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10 Home Building & Design Trends from the International Builders' Show

Heres What Home Builders and Designers Will Be Up To This Year


The show – albeit virtual – must go on!

Faced with the challenges of COVID-19 – health and safety concerns as well as ongoing travel restrictions – the 2021 International Builders Show (IBS) transitioned from an in-person event to a virtual experience. The week-long virtual trade show featured sessions on the latest product launches, home building and design innovations, and spotlighted The New American Home 2021 and The New American Remodel 2021.

The showcase of the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), the 2021 New American Home is a three-story residence in Winter Park, FL. The ground floor includes a three-car garage, guest bedroom with an ensuite, and office. The second floor features a large master bedroom, a spa-like master bath that connects to a fabulous walk-in closet, a lounge with walk-out balcony, the main laundry room, and an exercise room. The third floor has amazing 14-foot ceilings and includes the Great Room, music room, and a state-of-the-art kitchen that connects to a large outside terrace and summer kitchen overlooking the treetops. The home was adjusted by design to fit the new needs that arose during the Covid-19 pandemic. One major change was transforming one of the bedrooms on the first floor into a home office now that working from home is more common. 


According to data from the virtual sessions, a variety of key trends emerged that were related to the pandemic, including the average size of the home (remaining at 2,486 square feet), an increase in the number of homes with four or more bedrooms and three or more bathrooms, and the popularity of new homes.

The virtual sessions also explored the new design concepts, construction methods, and products that we can expect to see resonate in the 2021 residential market – and become more common in new builds. In addition, there were discussions on past design ideas that have been refashioned – and evolved – into some of the most popular trends today.

Here are 10 building/interior/floor plan concepts from the 2021 International Builders Show that are currently trending.


1.  Staircase: Divider in Open Floor Plans

A number of potential buyers usually look for grand and dramatic stairs as the focal point for their high-ceilinged two-story homes. But here is a novel concept that designers are now incorporating in their floor plans – using the stairs – often dramatic but not necessarily so – as a smart way of zoning off spaces in an open floor plan. While not necessarily the showstopper that some homeowners may want, a staircase in an open concept design is still a striking feature, as well as a functional one.

Curving staircase with elaborate architectural detailing

This fabulous staircase with elaborate architectural detailing is one of many amazing features of a five-bedroom, 5.5-bath European style home (Plan # 106-1218).

Beautiful basement staircase that separates the dining and kitchen area from the Great Room

Open floor plan Great Room as seen from kitchen area

Top: Open the front door of a spectacular 3,469-square-foot rustic style Ranch home with two bedrooms, 2.5-baths, and a four-car garage; walk into this foyer; and see how the beautifully built basement staircase separates the dining area and kitchen from the Great Room. Bottom: Another view of the open floor plan from the deck illustrates the staircase as a clever tool” to zone off areas of the Great Room (Plan #161-1091).


2.  "Volume" Drama

Create drama with vaulted ceilings in Great Rooms and other areas of the home. In larger homes – especially two-story ones – it is usually the family gathering section of the Great Room that features a soaring vaulted high ceiling – with clear views of the entire space from balconies or lofts.

In one-story homes, the Great Room – and sometimes the foyer, dining room, kitchen, master bedroom, and/or master bath – may be vaulted, typically with clerestory or large windows and sliding glass doors with transom windows above them. The "volume rooms" give the impression of more space, especially in homes with smaller square footage. To give these rooms dimension and texture, the vaulted ceiling may be accentuated by exposed beams.

Two-story-tall Great Room with double-height windows and balcony

This incredible Great Room (family room) in a gorgeous 5,164-square-foot luxury home plan includes sliding glass doors leading out to the patio, large, double-height windows, and a soaring two-story ceiling. The luxurious home has five bedrooms, 3.5+ baths, a three-car garage, theater room, and library  (Plan # 161-1003).

Living room with large windows and vaulted ceiling with skylights

Skylights and clerestory windows in a two-story-tall living room

Top: From the luxury plan with a palatial footprint, we go to a two-story, 1,235-square foot rustic getaway cabin with three bedrooms and two baths. Look at this vaulted ceiling in the living room, which creates the impression of a bigger space. The large windows and skylights give the living room a bright and airy feel. Bottom: Another view of the cabins living room showcases the clerestory windows and skylights (Plan #160-1009).


