Small Is ‘In’, Formal Spaces ‘Out’

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

The sagging economy is influencing home design as more home owners favor smaller indoor and outdoor spaces that are often cheaper to maintain. Forget the formal spaces that are rarely used. Home owners nowadays don’t want to waste space and want to use every square inch of their home.

Home sizes and lots continue to decrease as preferences grow for low maintenance property improvements, according to the American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey for the first quarter of 2010.

“We continue to move away from the McMansion chapter of residential design, with more demand for practicality throughout the home,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a public statement about the survey results. “There has been a drop off in the popularity of upscale property enhancements such as formal landscaping, decorative water features, tennis courts, and gazebos.”

Instead, slightly more home owners than in 2009 say they want open space layouts, informal spaces, a finished basement or attic, and a single-floor plan, according to the survey.

Large, expansive homes, once on top of many home owners’ wish-lists, are being replaced with a preference for more flexible, open and informal layouts that are more conducive for families, Baker said.

But how can you ensure that small space doesn’t feel too cramped? I recently spoke with Jennie Norris, president of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, who had several tips on how you can Make Small Spaces Bigger. Read some of her tips to get ideas.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Thank you for featuring this trend. The home staging tips are all excellent and many of these were ones that I heard real estate agents suggest to sellers all across the country when I worked on HGTV’s “My House Is Worth What.” Between 2003-2008 when the market was on fire McMansions were hot. However with the decline in many real estate markets it makes sense that practicality would be favored over extravagence. Interestingly a McMansion is classified as a home that is typically over 3,000 sq. ft. It’s definitely possible to make a “small” house that is under 3,000 feel large and these tips should really do the trick!

  2. Christina Monaghan

    After years of being overwhelmed by home maintenance, I purchased 2 small properties. One is a 860 sq ‘ brand new home w/2car garage and 10’x40′ covered patio (winter home) and the other is a 388sq’ studio condo (summer home) in the downtown area of the city where my daughter and granddaughter live. I love my FREEDOM! Last summer I traveled from Arizona to Nova Scotia and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts back to AZ. This year I will conquer the Pacific coast all the way to Alaska. No one needs to “take care” of either home. I lock the front door and leave. Yes, I did have to downsize my possessions, but they no longer own me.