TRENDS IN NEW HOMES
A lot of changes have been undergoing over the years – in the perception of the house owners and architects. Many of these changes are so subtle so that we do not recognise very easily, but some has been rapid also. As a practitioner for more than 20 years now, I will say that the demand from the clients in terms of design has increased. Clients have become more conscious of design and nowadays they go into much more details.
People are living longer and the standard of living has gone up. The attitude of the middle class has changed. There was a time when the home was seen as a means to provide shelter and roof over their head. This is no longer so. A refrigerator which was considered a luxury has become an essential part of everyday living. Television, washing machine, vacuum cleaners,, computers etc. have become much more common in the houses and these have to be planned for. Housewives want many of the kitchen gadgets because many of them are working now.
People are spending more and more time indoors where the architecture and interior design is playing a significant part. As a child, I used to play outdoors quite a bit, but my son spends much less time. This may be due to the pressure in school education in terms of homework etc., but also may be due to the fact they watch television much more.
Flexibility In Planning
The next generation should also live in these houses. A well-designed home should be able to respond to changing needs. It should foresee changing demands and lifestyles of the future by providing flexible internal layouts and allowing for cost-effective alterations.
All these changes have made the requirement for extra space. The sizes of the rooms have increased over the years. What was considered a decent living room in the seventies and eighties are much smaller now. The home theatre and the large screen televisions need a minimum viewing distance and the living room have to be bigger. Many people do not want to keep the television in the living room, because the furniture used in the living room is not comfortable enough to watch a movie sitting for two hours or may not give the privacy one requires. Hence an additional room is constructed, one may call it home theatre or a family room. It is nice to have this room in all the houses so that all the members of the family can gather together if the budget permits.
Usually the bigger the size of the room, the greater the flexibility in planning. Nobody imagined 20 years ago that computers and laptops will become so common in houses. A 4000 sq.ft house was considered very large, but no longer in the present context. When I started the practice 30 years ago, the number of electrical points given in a bedroom was few. One tube light, one tungsten lamp and one plug point was the norm. But now, we provide table lamps, dressing mirror lamps, plug points near the table and one either side of the bed and provision for a telephone point also.
Where do most of the Changes happen?
Will the sizes of the houses become smaller in future? Maybe in the cities where the land is scarce.
Preferably the height of the rooms should be more than 10 feet which are considered normal because you are building your own house. It gives a much better feeling especially when the room sizes are more. The overall cost will go up marginally, but the feeling will be nice.
One of the major drawbacks of the flat is that it is impossible to add a room or make an extension. The independent house allows this flexibility to be built in and can be done as the family grows. Additional space can be comparatively cheap, as long as it is not a toilet or a kitchen. The kitchen and the toilet are the most expensive spaces in a house, because of the plumbing, electrical, and costly finishes and tiles.
Additional space is an important long-term investment, for if a house is large enough, it can be usually brought up to date as it gets older; but if there is not enough space the improvements can be impossible.
Misconception about the Plinth Area Cost
We always talk about the per sq.ft cost of a building. This building is costing Rs. 500 per sq.ft. etc. This is quite misleading in the sense that this only gives an overall idea about the approximate cost of a building. Many clients come to me and say that they want to reduce the cost of a building by 10% by reducing the plinth area by 10%. What I tell them is that the overall cost will not come down by 10% unless you remove one of the rooms.
Even if you reduce the area little by little from each room without reducing any of the rooms, the cost of the doors, windows, electrical points, plumbing, etc. remain the same. Or else, to give another example, 100 sq.ft room may cost Rs. 50000/- while a 120 sq.ft will not cost Rs. 60,000/-.
Changes in Kitchen Concepts
More changes are happening in the toilets and the kitchens. A kitchen which was considered very modern five years ago is no longer modern. So many ready-made kitchen shops have come up, but the cost is quite high compared with the custom made kitchens.
