The Custom Home - Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt

Carla Westerman

01 December 2012

What could be more rewarding — and all-consuming — than having a one-of-a-kind house designed and built just for you? The economy may be uncertain, but for some people the time is right for forging ahead with the house of their dreams. We asked several area architects and builders about what clients want and what drives their decisions. Though each custom project is unique, these professionals are gaining insights as to how people live. Here are five trends that they
see in the current market.

THE RIGHT-SIZED HOUSE

How big is big enough? It’s a question people weigh carefully these days when designing a custom home, according to architect Richard Buchanan of West Chester-based Archer & Buchanan Architecture. “So often the house you build next is a reaction to the one you’re coming from. If it was too small, your goal is to have more room. But people tend to overestimate the space they’d like to have. So we are often encouraging them to build less, but better,” says Buchanan who co-founded the firm with Peter Archer in 1996. “Nobody has ever complained that we’ve designed too small a house for them. And nobody complains that we’ve designed too many closets either!” he adds. In the world of custom residential architecture, a small house would be in the range of 4,000 to 6,000 sf. Buchanan cites the example of a 45-year-old couple with two school-aged children wanting to build an 8,000 sf house. He might encourage them to consider cutting back to 6,000 sf so the house won’t be too big once the children leave for college.

Custom home builder Tim Dewson says the uncertain economy has people asking themselves “what do I really need” instead of “what do I want.” “The homes of yesteryear may have been 10-15,000 sf; today the same families might be building 7-10,000 sf,” says Dewson, president of Wilmington-based Dewson Construction.

His clients are focusing on the rooms they use the most: kitchen, master bath, family room, and mudroom. “They are probably investing more money in those areas because they are building more efficiently with regard to square footage,” he says. Operating costs are another factor that influences total square footage. “People want to know how much it’s going to cost to heat and cool the home,” Dewson says. Energy-conscious clients are investing in geo-thermal heating and cooling systems, on-demand hot water systems, and solar panels.

Is the great estate home a thing of the past? "Not entirely," says architect Richard Buchanan. “We currently have several in design or construction that are 18,000 sf,” he says. “There are some folks who aspire to that. Our goal is to educate people on the benefits of building less and better.”

THE FOREVER HOUSE

People are building houses with the idea of living in them comfortably for as long as they can. They want a home that meets the needs of their family as it grows and then transitions to the empty nest phase. “Probably half of our houses have an elevator, generally going from basement to attic,” says Buchanan. The elevator may not be installed during construction, but stacked closets allow for it to be added later. This approach solves the problem of access to the second floor master bedroom as homeowners age in place.

Sometimes a master bedroom is designed for both the first and second floors. When the children are young, the parents can be within earshot upstairs. The first floor suite is perfect for grandparents, a nanny, or visitors. If the children move back home as young adults, the parents can retreat to the first floor, or simply move there as they age.

Another emerging trend is his-and-her master bedrooms. “Nobody wants to talk about it but we see that a lot more than you might think,” Buchanan says. “People don’t want to acknowledge they’re living in separate rooms, but frankly it makes for a more tranquil life for a lot of clients who are over 55.”

QUALITY:
ONLY THE BEST WILL DO

While people may be opting for less square footage, they are not scrimping when it comes to quality of materials and finishing work. The kind of craftsmanship associated with the great homes of the past is still very much alive today, according to custom builder Bob Griffiths of Chester Springs. “You hear people say they don’t build it like they used to. Baloney—they build it better than they used to. We have better technology and better equipment,” says Griffiths, who has been building custom homes for 32 years.

A well-built house means homeowners are not replacing systems, materials, or exterior surfaces in 10 or 15 years. “The houses we build are supposed to be renovated 200 years from now,” Griffiths says, only half-joking. His clients generally are not concerned with trends or what sells on the market. They want a house with unique design features that only the skilled artisan can create. “We make light fixtures. We design and make hardware. We cast knobs. We still plaster our houses. We do some wonderful plaster ceilings. You’re not going to see any of that stuff in a tract home,” says Griffiths.

