Home in 2020

Emphasis on outdoor improvements and outdoor living spaces continue to increase

Residential design trends to watch at the beginning of the new decade.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey  (HDTS) examines data from hundreds of architecture firms each quarter to reveal emerging trends in residential design. Results from the 2019 survey indicate four areas that are growing in popularity with homeowners and buyers across the country: accessibility, investment kitchens, outdoor living, and healthy homes.


As Baby Boomers get older, designing new homes – and retrofitting existing ones – with accessibility at the forefront is an important consideration.

And according to the HDTS, accessibility remains a popular factor for home layout design. Not only does this include easier accessibility within the home, but easier accessibility into and out of the home, single-floor design, finishing unfinished spaces such as basements, attics, garages, and an open space layout/flexible floor plan.

Accessibility remains popular for home layout design

Although accessibility is commonly associated with seniors, the concept is not just for the elderly. “All ages deserve a safe home,” says Mitzi Beach, interior designer and expert on aging in place. Even a younger person may become suddenly disabled by an accident or medical condition, and accessible solutions can increase their quality of life considerably.

In lighting, this means a few things: First is a focus on safety. Without proper lighting in areas such as stairs, garages, and bathrooms, the chance of an accident increases.

“Bathrooms are potentially the most dangerous place in your home,” says Beach, who lends most of her interior design expertise to this area of the home. “Safety in the bathroom is now becoming what clients are actually asking for. If you fall in there, nothing will help you – there are hard surfaces everywhere.”

Beyond safety, there’s also a focus on lighting for wellness in accessible homes. The potential of homes becoming a sanctuary is accomplished with appropriate and layered lighting, including sconces, portables, and the use of dimmers. “We need to be restored, to calm down and unwind when we come home…we can’t do that in rooms with wrong or inadequate lighting,” Beach comments.

In other areas of design, accessibility means more attention is being paid to ergonomics. In the kitchen, for example, installing a wall oven versus drop-in range doesn’t require the user to bend over. Flooring is also a consideration, Beach remarks, and the sought-after option now is whatever is low maintenance. Carpet, she says, is very rarely used everywhere anymore.

“Overall, people are more open to incorporating different types of lighting than ever before,” Beach says. Whether that means installing a chandelier or sconces in places you wouldn’t think to put them in the past, or trying one of the myriad new smart home offerings, the result is not only accessible, but design-driven.

`As a showroom, Beach suggests displaying digital photography of past projects that showcase accessible features to illustrate just what it all means and the difference it can make.

Investment Kitchens

There is a downsizing trend in housing – median single-family home square footage clocks in at 2,245 square feet according to second-quarter data from the Census Quarterly Starts and Completions by Purpose and Design and National Association of Home Builders analysis; in 2015, that number was nearly 2,500 square feet. According to the HDTS, this downsizing is mostly seen in the entry-level/”affordable home” segment of the market, where the luxury end is actually reporting a slow increase in the size of homes.

The share of firms reporting an increase in the number of kitchens continues to grow while kitchen sizes continue to stabilize

But despite single-family home sizes getting smaller, a sizable portion of architecture firms are still reporting increased space and greater investments in kitchens as they’ve become the center of the home for families today.

With the open-concept floor plans that are pined after, the kitchen becomes the focal point of the living area. Choosing a stand-out pendant or chandelier can create a “wow” moment. “Light fixtures in this type of design act as the anchor of the space, bringing in a vertical break and division where walls no longer stand,” says Mollie Kitchens, Marketing Content Manager at Capital Lighting Fixture Co.

There’s the practical aspect, too: Proper lighting installed above islands, which have become the new dining table and homework area, as well as task lighting in food prep and cooking areas, can take a kitchen from blah to high-end.

Outdoor Living

Making a home’s outdoor space just as livable and inviting as the interior is a trend that seems here to stay. Propelled by evolving lifestyles, where a staycation is now exciting, and entertaining and relaxing at home is more popular than ever, transforming a backyard or deck from bare bones to welcoming oasis is just what the owner ordered.


Outdoor living


According to the HDTS, an emphasis on outdoor improvements and outdoor living space continues to increase. Blended indoor/outdoor spaces – like kitchens that open up to the outdoors – saw the largest increase in popularity, with 57 percent of firms indicating an increase of emphasis in 2019 versus 52 percent in 2018. Outdoor rooms and covered spaces also saw an increase, with 68 percent indicating more interest in 2019 versus 67 percent in 2018. Interest in exterior/security lighting and outbuildings such as sheds and pool houses has also increased overall, but at a slower rate than the previous year.

For lighting showrooms, promoting landscape lighting options and capabilities, as well as carrying a variety of the increasing number of decorative outdoor pendants and chandeliers available today means they can get in on this trend. Bring in accessories such as outdoor pillows, rugs or even accent tables for additional opportunities.

Healthy Home

The awareness and concern about eco-friendliness in everything from the food we eat and the clothes we wear to the cars we drive continues to move to the forefront of daily life and buying decisions.

Homes are no exception to this sentiment. In fact, recent research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies found that nearly one-quarter of homeowners had some concern about healthy-home problems or risks. Indoor air quality issues were cited as their leading concern, followed by water quality, harmful materials and chemicals, and indoor environmental quality (such as noise or light pollution).

Concern about the health of their home is especially important to the Millennial generation, which has been shown to make purchasing decisions based on a company or product’s commitment to sustainability. A 2015 Nielsen poll of 30,000 consumers globally found that while 66 percent of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, a full 73 percent of Millennials (defined by Nielsen as those who are born between 1977-1995) are willing. And with Millennials expected to account for $1.4 trillion in retail sales in 2020, this is a huge opportunity for the housing – and lighting – industries.

In lighting showrooms, continuing to showcase LED as the energy-efficient option, as well as considering up-and-coming brands that offer sustainable products, will meet many consumers where they are.



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