Future depictions of our homes by viewing the past

How we describe ancient homes gives a glimpse into how we will be depicted.

modern designIf you’ve ever read the accounts of archeologists describing the homes and lifestyles of the ancients, it might make you wonder how future archeologists might describe how we lived in our homes. Would their description early twenty-first century living be accurate, or would their hypothesis fit their conception of their future homes and lifestyles?

Reading the accounts of archeologist Ralph Solecki in a July 11th item in the Wall Street Journal (Archeologist Ralph Solecki Recalls His Neanderthal Cave Discovery) about his excavations in Iraq, a description of a Neanderthal home site emerged. It appears that life and death revolved around a 3,000 square foot cave. Described to be roomier than the average single family home, it sounds as if the cave may have had futuristic style with its large flexible space and a 20 foot ceiling. Of course, the cave was engineered by nature and may have served as a shelter among other things; it appears as if the Neanderthal cave was where life and death was centered.

The home of modern humans seems to have evolved to encompass life by incorporating necessary spaces for various functions; such as separating areas for food (kitchen, dining room), sleeping, and congregating (living room, family room).

Technology has also played a major role in home development and design. Indoor plumbing and recent advances in fiber optic communications are examples of features and amenities that have been included as technology has advanced. Additionally, technology has also allowed for high density living; up until the late nineteenth century, building materials and techniques may not have allowed for the high rise building.

Lifestyle has been the driving force of home design since the industrial revolution and emergence of the middle class. By comparing homes built during various modern eras, you can observe changes in how we lived over the last one hundred years; the pre-war era home is different from today’s two-story modern house (which most homebuyers today consider a colonial). Today’s homes are increasingly informal and relaxed. It might have been thought to be ill-mannered to see the interior of the kitchen from other rooms during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century; however, today it is common to have the kitchen open to other rooms. Additionally, the average home size has increased significantly through the years, increasing from an average size of about 980sf during the 1950’s to over 2,400sf in today’s average home.

High density living has also become progressively comfortable as well, which has become increasingly attractive to many who seek care free living. Since the first high rise, technology has introduced elevators, air conditioning, and other necessary amenities to today’s lifestyle – such as fitness and business centers.

Homes will continue to transform according to our needs and technological advances. Future homes will undoubtedly offer “flexible” spaces that can be used for various purposes, depending on your lifestyle. Rooms may be used for entertainment and work centers, and also allow for informal dining. It may be possible that the kitchen may become a flexible space as well, as we cook less in our homes.

As future homes could become the open space with 20ft ceiling, it may be that future archeologists would be more familiar with Neanderthal home than ours. And just as we have characterized Neanderthal living as “difficult,” future archeologists might also describe our lifestyle as “difficult” when they excavate our homes.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2013

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Trending home designs

by Dan Krell
© 2012

Trending home designs

You might be amazed if you stopped to think about how much the home has changed over the years. From modest beginnings, when most homes were one or two rooms, the home has transformed from the humble shelter to today’s technological marvel that expresses your personality and popular tastes.

Early home architectural designs were very practical, and may have changed along with heating/cooling innovations. Before the furnace was a standard feature in the home, most homes were built around the fireplace; in very early homes, a central fireplace was where the homeowners cooked their food. Further advances in home design occurred as new building materials were developed; the use of drywall may be responsible for the spread of “tract housing” in the 1940’s and 50’s, as home builders realized they could make homes faster and more affordable.

However, a driving factor in today’s home designs is popularity with home buyers (because that’s what sells of course). The American Institute of Architects (aia.org) conducts the quarterly Home Design Trends Survey to track architectural trends and reveal what home buyers want in their homes. Besides the fact that a wounded housing market reduced the demand for the McMansion, what else is trending?

Economy and energy efficiency design features and appliances have been trending since the financial crisis. Since 2007, there has been a significant increase in demand for high efficiency furnaces, tankless water heaters, and more insulation.

