Latest Report: What’s In, What’s Out With Home Design

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Coinciding with a sluggish housing market, home owners have changed their preferences about how space is used and designed in their homes. Function over extravagance has reigned in recent years, along with affordability, when it comes to home features, according to the latest American Institute of Architects Home Design Trends Survey for the second quarter of 2010.

Here are a few highlights from the report, based on nearly 300 residential architects who were surveyed about the design preferences of U.S. households.


Home offices: More people are working out of their home or telecommuting, prompting more home owners to want a dedicated workspace in their homes.

Outdoor living areas: Home owners want to expand their living space into the outdoors and are seeking to incorporate more outdoor living elements into their lifestyles, AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a public statement about the survey.

Mud rooms: The need for additional closets and other storage space, as well as the increasing informality of space in the home, is driving more home owners to want mud rooms, according to the report.

Energy-saving features: Home owners are seeking energy efficient products and systems that will reduce their rising utility costs. Those energy efficient products and materials that have boasted the greatest increase in interest in recent months include items such as double and triple glazed windows, tankless water heaters, and low maintenance materials.


  • Media rooms/home theaters
  • Exercise/fitness rooms
  • Hobby/game rooms
  • Home workshops
  • Kid’s wings/guest wings
  • Interior kennels
  • Interior greenhouses

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.

More Posts - Website

  1. I totally agree! The days of the McMansion have passed. Although families still want enough space to do all they need to do, people are much more practical today. Using outdoor spaces adds to the living area of the home. There has been a trend for creating a more functional space outdoors with furniture, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces or portable fire pits, etc.

    More and more folks are telecommuting than ever. A home office is a must! Many times this home office is a part of a multi-functional room, also used as a guest bedroom or is located a portion of a finished basement that also acts as a family room or play room.

    Mud rooms are one of my favorite spaces. In New England, who doesn’t love to take off wet/snowy clothes and boots before tracking all of that mess into the house?! Many who don’t have a dedicated mud room look for ways to minimize the mess.

    I guess in today’s world, we’re not necessarily living bigger, we’re living smarter!

    Functional Home Designs
    Serving northern MA and southern NH

  2. Yeah I agree with most of this list. It all depends on if these rooms are done “right”. For example, I think home offices and exercise rooms are definitely still in when they are done appropriately. I know my wife and I are in the dilemma to design a home office in one of our extra bedrooms or turn it into an exercise room until a baby comes!

    I do agree with your comments on energy saving features as well as the outdoor living spaces. A nice outdoor living space with a garden is something we’ve always wanted but we live in Mesa, Arizona and most of the year it is just too hot to be outside at all unless you are in the backyard swimming!

    -Mark Hardy, Realtor

  3. How interesting! I agree with Mark that any room that’s done right for its purpose can be “in”, though I have seen overall interest in Media Rooms wane.

    Interestingly, all the buyers I’ve worked with over the past 12-18 months have been concerned about utility costs, rejecting homes with two story great rooms and walls of windows in favor of more traditional floor plans. The cost of home ownership is not just PITI (principal, interest, taxes and insurance)…it’s also UM (utilities and maintenance). Everything else is a bonus!

    What’s always “in” with buyers is location (including school district and commute), price and condition. And hooray for function over extravagance! What a concept!

    Connie Morelle
    Ecobroker® Certified, GREEN
    Certified Luxury Homes Marketing Specialist
    Accredited Buyer Representative

  4. Melissa, thank you for sharing the Home Design Trends study with your readers. Our home renovation contractors across the U.S. have found the trend of homeowners using their space for multiple purposes. So, for example, a home office that doubles as a guest room or a laundry room/mudroom with space and storage for other activities like scrap booking or sewing.

  5. Thanks for another winner Melissa! Not only are fitness rooms in themselves ‘out’ but so are oversized fitness items in other parts of the home. Many times when homes go on the market people have fitness items like treadmills stuffed in the corner of a bedroom or family room too and one suggestion I always make is to put it in the garage while the house is on the market.