The size of the kitchen is much less in the present day kitchens. More effort is taken to give the shelves. In the olden days, people used to sit on the floor and do various activities. So you needed floor space. Now everybody stands and does various kitchen activities. There is no point in having a large room without having enough counter space for various activities. The provision of shelves is more cost-effective than the provision of an extra room for a store. The kind of things we store has also changed. The old days of having these big vessels etc. are gone.
Even eating habits have undergone changes and fast-changing also. More things are being stored in the fridge, with both the husband and wife working. The ready-made foods being bought now starting from milk, curd, juice and even tinned foods make it necessary for large areas of storage in the fridge. The everyday shopping is slowing giving way to once in a week. These changes have to be taken into when planning for the kitchens. Now our habits might be different, but in the next few years, our habits are going to change. At that time we can't redesign the kitchen or shift to a new house.
Many of the expensive imported hardware might not be required when you design the kitchen shelves. The Indian makes are much cheaper and work reasonably well. Please bear in mind, although the kitchen shelves hardware lasts a lifetime, your kitchen shelf will be remodelled much more frequently.
Kitchen equipment is becoming more and more popular. There are many gadgets available in the market but think twice before you buy that not so essential equipment. For example, there is a lot of people who put a dishwasher in their kitchens, but my experience suggests that at least 50% of them are not used. If you are not used to such a lifestyle, then do not put that equipment. The electric chimney is useful equipment, especially in less ventilated rooms.
There is always confusion about where the washing machine is to be kept. Many people use one of the bathrooms as the room in which laundry is done. The concept of utility room attached to the kitchen has come up in many of the areas, one advantage may be that there is no electrical danger compared with the bathrooms. The utility room can be used for various other activities such as washing vessels, ironing, grinding stone etc.
Changes in Dining Concepts
Kitchen cum dining is becoming popular. The kitchen will have to be bigger in this case. Even for those big houses where the large dining room is given, one additional space for family dining is given in the kitchen. The advantage of the kitchen dining is that (like in our ancestral houses, where we used to eat in the kitchen itself, the dining room was absent) the housewife does not have to transfer the food from the kitchen to the dining. The children can have their breakfast in the kitchen before they go to school. Kitchen is not seen as a place where women have to spend a bulk part of their lives, making food, washing vessels etc. In the kitchen cum dining, the husband also helps the housewife in cooking and they talk more in the kitchen cum dining.
Changes in Toilet Concepts
Bathrooms are another place where the changes are happening. One of the recent trends in many of the houses I have done recently is to separate the shower area with an alcove, or a low wall or a shower curtain or cubicle and then do the tiling only for the bath. The tiling is done only for the shower area where the water is going to fall. The rest of the area need not be tiled. There is a good amount of cost reduction in this by avoiding tiles for the rest of the area. You can even add nice colours and hang some painting etc. The room can be made bigger. One of the reasons for keeping the small size of the bathroom is the extra cost involved in tiling.
Changes In The Verandah Concepts
The verandahs in many of our houses are in the front and narrow. Mostly we use that space to segregate the visitors. Looking at the dress of a guest even a ten-year-old child knows whether he should be made to sit in the living room or the verandah. In many cases, the front verandah is very much exposed and the family members do not use this space much. The first-floor balcony overlooking the street is also smilarly very exposed.
The present trend is to give a verandah on the side so that there is more privacy and the family members can use it much more. The width of the verandah is also important and should be a minimum of six feet so that people can sit opposite to each other and talk. In many of the houses I do, I treat like a room and give even more widths.
Verandah is made larger more like a room. It can be on to one side of the house to act as an intermediate space between the house and the garden. Click to visit the project.
Trends in Elevation
The trends in elevation keep on changing. It is very difficult to keep according to the latest fashion because fashion is always changing.
I do a lot of buildings in an ethnic style, need not be in Kerala style. There is a good demand for these kinds of buildings. Most of the resorts which come up are in the ethnic style.
An interior which had been done in an ethnic style, using traditional Chettinad tiles. Old windows, niches etc. Click to visit the project.
Concept Changes in Bed Rooms
In many of the houses, the master bed becomes an important room. Many of my clients have told me that the children sleep along with them in the master bed. We do not have a culture of shifting young children into another room. Some people ask for a children’s bedroom which is connected by a door from the master bed.
