The 2015 Texas real estate market went down in the books as one of the best in decades, and year-end housing construction numbers placed large Lone Star State cities among the country’s top building markets.
We asked some of the top homebuilders in North Texas to take a break from their busy schedules (and boy are they busy) to give us their predictions for 2016 homebuilding trends.
“Rustic” is the biggest buzzword of 2016, with our homebuilders saying clients want old and new elements mixed together. This look is also called “barnitecture,” and reclaimed timber is its No. 1 element, showing up in doors, flooring, beams, accent walls, and other places.
Sliding doors are hugely popular within barnitecture, and they can range from repurposed wood pieces taken from actual barns to more modern interpretations made of glass and metal.
“This style mixes contemporary elements with barn-like structures,” says Mark Danuser, president and owner of Tatum Brown Custom Homes. “We just did a house where we brought in reclaimed timber that had been found at the bottom of a riverbed, and it was mixed with contemporary German cabinetry.”
“They wanted their space to feel personalized, and this hardwood flooring had a real story. This has become very popular.”
Traditional, clean-lined style
The emergence of “soft contemporary” as a major trend the last few years has bled into other styles. Homebuilders report the ever-popular traditional house is now being requested with cleaner lines, fewer materials, and less embellishment.
How will this show up? On staircases, you might find unadorned iron balusters instead of decorative newel posts made of wood. Fireplace mantels are more likely to have a smaller, simpler profile, instead of ornate carvings. Cabinets and built-ins are lighter in color, with smaller pulls and handles.
“Most new construction is trending toward simpler design ... large open spaces, but still chic and tastefully done,” says Saad Chehabi, president and CEO of S&R Development. “[We’re seeing] white walls and trim; high-end, floor-to-ceiling steel windows; and contemporary bathrooms with oversize windows, exceptional finishes, cabinet design, and hardware.”
It’s an extremely popular style in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“I find that 90 percent of my clients are trying to achieve this look,” says Robert Elliott, owner of Robert Elliott Custom Homes. “I have been working with trim supply companies over the past couple years to create custom molds on door trim and crown moldings that can help my clients achieve this goal.”
People are taking classical architecture and cleaning it up a little, as well.
“Call it Texas or Hill Country Modern, but I have to believe the next design trend will be a cross between the clean lines of modern design and the textures of the Old World-style homes,” says Tom Greico, designer and builder with Greico Modern Homes.
The trend for eco-friendly elements continues, with demand for foam spray insulation, tankless water heaters, and air conditioning units with a higher seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER-16 and up). Our builders say they employ other solutions, as well.
“We believe green architecture has as much to do with correct orientation and design as it does with local sourcing of material,” Greico says. “Using the home design to provide shaded courtyards and cross ventilation throughout the home helps cut the need for air conditioning in the more temperate months, for example.”
But we’ve got a big, bright sun shining 232 days a year on average in North Texas. Solar energy is a natural fit.
“We’ve put solar panels on three or four of the last homes we’ve done, especially the larger homes,” Danuser says. “You’ve got 20 TVs and computers, heavy-duty washers and dryers — you can really eat up power in these homes, and people are worried about be as energy efficient as possible. Because of that, solar energy has gained momentum.”
Many builders are working with solar in mind, even if it’s not being installed immediately.
“The homes we build, with their flat roofs, [are] uniquely adaptable to solar panels, so we’ve been pre-wiring our houses in anticipation,” Greico says.
The entry to a home should be inviting and give one a sense of arrival. Some Dallas-area homebuilders say 2016 will be a year of increased interest in dramatic entryways.
People want to offer a Texas-sized welcome to their home through high-end flooring, dazzling light fixtures, and memorable architectural elements. Think marble tile inlaid with wood; sparkly, oversized chandeliers; and arching doorways with steel-and-glass front doors.
Steel windows and doors
The dramatic entryways we just mentioned are often being created with steel-and-glass doors and windows, and they are one of the bigger trends gaining momentum in 2016.
