Homebuyers who want a new house that feels spacious, open, connected and welcoming need look no further than today’s newly built homes.
That’s because today’s homes are larger, on average, than homes built in yesteryears and builders’ newer floor plans and architectural designs create both the reality and illusion of more space.
Builders completed 569,000 new detached houses in 2013, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report. Based on a statistical sampling, 305,000, or nearly 54 percent, of those houses had two or more stories; 251,000, or 44 percent, had at least four bedrooms; 188,000, or 33 percent, had three or more bathrooms and 166,000, or 29 percent, had a full or partial basement. The average home size was just two feet shy of 2,600 square feet.
Spaciousness isn’t all about square footage, however.
Perhaps the best way to make a house feel much larger is to raise the ceilings to 9, 10 or even 12 or 15 feet, says Trey Bitteker, general sales manager at Pulte Homes in Arizona. “High ceiling heights will certainly open up a house. When someone walks through it, every room feels a little bit larger,” he says.
New homes today commonly have double-height or one-and-a half height ceilings in one or more rooms such as an entry hall, family room or formal living room, says Michael Malone, principal at Michael Malone Architects in Dallas. “No matter how small a room is,” Malone says, “that extra vertical height makes a lot of difference.”
Higher ceilings can be paired with a two-story home and grand staircase that add a feeling of even more space.
Two stories adds square footage in a home that’s still affordable, says Julie Hauge, sales manager at Drees Homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“Buyers want a three-car garage,” Hauge says. “They want four bedrooms. They want a good-sized kitchen, family and dining areas. They want a game room and media room. To get all that, you almost have to go to a two-story.”
But not always. Builders also offer larger single-story homes, though they typically cost more since a larger lot (i.e., more land) is necessary to accommodate plenty of space on one level.
An interior that’s connected to the exterior extends the dramatic feeling of spaciousness
Using the same materials for walls, ceilings and floors inside and outside makes the space feel bigger and inspires homeowners to develop more secondary space outside as well
That connection of the interior space with the exterior is a big part of the effect of making a small footprint feel bigger and a big footprint feel luxurious.
Instead of such rarely used rooms as a traditional formal dining or living room, and hallways, which are typically dark and narrow, builders today add bonus rooms that make a home’s space more useful for the homeowners.
Flexible, or “flex,” rooms create space by giving buyers options to use one room in multiple ways.
“Double-duty rooms,” can combine a home office with a guest bedroom, a TV room with a kids’ playroom or a laundry room with a crafts room. Properly outfitted, one room could even function as a workspace, playroom and overflow sleeping area, he suggests.
Bigger, Better Windows
Properly placed, windows also create spaciousness, again because they extend the indoors to the outdoors and add light to a room.
“We strategically place windows for optimal views so you can look out and see that pool or beautiful landscaping you put in your backyard. The windows are larger than some you may have seen in the past, which will also make the rooms feel bigger.”
We also point to the three-panel sliding glass door as a step toward greater spaciousness. This door doubles the opening’s size and allows people to move freely out to a patio.
The strategy isn’t just more windows or bigger windows, but smartly placed windows
Once the house is completed, lighter paint colors and finishes are used today to reflect light and further enhance the effect of large, open and spacious rooms.
You can never put enough light on a dark finish to make a room feel bright,” he says. “You can put a very small amount of light on a white finish or blond wood and it makes the whole space seem much bigger and brighter.