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July 10, 2010 / Robert Ross

redux deluxe

An interesting phenomenon over the last few years has been the resurgence of the interest in the small house. Beyond being an outgrowth of the uncertain economic times we are currently experiencing, in my mind, this can be seen as the convergence of an aging population, an increase in the awareness of sustainability issues, and a very real counter swing to the excesses evident in the culture of the last 20 years.  In other words the mantra of reduce, reuse, recycle has grown-up.

The deluxe cottage has emerged as the residence of choice for those seeking a simpler way of life without necessarily forgoing the creature comforts. two bedroom cottages with a multi-use bonus room or loft that can provide double duty as a third sleeping area in a pinch. The master on the main, elimination of the garden tub in favor of a larger dual head shower  with seat and the reemergence of the work triangle as the organizing force in kitchen design are some of the broader trends I’ve noticed emerging.

In-town homes are sacrificing some of the once segregated room  functions in favor of merged multifunctional spaces. Families that once moved to the suburbs so that everyone could have their own individual space are discovering that it led to an extremely isolating lifestyle. As these same families locate back into the urban centers, they discover they want a closer family life experience and a renewed sense of belonging to a larger community.

As part of this trend, families are actively embracing options that were inconceivable a few years ago. Giving up the home theater and other single function spaces. Children are sharing bathrooms, or even bedrooms! The space for the family to spend time together has grown in importance, while the formal living and dining rooms are being abandoned in favor of a small library or home office. More often than not, these multi-function rooms are open to the kitchen.

This new openness is leading clients to look at sleeker, quieter, energy efficient appliances. The clunky “professional” appliances are being abandoned in favor of integrated (i.e. concealed) offerings. There is a strong interest in induction cooking, quiet dishwashers and ease of operation. Thankfully the “trophy” kitchen for the client that never cooks is vanishing. The recycling center is becoming a must have as is the walk in pantry.

This trend is even reaching to home systems. Clients are actively asking about Icynene insulation, tankless on demand water heaters and LED lighting. Dual Flush toilets, water filtration and gray water management are becoming standard topics of the design conversation. There is a stronger recognition of technological obsolescence leading to a decision making process with a greater emphasis on long term value and operating costs.

Another strong trend is the reemergence of the screened porch as a design feature. In more gentle climates, this is a wonderful way to expand the living area of homes. Adding a fireplace to the space extends the usefulness of the porch at both ends of the season. These spaces are being treated as the exterior rooms that they are. In my practice, they have been a major request for the past several years.

I see this trend continuing as sustainability achieves an even broader emphasis in the culture. Technology will continually offer an increased capacity to do more with less, lifestyles will continue to condense, and family units to downsize. This trend represents a dramatic shift in the consciousness of what is seen as having importance and value. My prediction is that it will have a long term effect on design for the foreseeable future.




Leave a Comment
  1. Jeff Ribnik / Jul 25 2010 9:03 pm


    This is very well stated. How about some vignette examples of some of the concepts you mentioned?

    Aside from the great content, I’m quite impressed with your writing skills.

    Looking forward to future posts!


  2. Robert Ross / Jul 29 2010 4:11 pm

    Thanks for the kind words Jeff-

    Vignette examples will most likely emerge as parts of future posts.

  3. Nora Leslie / Jul 30 2010 5:46 pm

    Very insightful and well written. I am looking forward to your future posts.

  4. KL / Aug 5 2010 7:36 am
    • Robert Ross / Aug 5 2010 8:02 am

      Hi Kevin-

      I know there was a smile behind your post! Several years ago a friend of mine was working on a similar ego project here in Atlanta. The owner recently sold it and my understanding is that the new owner intends to tear it down!

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