“It’s very streamlined, simple, and elegant and it fits in every genre of home,” Danuser says. “We had a Mediterranean home where even though the finishes were more traditional, the steel windows and doors just fit.
“Everyone wants floor-to-ceiling windows that let lots of light into the home, whether it’s a traditional or contemporary.”
Steel windows and doors create a distinctive look with narrow sight lines and a sophisticated aesthetic. The strength, durability, and versatility of steel frames make them not only a unique component, but also a lasting one.
Open-concept floorplans are nothing new, but this year homebuilders say it’s on more people’s must-have lists than ever before.
“We are still seeing folks wanting open-concept plans with large kitchen islands, and all of our plans have a combined living room and kitchen, typically running the full length of the rear of the home,” says Jeff Dworkin, president of JLD Custom Homes. “We are also opening up the kitchens with eat-on islands and removing bar-height countertops.”
Homebuilders report demand for flexible floorplans with sight lines from the kitchen to other common areas, like living and dining rooms.
Smartphone home automation
Last year’s biggest homebuilding trend was home automation, showing up across the board in home design requests. Buyers wanted to be able to control the thermostat, lighting, pool equipment, security systems, surveillance cameras, appliances, garage doors, and more.
That goes further in 2016, with people wanting full control of their homes through smartphone apps, says Les Owens, president of LRO Residential.
“We are working with AV platforms such as Lutron and Control4 that allow clients to control many aspects of their home, such as security, HVAC, security cameras both inside and outside, and window coverings,” Owens says. “Of course, we also integrate things such as driveway gates and garage doors that will tell you when the door was left open [that work through apps].
“We just finished a three-story home with eight TVs, [and] remotes are just not needed as everything to control all AV is on the owners’ smartphones.”
“Everything has an app, even digital locks on the house, and a big question we get all the time is the ability to control the thermostat, like Lennox AC and Nest,” Danuser says. “Home automation is huge, and it gets bigger every year. Once you get used to doing that, you can’t go back.”
Year-round outdoor living areas
A house’s interior doesn’t have to be its only livable space. Our homebuilders say the demand for outdoor living areas that are comfortable year-round will be strong in 2016.
Amenities to make that possible include fans to cool off, fireplaces and heaters to warm up, and auto-rolling screens to keep the bugs away. “We are doing most homes now with roll-down screens to help with the summer mosquitoes and also allow a sense of enclosure on those cool winter nights,” Danuser says.
“Many of our clients are also choosing to install porch ceiling heaters, which allow that large porch to be used as another living area in the winter.”
When clients choose floor-to-ceiling steel windows, or movable glass walls, the exterior spaces flow seamlessly into the interior ones.
“There are quite a few months in Dallas you can open the glass doors and invite the outdoors in for entertaining or a casual morning around the house,” Greico says. “We spend so much money to make our yards beautiful, it seems a shame to sequester them out of view.”
“Transitional” is a confusing phrase because it is used in so many ways. When homebuilders say transitional interiors are a major trend for this year, they mean a style that is a harmonious fusion of traditional and more contemporary architecture, finishes, materials, furniture, and décor.
“It is where we are in the Dallas area, and it is here to stay for a very long time,” Elliott says. “It allows people that have historically been traditional to have a little bit of fun and experiment with some modern/contemporary finishes.”
Transitional colors are generally light and neutral, and architectural lines are simple. This creates a great backdrop for the balancing act of transitional style, which is a marriage of the comfort and richness of traditional design with the clean aesthetic of contemporary style. A successful transitional home feels tailored and fresh.
The final 2016 homebuilding trend we’ve discovered is the bathtub as a design element for master suites. Homebuilders report big interest in elegant freestanding tubs, placed strategically in the bathroom for maximum “wow” factor.
In homes with barnitecture or transitional style, a clawfoot tub is often on the wish list. Popular luxury brands for freestanding bathtubs include Victoria + Albert, Kohler, Venzi, Kardiel, and AKDY.
A version of this story originally was published on Candy's Dirt.