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If home is where the heart is, then the heart may be in for a change. The dwellings of the 20th century are already evolving to accomodate future trends. And whether you're a carpenter, an interior designer, or a landscaper, features of new homes are sure to affect your bottom line:
- Size: With empty-nest boomers leading the way in home-buying, the elaborate, multileveled pseudo-mansions of choice in the '80s have shifted to smaller, more manageable abodes. At a modest 900 square feet, the new dream home is charmingly equipped with such features as built-in cabinets, window seats, breakfast nooks, porches and flat ceilings-all designed to please home buyers wanting less grandeur and more functionality. What's out? Elaborate and decadent architecture like huge staircases, vaulted ceilings and formal living and dining rooms.
- Rooms: These newly shrunken homes also disregard "fixed room" layouts. Kids' playrooms are no longer relegated to the back of the house, says home-builder David Weekley of David Weekley Homes in Houston. Such retreats will be more open to all family members. And future houses will have built-in home offices to accommodate the 60 million (and growing) U.S. home businesses.
- Entertainment: Look for TV and computer to become intertwined with broadband technology, making it possible to watch TV on the Net or surf the Web on your TV. Says John Romanowich of Home Animation Inc., a home-wiring design firm in Skillman, New Jersey, "[For example], I could watch TV and do some work while watching my kid play in the backyard via picture-in-picture and a closed-circuit camera." According to Roman-owich, the number of U.S. homes with equipment linking computers, phones, TVs and other devices will rise from 600,000 today to almost 6 million in 2002.
- Bathrooms: Expect them to be the most prestigious rooms of all, as new interest in bathroom comfort is feeding a trend toward outfitting the cleansing oasis with designer accessories, says Timothy C. Schroeder, president of Duravit USA Inc., a bathroom furniture and accessories company. Equipped with high-end, aesthetically pleasing fixtures, the 21st-century lavatory will merge with the master bedroom to create a personal family spa and relaxation center of sorts.
- Backyards: People are looking for unique expression in their gardens. "More people want a design that fits them," says Joel Albizo of the American Nursery & Garden Association. It can be anything from Japanese-inspired gardens to prairie-styled yards. Water elements in any form, be they ponds, fountains or bubbling brooks, are also high on homeowners' request lists. Technology will play a role in future landscaping as well: Albizo predicts landscape designers will be interacting with clients via the Web and designing entire yards with online, interactive photos.
- Kitchens: Imagine a refrigerator that manages your grocery list. Or a counter that acts as an electronic message board for the family. It sounds like an episode of I, but these innovations are closer than you think. "[Kitchens have] now become the nerve center of the household.," says Carmen Egido, director of Intel's Application Research Lab in Hillsboro, Oregon. Egido also predicts kitchen-appliance connectivity to Internet services, allowing, for example, refrigerators that notice you're running out of food and arrange for groceries to be delivered.