3.  Extra Attention on Light

Its not just “volume rooms” that make a space seem larger, brighter, and dramatic. There is something to be said for large windows when it comes to aesthetics, ambiance, and functionality. House designers are embracing large windows for that extra attention on light. Just visualize an open floor home with wall-to-wall glass windows and that perfect warm glow of sunshine streaming in. Called “daylighting,” the design concept uses architectural elements – such as large windows and skylights – to allow natural light into living spaces.

Even if not primarily facing south, when the large windows are arranged strategically in the open floor areas, they can provide light to the entire space. What a great way to connect with the natural surroundings and add more natural light to the home.

Vaulted living room with double rows of windows on two walls

Charm and great design combine to make this family room in a two-story Contemporary home airy and sunny. For natural light and brilliance, two rows of large glass windows surround the attractively furnished space. The beautiful home includes a covered front porch, Great Room, second floor master, main level laundry, and other amenities (Plan #161-1140).

Great Room with vaulted timber ceiling and large windows on three walls

This Great Room in a 3,757-square-foot Ranch plan has a vaulted ceiling with exposed timbers, a variety of large picture windows that provide spectacular views of the natural landscape, and sliding glass doors topped with clerestory windows. The magnificent home includes four bedrooms, four baths, a powder room, covered front and rear porches, a family room, a home office, and a fireplace in the master suite (Plan #161-1088).


4.  Connecting the Indoors and Outdoors

Don’t stop with large windows for natural light and panoramic views. Sliding/stacking glass doors with windows or transoms over them in volume/vaulted rooms open up living areas to sunlight and air and connect the indoors and outdoors. And just think of the floor space that you save – inasmuch as these multi-pane glass doors open from side to side rather than inward or outward.

While these sliding glass doors are trendy today, they were introduced – albeit in a more primitive form – during the pre-war era at the start of the 20th century. Historians speculate that sliding/stacking doors were fashioned after Japanese doors called Shoji, a sliding translucent door hung by a wood frame.

Talk about the fascinating architectural cycle and how past designs are refashioned to keep up with the times.

Great Room with vaulted ceiling, clerestory windows, and a wall of sliding glass doors

Patio showing sliding/stacking wall of sliding glass doors open to let the outside in

Top: This breathtaking Great Room in a spectacular 3,264-square-foot Mid-century Modern home features a soaring vaulted ceiling with clerestory windows and a wall of sliding glass doors that open to the patio. All these design elements allow plenty of natural light to filter into the space. Bottom: Hello, sunshine! A view of the rear patio of the one-story, three-bedroom Mid-century Modern shows the sliding/stacking glass doors fully open to let the daylight and the air in (Plan #202-1013).


5.  Revisiting the Home Office

With more people working from home, theres a scramble to find spaces in the home that are conducive to working. Don’t fret. Whether you live in a mansion-like structure with the square footage for a dedicated home office or reside in a home with a smaller footprint, you can carve out innovative spaces within your space for a work corner.

Creativity and imagination will get you everywhere, and if you look closely enough you can find a nice – even quirky – space for your home office.

Here are some ideas to help you find – and put together – a very practical if sometimes unconventional work-from-home” area.

  • Quiet corner in a bedroom – If you have a good-sized bedroom, you can easily fit a desk and a comfortable (ergonomic) chair in a corner. Make sure your desk has some drawers for office supplies and other work necessities. It’s in your bedroom – so you can make it as simple or as elaborate as you want to fit your style and needs.

Work corner in a bedroom that's mostly white with subtle splashes of beige

A study in white: This simple work corner in a bedroom goes with the flow of the color palette – mostly white with subtle splashes of beige and the green leaves of the planter (photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash).


  • Double-duty dining table – For apartment dwellers who lack space, be creative and use available resources. A dining table can easily be converted into a workspace when it’s not used for dining.

Small dining table in an apartment that doubles as a work-from-home area

An ideal solution for small apartments and homes: Turn the dining table into a work/study station when meals are over (photo credit: Dawid Liberadzki on Unsplash).


  • The mudroom as office space – With stay-at-home directives, there is less traffic in the mudroom/laundry room. Why not spend your working hours there? Change out space in nearby existing drawers, cabinets, and other built-ins for your office-related materials  

Work/study area at a countertop in a large mud/laundry room

Who says you cant work in a mudroom? Especially when its as snazzy and comfortable as this one in a 3,757-square-foot, four-bedroom Ranch style home. Add your own decor accents and your personal touch to make it your private office (Plan #161-1088).


  • Closet office – If there are unused closets in the home, it’s easy enough to turn them into workspaces. A friend of mine in a New York City apartment cleared part of her walk-in coat closet to fit a desk and her computer.