Houzz Pro Spotlight: How Rural Regulations Can Enrich Your Country Estate

A West Chester architect shares ways to turn land and building restrictions into design opportunities - 27 March 2017

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

AIA Philadelphia - 25 November 2013

50 Years of Stuckeman Works

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Feature - 1 May 2013

AIA Small Projects Structure Winner

Architectural Products
 - 1 July 2008

Please Vote for ABA's Cor-Ten Cattails

Architizer - 3 March 2015

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit House in PA

Associated Press - 12 December 2012

Far from the Shire, a Hobbit house in PA Country

Associated Press Video - 12 December 2012

Digital Underground

Bucks Life - 1 September 2013

On the drawing board

Building Design + Construction - 1 July 2013

Estates of Excellence

Chester County Town & Country Living - 1 October 2001

Preserving Land and History

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 April 2005

Bucolic Beauty, Classic Charm

Chester County Town & Country Living
 - 1 June 2005

An Epic in the Making

Chester County Town & Country 
Living - 23 October 2008

Unique Homes - A House fit for a Hobbit

CNN Money - 28 November 2011

Vision Becomes Reality for Tolkien Collector

Collector’s News - 1 October 2006

Fit for a Hobbit

Cottages & Bungalows - 1 February 2009

71st Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2011

Home of the Month

County Lines - 1 March 2013

All Around Farm

County Lines - 1 February 2013

73rd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2013

Kimberton Sanctuary

County Lines - 1 September 2012

72nd Tour of Tours

County Lines - 1 September 2012

Arts & Crafts Inspiration

County Lines - 1 February 2010

Preserving & Celebrating History

County Lines Magazine - 31 January 2017

Mercer Hill Farm

Covertside - 1 December 2007

Ground broken for Lenfest Center

Daily Local News - 24 May 2012

The return of an old favorite is brewing in Greenville

Delaware Community News - 16 August 2009

Lenfest Center at the ChesLen Preserve dedication planned

Delaware County News Network - 1 June 2013

Archer & Buchanan's Cattail Fence Wins Design Award

Dexigner.com - 20 September 2012

Soundproof Theater Fits Country Lifestyle

Electronic House
 - 1 May 2008

Adirondack, Shingle Style

Fine Homebuilding - 1 April 2005

Sounds as Good as it Looks

Fine Homebuilding - 1 March 2005

A cottage fit for a hobbit

Fine Homebuilding - 1 May 2007

Arts & Crafts and Automobiles

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 1 March 2017

Mud Room's the Name, Organizing's the Aim

Fine Homebuilding Magazine - 24 September 2015

Swarthmore's New Greenhouse

Garden Design - 24 February 2010

On the Fence

Gardening Australia Magazine - 1 June 2015

Scott's new Wister Center receives Green Building of America Award

Greater Philadelphia Gardens - 20 August 2009

Old-fashioned Entertainment

HD Living - 1 January 2008

"Home Sweet Home" in a Barn

HGTV - 23 February 2017

5 Houses Where You Can Pretend to Be a Hobbit

HGTV Front Door - 9 December 2013

Can't go wrong with...

HGTV Magazine - 1 April 2013

Converting an Old Horse Barn in Pennsylvania

Hooked on Houses - 5 September 2013

15 Dream Closets to Admire

Houzz - 23 January 2017

25 Dream Homes to Satisfy Your Soul

Houzz.com - 17 June 2012

Fall in Love with Lacquer

Houzz.com - 7 January 2016

Help Your Stair Landing Take Off

Houzz.com - 6 June 2012

14 Gardens Straight out of Fairy Tales

Houzz.com - 31 January 2015

9 Ways to Boost Winter Curb Appeal

Houzz.com - 28 November 2013

4 Hobbit Houses Bring Charm to the Landscape

Houzz.com - 1 December 2012

Renovation Detail: The Transom Window

Houzz.com - 3 May 2012

Staircase Landings Worth a Linger

Houzz.com - 10 November 2012

Groom your Rooms with Kentucky Derby Decor

Houzz.com - 29 April 2012

8 Fireplaces to Feed Your Kitchen's Style

Houzz.com - 21 January 2013

Sample Bright Color in the Kitchen

Houzz.com - 27 February 2012

Beauty Goes Beyond the Eye of the Beholder

Houzz.com - 28 August 2013

25 Most Bookmarked Houzz Tours of 2012

Houzz.com - 1 January 2013

Academy Attic Hearth Uncovered

Lower Merion Historical Society Milestones - 1 April 2009

Archer & Buchanan Architecture, Ltd.

