Today's residential clients want amenities, style and function

Residential clients today may be giving up space because of rising rental and construction costs, but they're not willing to sacrifice amenities, say four noted architects interviewed for a recent issue of Licensed Architect.

For mostly urban apartment dwellers, perks include roof decks, barbecues, pool and spa areas, fire pits and lounge areas with outdoor TVs, says David Genc, Director of Design at Hirsch Associates.

Urban multi-unit complex rooftop concept from Hirsch Associates

For single-family homes, the amenities still include gas fireplaces, and, even with smaller kitchens, full-size appliances, such as six-burner gas stoves. “There might be less square footage, but appliances have to be full size,” says Brent Schipper of ASK Studios, Des Moines. Steve Jaskowiak of West Studio, Elmhurst, IL, notes that buyers are looking for all of the top-of-the-line kitchen conveniences, including steam ovens and two dishwashers.

Schipper notes that clients are turning to a more thoughtful, practical use of space. “Universalism is not a bad word made up by modernists,” he says. “With smaller spaces, buyers are finding that they can't have a room for every mood,” says Schipper. Having a breakfast nook, a dining area in the kitchen plus a separate dining room are no longer needed. “We're seeing an elimination of multiple eating areas,” says Russell Peterson, principal, Clever Architecture, St. Paul. “In some cases, the kitchen eating area is being eliminated so dining can take place outside of the hub of activity,” he adds.

Clever Architecture's amenity-filled kitchen

In addition to the universalist philosophy that advocates making multiple use of spaces, clients are also looking for better traffic flow to improve functionality. “The kitchen should be more isolated,” asserts Peterson. “We like to eliminate passage through the kitchen to another space.” “We're seeing more of a separation of the kitchen from being the center of the house, while still maintaining some visual contact,” says Jaskowiak.

Styles are moving toward contemporary, even for more mature buyers. “There's a general trend toward more modern design, says Jim Fraerman, Fraerman Associates Architecture, Highland Park, IL. “Even if there are more traditional elements, clients look for light, airy and more free-flowing space.” Hirsch, in working with developers of upscale multi-unit rental buildings, notes that modern European kitchens and bathrooms appeal to young renters. On the mature market side, Schipper is noticing that baby boomers have more of an appreciation for contemporary design. “What we thought of as younger design is what mature buyers want,” he says. “They have an appreciation for design rather than staying with very traditional looks.”

For more on What Clients Want, see the complete article in Licensed Architect.