  • Room divider in an open floor plan – Sliding room dividers, curtains or even glass partitions can work to separate work corners from the rest of the floor space.

  • Entryway or hallway home office – Good-sized entryways/foyers or hallways can be transformed into temporary home offices.

Spacious foyer in a gorgeous one-story, 2,686-square-foot Country home

The spacious foyer of a gorgeous one-story, four-bedroom, 2,686-square-foot Country home presents a lot of opportunities for home office makeovers. Change out the bench for a desk, get a chair, load up the laptop/desktop and you are ready to work. To the left is the dining room – nicely partitioned by glass doors - that can also serve as makeshift home office or study space (Plan #142-1169).


6.  “Island” of Serenity and Peace

Everyone wants a getaway area to relax, breathe, and occasionally take time apart from family. Heightened by the pandemic, the want has now become a necessity, with families spending almost all their time together at home. Forget about “man caves” and “she sheds.” How about something simpler? As in a retreat/getaway space inside the home?

Where do you begin? Look around. Do you have any room with unused space? In some homes, a sitting area off the master suite serves as a retreat nook, or a loft over the garage, or even window seats. You must be imaginative when considering retreat spaces. Check unusual places – under the stairs, inside a walk-in pantry, an office, a closet. You may even section off a space or corner using glass doors or dividers so that it’s just for you.

Once you decide, think about how you can make the retreat space work for you. Some people may just want a cozy reading area with a comfortable couch where they can sit back and relax. Others may like lounge chairs, soft lights, throw pillows, cushions, and blankets.

The bottom line: reflect on things/furnishings that make you relax and feel warm and cozy, and bring them into your retreat corner.

Loft in a Farmhouse style home where you can get away for some alone time

Want to get away and spend some quiet time alone? Go up to this attractive and spacious loft in a Transitional Farmhouse style home where you can relax, watch a movie, or take a nap. The amazing two-story home features three bedrooms, 2.5 baths, covered front and rear porches, and a main floor master suite (Plan #168-1129).

Retreat/getaway corner in the sitting room of a master bedroom suite

Here is a terrific retreat/getaway corner. The sitting room off the master suite in a five-bedroom, 4.5 bath luxury home comes with comfortable couches where you can read, relax, perhaps knit or crochet, or just enjoy magnificent views. The two-story luxury home includes covered front and rear porches, sundeck, mudroom, and a three-car garage (Plan #161-1075).


7.  Attention-Getting Ceilings

Stepping away from the simple and familiar white 8-foot ceilings, designers are shifting their focus on eye-catching – even funky – 10-foot and 11-foot-high ceilings. Yes, ceilings are in play. From finish, color, and shape to design and décor, depending on the room, to lighting options, high ceilings are making a stylish statement as essential parts of the home’s interior.

Whats fashionable and trendy in 2021 ceilings?

A mix of the classic white with artsy, contemporary, and hip designs. Think glass, wallpapered, wooden, dropped, state-of-the-art 3-D – tray, coffered, beamed, and barrel – and vaulted ceilings as some of the options. There are also the dramatic ceilings with LED strip lights in kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, family rooms, and hallways.

Amazing minimalist living room with LED light strips in the ceiling

The high ceiling as a showstopper is illustrated in this amazing minimalist living room bathed with dazzling light through the LED strip lights on the ceiling (photo credit: antho tropo on Unsplash).

Country style home's covered front porch with natural wood ceiling

This wooden ceiling of wood is the perfect touch for the fabulous covered front porch of a four-bedroom, 2,686 square-foot Country home. The stunning residence has 10- and 11-foot-high ceilings (Plan #142-1169).

Master bedroom suite with fabulous 10-foot-tall tray ceiling

A charming master suite in a one-story country-style home with European details features a 10-foot tray ceiling, double vanities, and his and her walk-in closets. The 1,711-square foot home includes three bedrooms and two bathrooms (Plan 153-1943).


8.  Dirty Kitchen Pantry

Ah, the contradictions of life! Did you ever think that at one point a "dirty" or "scullery" kitchen will be a hot design trend? It seems that designers are gravitating toward “dirty, or mess, kitchen pantries" to keep the main, or show, kitchen clean for social gatherings.

While dirty kitchens have been an outdoor mainstay in most Asian and Middle Eastern countries, the concept is just gaining traction in the U.S. These spaces – whether within the home or outdoors – give homeowners the luxury of cooking without odors and grease permeating the showcase kitchen.

