July 13, 2024


Creative meets living

Cynthia Henry: Zillow’s 2021 design predictions grow out of pandemic trends seen nationally

PHILADELPHIA — Spending so much time at home in 2020 has forced us to rethink how we use our space and to invest in things we never knew we needed: a roof deck, a home gym, an outdoor heater, no-touch appliances. Even with the promise of the COVID-19 vaccines, 2021 challenges us to decide which lifestyle and design changes to keep and which to abandon.

Here are Zillow’s predictions on amenities likely to add comfort — and possibly extra value — to your home in the coming year.

Employer decisions on the future of remote work could trigger home design and location choices. A desire for a home with a dedicated office tops the list of reasons Americans working from home (even occasionally) would consider a move, a Zillow survey found.

Workers around Philadelphia this year adapted and readapted — from a laptop on the sofa to a full work setup in a quiet space — as remote home orders were extended. Pennsylvania builder Berks Homes told Zillow that requests for an at-home study in lieu of existing living space more than doubled this year. As of November, Zillow found, the number of listings mentioning home office or Zoom room increased by 48.5% compared with the same time last year.

With lots of time and nowhere to go, people will continue to create vacation settings at home. Pool was the top Zillow keyword search term in 2020, and around Philly, services were swamped as early as March by requests to open pools.

“We know we’ve still got a long stretch of isolation ahead of us, and we’re trying to make the best of it,” a homeowner in Malvern said last spring.

Other families opted for new play sets, trampolines and bouncy houses to keep kids busy and bolster their physical and mental health. In early summer, Philadelphia ranked third in major U.S. cities in Google search interest for aboveground pools and swing sets, eighth for trampolines, and 10th for bouncy houses.

Some homeowners took a step further, turning their favorite vacation destination into their hometown, Zillow found. Waterfront and dock also landed in Zillow’s top 10 search terms for 2020, and page views of for-sale listings in areas typically considered vacation destinations — such as Key West, the Jersey Shore and Cape Cod — are up nearly 50% compared with last year.

Intergenerational living will rise in popularity, Zillow predicts, as young adults and grandparents move in with family for financial and health reasons. According to Generations United, about one in six Americans live in multigenerational households, and in 2020, the share of young people moving back home reached an all-time high. In the Philadelphia region, in-law suites continue to be popular, as are other reconfigurations of childhood homes.

Katie Detwiler, chief experience officer at Berks Homes, told Zillow the trend is affecting how people design new homes, with more requests than ever before for a finished basement with a full bathroom, and bedroom additions.

This year returned people to cooking and baking like never before. A Zillow survey found that 41% of people value a well-equipped kitchen more than ever because of social-distancing recommendations — and these budding chefs will want space to show off their new skills next year.

“We’ve seen an increase in requests for gourmet kitchens,” Detwiler told Zillow.

Large islands are very popular, according to the Houzz 2020 Kitchen Trends Study. “Nearly two-thirds of renovated kitchens feature an island, and the majority are more than six feet long and often have cabinets and countertops that contrast with the rest of the kitchen, so they really stand out,” Marine Sargsyan, senior economist for the home design website, told The Inquirer in April.

With social-distancing requirements, a safe, functional yard has taken on renewed importance, and homeowners are enhancing their outdoor decor.

Zillow research finds that homes mentioning fire pit in the listing sold for 2.8% more than similar homes, and outdoor kitchen sold for 4.5% more. Smart sprinkler systems and outdoor lighting also can help your home sell faster.

In Philadelphia, where backyards can be scarce, roof decks were all the rage this year. Homeowners use them for play space for children, gardening, and outdoor entertaining.

“It’s just so peaceful, especially now, when we can’t go out to too many places,” Bill Pilat, 34, of Southwest Center City, told The Inquirer in September. “Being able to go out somewhere — it was a godsend.”

People here and elsewhere dealt with rapidly changing restrictions for gyms and yoga and martial arts studios by carving out fitness spaces in their homes. In November, 4.1% of for-sale listings mentioned health and wellness areas, Zillow says.

“People are still apprehensive to come out, even though we are offering in-person classes,” Frank LoPinto, co-owner of Kaizen Martial Arts of NJ, in Mount Laurel, told The Inquirer in July. “Still, probably about 80% of people are staying home and doing it online.”

That means a Zoom room large enough for a workout.

Work flexibility made it easier to add pets to the family in 2020. A Pennsylvania goldendoodle breeder reported being “inundated every single day with calls,” and area shelters saw high demand, too. Zillow predicts that pets will figure into home buyer and renter choices in 2021. “Pet-friendly” rentals are on the rise, Zillow researchers found, with 73.1% of rental listings allowing pets, and more home listings are touting dog showers and fenced yards.