One of the clients has told me that he would like to have the TV only in his master bedroom. He is busy, comes back late from the office and the whole family is in front of the television watching the family serials, which he is not interested at all. If the TV is put in the master bedroom, he can spend reading something while the family watches the TV serials.
Another change which is happening is the arrival of home computers. We need a place to keep it. For the smaller budget homes, we have to put it in one of the beds.
The husband will always get a study or office room attached to the house. The children get their bedrooms. The housewife never gets a personalised space of her own where she can keep her things etc. Many clients say that the whole house belongs to her or the kitchen is her place. Some clients ask for a personalised study or private space for the housewives in the bedroom itself.
Many children, as well as parents, want to do the interior design of the children’s bedroom particularly. Their toys are kept, the wall colours are different, and the furniture may also be different. They might need more floor space for children to play sitting on the ground.
Other Trends in Houses
The concept of lighting has changed over the years. When I started my career 22 years ago, one light point and one tube light and one 5 Amp socket was the norm for a master bedroom. Now we need extra plug points for a computer, cordless phone, mosquito mats, cell phone recharging, table lamp, music system etc. in the master bedroom itself.
The amount of light that we require has also changed over the years. Offices etc. are designed these days with more light level. This is making a slow change in our eye perception of the light.
More and more rooms are air-conditioned these days. The cost of air-conditioning may not be very high compared with the overall cost of the houses, but the running cost is quite high.
A powder room has become common. Some of the very affluent are adding a home office now because they do not go to the office every day, especially when they do not have any meetings. The time spent on travelling to the office can be saved and can be spent more creatively. This trend may become more common in the future.
The storage requirements have also gone up. Increasing provisions are made for kitchen storage, wardrobe storage and general storage.
Before the Construction Begins, Start Planning
One of the important things to do is to think about the furniture arrangement of the rooms before the construction itself. If you have special pieces of furniture, then it is important to plan the placements of these pieces well ahead. The position of the furniture affects almost everything – the way you move, the way it looks etc. All the electrical points depend on the placement of the furniture.
In the case of a living room, if there is a TV, the furniture arrangement should be in such a way that everybody can watch it comfortably. Also, it should be comfortable to engage in a conversation and at the same time give a nice view of the garden, if one wants to look outside and read a newspaper.
In case, you are buying a ready-made apartment, you do not have much control over the size or the position of the electrical points. You are forced to adjust according to the building rather than the building adjusting to your requirements and lifestyle.
Sustainability and Green Principles – Eco-friendly cabinets
Recently a lot of thought is given to designing houses which follow the green and sustainable principles. It is not the initial cost that is important, but the maintenance cost is also important.
Use of water should be minimised. There are a lot of water closets which reduce the consumption of water are available.
The energy consumed by the different fittings have to be reduced and lighting plays a major part now. LED lights are slowly becoming the norm of the day.
As far as painting is concerned, lead paints have gone out of use a long time ago. If you use conventional paints, formaldehyde which is harmful to health is still being used. People do not like the smell of the paint or they get a headache in a newly painted room. The paints must be contained within safe levels. Even some of the plywoods, particle boards, some floor finishes etc. are also sources of formaldehyde which are harmful to human beings.
The world is moving more towards the use of eco-friendly building materials.
In every house, one-bedroom should be disable friendly. I normally make the ground floor bedroom a disable friendly one with wheelchair access. The doors will have to be three and a half feet in width with the shutter opening outwards including the toilet door. This will be useful when you become old or you meet with an accident.
In a sloping site, if the rooms are built at different heights according to the slope, at least one bed, kitchen and dining should be on the same floor.
Natural materials such as stone, timber etc. are much more eco-friendly. The trend in interiors is to use more products that are gearing towards the natural finish.
Lot of the plywoods, flooring tiles etc. resembles natural materials and are cheaper when compared with natural materials.
Once upon a hut, redesigned by us was built predominantly with natural materials.