Highlights of the recent Home Design Trends Survey (2nd quarter 2011) reveal how the economy has impacted home design. Most “Special feature rooms” have declined in popularity; except for home offices where people can telecommute, there was a significant decrease in the demand for interior greenhouses, media rooms, interior kennels, safe rooms, kid’s wings, and exercise rooms (demand for au-pair suites has remained steady). Informal living features continue to trend as people are increasingly staying home to entertain themselves and friends; a demand for “home-centered activities” spaces and outdoor living spaces are increasing. Requests for indoor-outdoor transition rooms, such as mudrooms, remain strong.

Special features continue to focus on energy efficiency, as well as increasingly on accessibility. Insulation seems to be a major home buyer focus as extra insulation or the use of alternative insulation techniques are in high demand.

As visitability laws gain momentum nationwide, home accessibility design features have increased in demand. First floor owner suites, height adjusted fixtures (sinks faucets and light switches), ramps, and even elevators have increased in popularity among home buyers.

Technological advances also dictate home buyer preferences. New energy efficient devices continue in popularity as well as low-maintenance products. High performance windows were a top requested item, as were water saving devices. Home buyers are also demanding more low maintenance engineered materials in their homes; such as floors, siding, and decking.
As technology changes, home design is anticipated to change as well. For example, some foresee that the demand for the home office to diminish as wireless communication technologies advance such that people won’t anchor themselves to one room as they work from home.

If you think that trending home design features are only for new homes, think again. Popular design features often filter into older homes as home owners renovate. As a design feature’s popularity increases, so does the chance it can be found at the Home Depot.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of February 6, 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Should we call it a colonial? Home styles can even confuse professionals

That brand new colonial you may be considering to purchase is not like your grandfather’s colonial. In fact it may not even be a colonial at all. It is not uncommon for architects and historians to disagree on the exact nomenclature for any particular home style. Most new homes built in the U.S. today incorporate a rich and diverse history of American home building. Home styles that originated from construction techniques brought from colonists’ home lands, continually transformed into more modern homes through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Back to that new home you’re thinking of buying: although the style is based on the colonial home, the technical style name is the “neo-colonial” (or sometimes known as a “two-story modern”). Most new two to three story single family homes built today do not stick to the “pure” construction elements of the colonial, because they might be considered too bland for modern tastes. Rather, the neo-colonial incorporates many design features from other home styles and periods as well; as using modern construction materials and techniques that allows for dramatic exteriors and open interior floor plans.

Today’s neo-colonial style home can trace its roots all the way back to colonial times. Although the basic structure of the colonial was a two or three story home that was usually square or rectangle, the colonists often built homes with construction knowledge from their homeland with functionality to their surroundings. Immediately noticeable among early colonial style homes are the differences in roof pitch and gables, as well as the size and placement of the fireplace. Other differences can be described as ornamental, but may be due to construction techniques. Some early examples of the American colonial style include the New England colonial, German colonial, and the Dutch colonial. These early colonial styles later developed into the more opulent Georgian and the Federal styles that became popular in the early 1800’s.

The Cape Cod style home also originated during colonial times, and was often simple one or one and a half story homes that were built in the north east United States and Canada to be functional and affordable. The central chimney and steep angle pitched roof were common features of these homes that developed as a function of the climate. Later variations of the Cape Cod included dormers (which are the windows that protrude from the roof) as well as stylistic features from other architectural styles.

Some point to the Cape Cod as the inspiration of the modern bungalow, which gained popularity in the early twentieth century. Because some bungalow styles have dormers, they are often described as a Cape Cod (such as the Craftsman style or Chicago Bungalow).

Of course there are many other significant architectural styles that developed and gained popularity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Architectural home styles were often influenced by art, history and geopolitics. Revival home styles often incorporated features from history or the recent past, while period styles were influenced by the essence of a specific time period (such as the Victorian style). However, some artistic styles (such as Prairie, Bauhaus, and Art Deco) seemed too esoteric for the average home buyer.

In the end, although you may not realize its pedigree, it does not matter what you style you label the house you purchase; what is important is that you call it “home.”

by Dan Krell © 2011

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.