sunken living rooms, and high cabinets. The homes of tomorrow will be easy to move around in, even if you or members of your family have physical limitations. Architects often use the phrase "universal design" to describe these homes because they are comfortable for people of all ages and abilities. Special features such as wide hallways blend seamlessly into the design so that the home does not have the clinical appearance of a hospital or nursing facility.
Outdoor sink and potting station on the patio of a Loreto Bay Village Home. Photo © Jackie Craven
An increased interest in eco-friendly architecture is encouraging builders to incorporate outdoor spaces with the overall home design. The yard and garden become a part of the floor plan when sliding glass doors lead to patios and decks. These outdoor "rooms" may even include kitchens with sophisticated sinks and grills.
Closets were scarce in Victorian times, but over the past century, homeowners have demanded more storage space. Newer homes feature enormous walk-in closets, spacious dressing rooms, and plenty of easy-to-reach built-in cabinets. Cathedral ceilings are becoming passé because families tend to prefer usable space below the roof. Garages are also getting bigger to accommodate the ever-popular SUVs and other large vehicles.
Photo © Indeed / Getty Images
Feng Shui, Vástu Shástra, and other Eastern philosophies have been guiding builders since ancient times. Today these principles are gaining respect in the West. You might not immediately see the Eastern influences in the design of your new home. According to believers, however, you will soon begin to feel the positive effects of Eastern ideas on your health, prosperity, and relationships.
What will the homes of the future look like? Will we continue to see Cape Cods, Bungalows, and assorted "McMansions"? Or will tomorrow's houses seem very different from those being built today? You tell us!