"Mess" kitchens/pantries as they are sometimes referred to are secondary kitchens where the real work of food prep, cooking, and cleanup is done. Equipped with a sink, dishwasher, refrigeration, cooking appliances and storage space, these spaces are more utilitarian and serviceable.

No pun intended – they do the "dirty" work to maintain the main or show” kitchen clean and spotless for entertaining.

While dirty kitchens/pantries are trending now, some designers are skeptical about whether they will turn into a mainstream feature like home theaters or a gym or even a wine cellar. Two reasons cited are: cost – they can be as expensive to build as the main kitchen; and, if not built outdoors, dirty kitchens take up valuable space on the first floor.

For now, those who have the budget – and are serious chefs and home entertainers – can enjoy the convenience, beauty, and functionality of these mess” spaces.

Beautiful white-and-gray L-shape kitchen with glass cabinet doors and stainless-steel appliances

Out-of-site "dirty pantry" where actual food prep, cleanup, and other work takes place, keeping the main kitchen clean

Top: This beautiful white-and-gray kitchen is elegant and thoughtfully designed. To keep it that way, especially during hectic dinner parties and other entertainment events, there is a large pantry/work space hidden behind the wall that holds the refrigerator and oven. Bottom: This is the work space behind the wall – a so-called "dirty pantry," though its not dirty at all right now. Adjacent to the mudroom entry from the garage, the pantry is the first stop for homeowners after grocery shopping. Complete with sink and diswasher for messy prep and cleanup, there is also plenty of countertop work space and open shelving for dinnerware, cookware, and food items (both photos courtesy of Hanson Builders).

Outdoor kitchen with a great view, part of a European style home

With great views like this from the fully furnished kitchen in a luxurious two-story European style home, chefs can spend all day – and – night preparing food. This outdoor kitchen is more like the dirty kitchens” you can find in Asian and Middle Eastern countries (Plan #106-1156).


9.  A Place for Grandma and Grandpa

Already a trend for several years, multi-generational homes are becoming more popular, with many families accommodating their in-laws and older parents together under one roof. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 12 percent of Americans lived in a multi-generational household in 1980. By 2016, the number rose to 20 percent; and by the summer of 2020, 52 percent of young adults were living with their parents.   

Covid has certainly accelerated the demand as families want to keep elderly parents and school-aged children in one home because of health and safety concerns. In addition, grandparents are helping working families with remote learning and childcare needs. 

As the need for multi-generational homes increase, we can expect to see some subtle but significant design changes – such as more ground level suites, wider bathroom doors, lower positioning of light switches, dropped down kitchen countertops, and more focus on green home features. 

Transitional Craftsman/Cape Cod home with 2,830 square feet of living space

Main level floor plan layout of plan #106-1315 showing optional in-law suite

Top: Wonderfully designed and attractive Transitional Craftsman/Cape Cod home with 2,830 square feet of living space is custom-made for multi-generational living. The one-story home features three bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a fully furnished in-law suite with two porches, a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and large bedroom. The house plan comes with an unfinished, walk-out basement, which could be completed to include a recreation room, wine cellar, craft room, or other amenities. In addition, there is an upstairs space, which could be converted into a fourth bedroom with a bathroom, or a bonus room over the garage. Bottom: The floor plan of the home’s main level shows the spacious and fully furnished in-law suite (Plan #106-1315).


10.  Reinterpreting Traditional Materials

As the home continues to be reinvented, design trends are focusing more on functionality, efficiency, comfort – without sacrificing charm and appeal. To that end, house designers and builders are exploring contemporary treatments of traditional designs by using materials in different ways. In 2021 and beyond, we will see more metal roofing material used as siding, ceramic plank flooring as wall paneling, and concrete for a variety of surfaces.

Metal siding is becoming a popular choice in contemporary residential designs because of its visual appeal and durability. Another material that is being used for exterior facades is concrete, which is aesthetically pleasing and low maintenance – and can be left exposed.

Designers are also building more shed and double-shed roofs instead of the classic gable and hip roofs.

Contemporary style home with double shed roof and painted and natural wood siding

A thoroughly modern exterior look enhances the curb appeal of this 1,212-square foot Contemporary home with one bedroom and 1.5 baths. The home has a double shed roof, covered front porch, sundeck, and unfinished basement (Plan #126-1966).


Sit back, relax, and take in all these design trends that may help you in planning and creating some of your interior spaces. 



Footnote: The top right photos in the lead image of this article is the Great Room of a five-bedroom, 5.5-bath Contemporary style home – with its stunning staircase and fireplace. For details on the home with the 10-foot ceilings and all its luxurious features, go to Plan #161-1048


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