7 Design Lessons from the 1997 BALA Awards

  1. Go Back to the Old Neighborhood. Very simply, build neighborhoods, not homes.  Hurried and harried, today’s predominantly baby-boomer buyers want the charm and security they associate with grandma’s house from years past. That requires vintage architectural packages set in landscaped, pedestrian-friendly environments.
  2. Create a Look that’s Timeless. Traditional design has been the fashion leader in recent years. The emphasis now is on more authentic, more regionally accurate, traditional designs. Buyers want their new homes to be future-proof – classic exteriors that are warm, understated and reminiscent of days past; designs with front porches that wrap around the side of the home; homes with character; new homes that feel as if they were always there.
  3. Keep the Focus on Today’s Lifestyle.  American homeowners continue to spend more time at home.  The home has become the center for family entertainment. And the lifestyle is decidedly casual.  Emphasis now is definitely on the informal living spaces within the home.  The open kitchen/family room has become the focal point of new home design.
  4. Offer Design Consistency, but be Distinctive.  Front and rear elevations should receive equal priority.  Designs should be cohesive inside and out, while architectural style is consistent front to back.  Side and rear elevations are articulated and exciting.  Consistency, however, doesn’t imply sameness.  Faced with increasing competition, there is a strong urge to do something different, to be creative, to “break the box” and stand out.
  5. Take the Details to Another Level.  There is a need for quality housing products at all prices on the spectrum and the details must match the price point. Yet, a growing number of buyers seem willing to push their budget – even sacrifice square footage – for the perceived value of unique details, quality touches and luxury finishes, like coffered ceilings with recessed lighting, inlaid floors, arched beams, wrought iron railings, art niches and cove lighting.
  6. Make it High Tech, but Include Retreats.  High tech is here to stay, as new homes are increasingly being wired for the future, including category 5 wiring, computer access lines and sophisticated home-automation and electronic home management systems that control lighting, security, HVAC systems and audio/video systems.  As homes become high tech, there will be a growing need for escape havens or quiet retreats such as cozy reading nooks, secluded sunning spaces and master suite pamper spaces.
  7. Give Renters-by-Choice Single-Family Feel.  Leading the recent surge in multifamily housing has been the renter-by-choice. These individuals can afford for-sale housing but have chosen instead high-end rental housing.  And, they demand upscale apartments with a resort feel, tons of amenities and a full program of social activities.

Excerpted from 7 Lessons from BALA, originally published in the January 1998 edition of Professional Builder magazine.

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