Now trending: A balanced, meaningful approach

Project designed by Deborah Pierce AIA, CAPS, Pierce Lamb Architects; Photo: Kathy Tarantola Photography.

What’s important to owners building homes today?

Get the architect’s perspective in a survey of residential design trends. Read what Ellen Perko AIA, co-chair of the BSA Residential Design Committee; Mark Hutker FAIA, principal and founder of Hutker Architects; and Josh Safdie AIA, co-chair of the BSA Access Committee, have to say about what they’re seeing in home renovations, additions, and new construction.

This article is part of a series.

  1. Now trending: Flexible storage, seamless space
  2. Now trending: A balanced, meaningful approach
  3. Now trending: The ease of universal design

This content first appeared in the Domicile issue of ArchitectureBoston magazine, winter 2016, volume 19, issue no. 4. All rights reserved. For more on Domicile, visit

A balanced, meaningful approach

By Mark Hutker FAIA

I find that our clients are increasingly seeking authenticity. They are gravitating toward meaningful design rather than ostentation.

One trend I’ve observed is what I call the “anti-McMansion.” Instead of designing a grand show house that accommodates every possible contingent use, our highest-end clients are interested in right-sizing true to their needs. “Build once, well” is a common refrain in our office, and I think it rings true for a lot of people considering new construction or renovations. Bigger does not always mean better. The key is often creating hybrid spaces that can accommodate large groups when the whole family is in town, but also feel comfortable for just Mom and Dad. Our homes change as our lives do; it makes sense for them to be agile, fit, and trim in their shapes and configurations, with no wasted space.

Another trend is stewardship. Scalability, is in itself, a sustainable proposition, but there is also a heightened awareness of, and demand for, a balanced approach to energy conservation and use. That starts with investing in the performance of the building envelope (high-quality insulation, doors, and windows). These elements will always pay back over time. Also, while they amortize, you will be much more comfortable in the house. Many clients are also looking to more active systems, such as solar, closed recirculating cooling (CRC), and geothermal, to create homes that produce more than they consume.

Finally, clients are looking for narrative in their home’s design and material construction. They are seeking homes that relate to their natural context as well as the life patterns of their occupants. Materials and shapes are chosen with the local landscape, construction heritage, and vernacular in mind. Design details are, at times, derived from history (that of a place or family with relevance) or created to inspire and engage their users. Rather than looking at architecture as an inert shelter or investment strategy, people are coming to recognize the potential for affirming, effervescent homes that add joy and meaning to their lives.