Changing Design Trends : Homes Take on New Features Inside, Outside

Berber carpets and hardwood floors are in, sculpted carpets and chrome furniture are out. Light-colored cabinets have ousted those of dark wood, while transoms and clerestories have replaced greenhouse windows.

And here's some bad news for yuppies who paid thousands to wallpaper or paint their home in mauve, mint-green and other pastels: If you really want to be "hip," you'll rip those colors off the wall and slap on paper with neutral backgrounds and splashes of bold green or deep purple.

New Design Trends

Those are just a few of the design trends you'll notice if you visit new housing tracts this year, and concepts remodelers will need to adopt if they want their make-overs to reflect the latest in the ever-changing world of home design.

You'll start to notice new design trends the moment you pull up to the curb at a new housing tract. Increasingly, developers are placing homes on wide and shallow lots instead of narrow and deep parcels.

"This makes the home look much larger from the street, and allows you to orient more of the rooms to the yard you use most--the one out back," says Art Danielian of Danielian Associates, an Irvine-based architecture and planning firm.

But these lots are actually smaller than the ones used a few years ago, so builders can squeeze more homes on less acreage.

Two-story homes are becoming more popular because they let buyers get more room without requiring more land. "Not to mention the fact that a two-story house makes it easier for parents to get away from their teen-agers," Danielian jokes.

Kitchens are getting bigger, and also more compartmentalized. Many new kitchens have four distinct areas: One for preparing the food, another for cooking, a third for storage.

"The fourth part is a 'gathering area' for the children to study or play while the grown-ups fix dinner," said Danielian. "Families don't have much time to be together anymore, so they have to get it when they can."

Colors More Vibrant

Wood is rebounding in popularity. Kitchen cabinets are often made of oak that is bleached, whitewashed or stained in light pastel colors; panel wood-floors are common in just about any room. In high-priced homes, even ceilings are covered with soft wood to create a warm, rich look.

Colors are getting more vibrant, especially in the kitchen and smaller bedrooms.

"That's where you'll find lots of 'hot' colors, like magenta, bronze and jewel tones--all with a touch of metallic coloring," says Beverly Trupp, president of Color Design Art in Pacific Palisades.

And pastels? "They'll stay popular in resort areas and small homes because they're 'cool' colors that make a home look bigger," says Carole Eichen of Santa Ana-based Carole Eichen Interiors Inc. But otherwise, she says, "they just aren't as popular as they were a few years ago.

"If you already have a lot of soft roses or mauves, you can get back in style by adding some strong green, garnet or eggplant coloring."

Here are some other changes you'll likely notice, according to the nation's top designers:

Entryway: These are getting more attention from builders, even in housing tracts built for first-time buyers. Impressive archways are making their way into homes in all price ranges, in part because builders can now buy them in inexpensive, prefabricated "kits" that don't take long to install.

Builders are also "dressing up" their entryways and halls by building "niches" in the walls about two feet wide and one or two feet deep. "The niches are just big enough for a large vase or small sculpture," Eichen says. "Put a down light overhead, and voila --you've got a very striking feature that doesn't cost the builder much."

Kitchen: Cabinets and appliances are all one color, often white or off-white, with a European look. Also popular are bleached-oak cabinets and floors or oak cabinets with pale pastel stain. Recessed lighting is trendy, but fluorescent is verboten . "Fluorescent lighting is too harsh--it just makes you look bad," complains Trupp.

You'll also see more color-coordinated tile on counters as well as floors, Eichen says. "If you already have tile on your counter and you're thinking about remodeling, you can get a whole new look by scraping out the old white grout and using some of the colored grout that's on the market," Eichen said.

Family room: This room and the kitchen are the two most popular rooms in today's new homes, experts say. "This is where the family will spend a lot of their time together, so it gets the big television, VCR and stereo," says Trupp. "Here's where you put the big, soft furniture and a casual coffee table you can put your feet on."

Colors here suit individual preferences. If you want to play it safe, you can stick with neutral shades--including the new "nutty" colors--or the more masculine butterscotch. "But forget about white," Trupp says. "Remember, you've got kids, dogs or cats."

Living room: Move-up buyers are putting more emphasis on this room than first-time buyers are, because move-up buyers generally do more entertaining and have a greater desire to impress people.

"This is where you often see marble or tile floors, fancy lighting fixtures, impressive entryways and Oriental rugs," Eichen said. "You don't use it much--maybe for after-dinner cordials."

Eichen says the "Ralph Lauren look"--with pine furniture, deep paisley fabrics and wood floors or Berber carpeting--"is very, very popular" in the living room and throughout the house. But a growing number of rooms are taking on an "East Coast tone," with dark wood furniture and lots of mahogany or cherry.

Master bedroom: "This is where the parents want to retreat at the end of the day," Eichen says. "They want to be able to go in there and not come out until tomorrow."

Bedrooms are getting bigger, and even lower-priced homes have at least a small "retreat area" for reading. Eichen says bedrooms in larger homes might also have a mini-kitchen with a microwave oven and small refrigerator.

Bathroom: Master baths are big, with double-sink lavatories and step- up tubs. Marble, granite and tile are popular here as well as in the kitchen: In lower-priced homes, imitation marble or granite finishes for countertops and flooring will do.

All-brass fixtures are still in vogue, but an emerging trend finds those fixtures with a band of chrome in the middle.

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