Anantya resort, designed by us. Click to visit the project.
People always prefer corner rooms. The main reason is that light is coming from two sides and they have a soothing effect on the psychological well-being.
Having more windows is much nicer, they bring in more natural light and gives a beautiful view into the garden or overlook the mountains. But then it is a costly proposition. Costing about six times the price of a solid wall. Fixed glass in windows are cheaper, but in Kerala climate, you require cross ventilation and openable windows.
Sivaram residence, designed by us. Click to visit the project.
Wayanad House well lit with double-height floor to ceiling opening with a good view, designed by us. Click to visit the project.
Colour plays a major part in the interior design. Even the colour can affect the mood of a person, research on colour is talking about colour therapy also.
It is very personal, but more and more dark colours are being used for the interiors. Yellow, green and blue is becoming more and more popular. The light colours for the walls, floors and the furniture will make the room look bigger.
Mangala Heritage,was designed by us. Click to visit the project.
Regenta Hotel, Mysore, designed by us. Click to visit the project.
Feel of the Room
Your eyes must lead to something which is looking nice or something which needs attention. Too many paintings in a room will lead to a situation that the eye is not led to any of them. The rooms can be arranged in a way that the eyes are led to different objects or in some cases, even to an outside tree or a sculpture etc.
From the important rooms, the view towards the outside can be a nice garden. This will enhance the view inside too if you are looking at a nice waterbody or fish pond etc.
Wayanad house, designed by us. Click to visit the project.
Do not Clutter Rooms with Too Many Things
In case you want the interior of the rooms to look nicer, one of the golden rules should be not to clutter with too many furniture. Have proper furniture with the kind of uses that the room is put to is one of the keys to success. I never recommend a three-seater for a living room because nobody sits in the middle seat, but instead give a spacious two-seater. If there are more than six people in your living room, mostly it will get divided into two groups automatically.
Hulikere Residence Coorg, designed by us. Click to visit the project.
Storage is very important in our houses. Having proper storage will reduce the clutter in rooms, which in turn will make them look nice.
We do not tend to throw things away. We keep old books, old furniture etc. The utility of any room depends upon the storage. For example, even if the room size is small, a properly designed kitchen with a lot of shelving can make you feel better.
Never underestimate the role of storage shelves.
Design – Specifications are also very important.
Design alone is not the only criteria. For example, when you buy a plumbing fitting, the thickness of the coating matters, the amount of brass used matters and the details of the internal parts matters.
I think the close circuit cameras in a house is becoming more relevant in the future. Many thefts could be found out because of these. More and more people are providing CCTV in their houses. But I do not see much advantage in providing the burglar alarms.
A decade ago, we used to give provisions for internet cables in every bedroom. With the advent of wifi, the provision of giving cables for the internet was completely avoided since wifi will cater for the same. But now, we have started providing cables for every room in addition to providing wifi. This is because the internet speed is going to be multiplied many times and wifi will have its limitations. Even you will be able to see movies from the internet directly and this requires cables for good connectivity. Even cable TV is going to give way to High Definition Televisions and they require a different set of cables. The days might not be far when you see a movie directly on your television provided the internet speed is high.
Never go after fashion. Our lifestyle is different. Our culture is different. Things are changing. We never imagined that computers will become so common. Never thought that the TV screen sizes will become bigger.
Modern, Traditional etc. I think the style is very superficial, but whatever style you follow, if the kitchen or the toilet doesn't work, then it is of no use. But generally, there is a strong trend toward simple things. Ornamentation is becoming lesser and lesser. The very modern style is becoming lesser. The minimalism style which was there is also slowly disappearing.
The more natural feel is becoming popular, natural material feel is becoming popular.
It is not the style which matters, but the practicalities.
Anantya resort, designed by us. Click to visit the project.
What you like is most important. The interiors should express your individuality, not the designer's taste. This is for you and you are going to live there. If you like colours, if you like ornamentation, then go for it.
(This is an article which I wrote for a Malayalam magazine few years ago, but getting published in English for the first time.)