Again and again, they told us they were looking for quality more than quantity, and they said that, even when they were looking for a larger home than the one they currently have. One major attitude that was apparent was this huge desire to disconnect when they come home.
This seemed to show up in their interest in a house with an indoor-outdoor connection, where they could entertain and move easily from kitchen to the outdoors. Another way it showed up is, well, I’m not saying that anyone should disconnect their wireless (service), but this expressed need to disconnect suggests a huge trend for making the master bath feel more like a spa. Builders have to ask themselves, how do we help them disconnect from stress every day? Consumers told us they love a big shower but don’t lose the tub. We asked, “But will you use the tub?” and they said, “Um, maybe not much.” But they want it to be there — 65 percent said they still want a tub in the master bath.
Q: Isn’t that also sort of the way they feel about the dining room — that room that builders have said for years that nobody wants or needs any more?
A: They still want a formal dining room. They want their holiday dinners where they can expand out to 10 or 12 people. A lot of builders have been building houses with just a great room (that could accommodate a large dining table), but 59 percent want a great room and one or two more formal spaces.
The quality and space concerns are not too surprising: they likely want lasting homes that will retain their value and are looking to upgrade to a bigger home. More interesting to me was this desire to disconnect, to feel like their home offers a respite from the outside world. This was one of the impulses behind the separation of work and home life in the modern era: as the world industrialized and cities grew, people started viewing homes as refuges. This put more emphasis on the single-family home as well as on the nuclear family, promoting more private lives. While these private lives have been criticized from a range of people who don’t like the drop-off in community life or the lack of civic engagement (ranging from Bowling Alone to New Urbanists), this desire for private retreats still appears to hold true. What the retreat might look like could take multiple forms – from the room centered on the giant TV to a spa-like bathroom to a backyard oasis to a man-cave – but the money goes toward making sure residents can put off the outside world just a little longer.