Luxury Home Quarterly - 1 April 2011

Mod Men

Main Line - 1 October 2009

A Celebration of Preservation

Main Line Suburban Life
 - 1 September 2010

Element of Surprise

Main Line Today - 22 January 2010

Going to The Whip

Main Line Today - 1 March 2008

A Newtown Square Home with German Inspiration

Main Line Today - 5 February 2016

Custom Cozy

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Peeling Back the Layers

Main Line Today - 1 December 2003

Country Living

Main Line Today - 25 January 2011

Handmade Marvel

Main Line Today - 1 December 2006

Homage to Okie

Main Line Today - 14 January 2009

Artsy Elegance

Main Line Today - 1 June 2008

101 Reasons to Love the Main Line and Western Suburbs

Main Line Today Magazine - 1 March 2015

Music Recording, Down on the Farm

Mix - 1 August 2002

The New Hampshire House

Montco Homes, Gardens, & Lifestyle - 1 November 2016

Take a Tour of the Lenfest Center…

Natural Lands Spring/Summer 2013 - 1 June 2013

Chester Co. Hobbit House Belongs to Lifelong Tolkien Fan

NBC 10 Philadelphia - 14 December 2012

Starry Night Farm

New Old House - 1 January 2008

Okie Inspired

New Old House - 1 April 2009

Small Comfort

Period Homes - 1 July 2007

Built to Last

Period Homes - 1 January 2007

Pure and Simple

Period Homes - 1 November 2009

Fluid Forms

Period Homes - 1 September 2006

Equestrian Lifestyle

Period Homes - 1 May 2013

Palladio Through the Years

Period Homes - 1 January 2011

A Place in the Sun

Period Homes
 - 1 March 2006


Stable R&R

Period Homes
 - 1 July 2005

Great Expectations

Philadelphia - 1 June 2009

Making New Look Old

Philadelphia Business Journal - 8 June 2007

Finding an Architect

Philadelphia Home & Garden - 1 January 2007

Safe Harbor

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 June 2006

Cool Rooms

Philadelphia Home & Garden 
 - 1 October 2003

A Newfangled, Old-Fashioned Mash Up

Philadelphia Inquirer - 6 July 2013

Decorator unleashes the potential of her own home

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 July 2011

Born to Love Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 June 2011

Come Along To See Their Party Barns

Philadelphia Inquirer - 24 May 2014

Jawdropper of the Week: Nirvana in Devon for $8M

Philadelphia Magazine - 9 February 2017

Back to the barn

Philadelphia Style - 1 November 2007

New Life for Water Works Building

Press Release - 1 November 2011

Archer & Buchanan Bring on New Principal

Press Release - 1 June 2012

Architectural Portfolio "Outstanding Designs"

Press Release - 1 November 2008

Archer & Buchanan Projects Win National Awards

Press Release - 1 November 2013

Christian Activities Building

Press Release - 1 May 2009

Wister Center Wins GOLD

Press Release - 1 November 2010

Archer & Buchanan’s Land Preserve Wins Design Award

Press Release - 23 September 2013

Archer & Buchanan Receives Best of Houzz 2014 Award

Press Release - 4 February 2014

Archer & Buchanan Student Activities Center Opens

Press Release - 1 October 2012

Archer & Buchanan Receives 2014 Palladio Award

Press Release - 10 March 2014

Archer & Buchanan Names New Senior Associate

Press Release - 1 August 2012

Archer & Buchanan Architecture Wins First Outstanding Firm Award

Society of American Registered Architects, Pennsylvania Council honors firm and new project - 30 November 2015

Remaking History

Suburban Life - 1 March 2012

Big Building Projects at Grove City College

The Business Journal - 9 February 2011

The Custom Home - Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt - 1 December 2012

Down on the Farm

The Hunt - 1 April 2008

The Custom Home: Five Trends to Watch

The Hunt Magazine - 1 December 2013

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Lenfest Center Opens at the ChesLen Preserve

The Hunt Magazine - 22 July 2013

A Barn For all Reasons-- Especially Parties

The Hunt Magazine - 4 May 2016

Hillandale Farm Provides an Oasis for Empty Nesters

The Hunt Magazine - 12 August 2016

Giving Antique Objects a Second Chance

The Hunt Magazine - 19 January 2017

The Wister Education Center and Greenhouse

The Journal of Green Building - 1 April 2010

Pet Projects

The Philadelphia Inquirer - 11 December 2015

A 'modest proposal' could save Eastern's log cabin

The Suburban and Wayne Times - 13 March 2008

Stars Align to Spotlight Preserve’s Latest Addition

The Unionville Times - 18 June 2013

Complementing History

Traditional Building Magazine - 23 June 2014

Planting Ideas

Traditional Building
 - 1 October 2010

All-Around Adaption

Untacked Magazine - 4 May 2015

Happy Days

Veranda - 1 January 2013

Loading tweets...