Shaping the modern home

As the housebuilding sector continues to evolve, Peter Kelsey of Designer Contracts offers his perspective on how buyer expectations have shaped the design of the modern home.

It’s interesting to look back, particularly over the past 20 years, to see just how much the new build sector has changed – especially in terms of the added extras on offer to buyers.

New home buyers expect much more from their property than they once did, and the ‘extras’ on offer from developers tend to reflect market conditions. The tougher the market, the better the deals, and while some builders offer to pay stamp duties or legal fees, the value of ‘free carpets and curtains’ is much higher – while actually costing the builder less!

Marketing suites also have a much broader and more sophisticated choice of finishing touches than they once did – from the latest flooring options, to window dressings and ‘specced up,’ top-of-the- range kitchens and appliances. Buyers have never had it so good.

Thirty years ago, consumers could expect very little choice. Indeed, for many, it was a case of one colour of carpet throughout the whole property – including wet areas such as the bathroom and kitchen. If buyers were lucky, they had the option of one colour upstairs and another down.

Driven by choice, today’s expectations are higher, and developers are more willing than ever to meet the demands of the consumer with a variety of options, including a comprehensive selection of flooring.

Carpet has traditionally been the go-to flooring for domestic properties since the 1930s, when it became more affordable for the everyday homeowner. Before that, wood parquet was the choice for many, as it was low-cost and reasonably easy to maintain – something that remains an important factor for many homeowners today.

Fast forward to the 2019 market, and we’re seeing demand for a much more luxurious look. This is reflected in the number of realistic wood and natural stone effect luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) flooring collections on the market, from high-end brands offering a stylish and affordable alternative to the real thing. Importantly, LVT has none of the associated care issues of real stone and wood – it’s easy to clean and maintain and great for busy, time-poor families.

Modern buyers will usually select several flooring choices for their new property. Carpet is still a staple, usually in neutral tones and often in easy-to-clean polypropylene with the new ‘supersoft’ ranges proving especially popular in the bedroom, where comfort is paramount. LVT and other options are more prevalent in high traffic areas such as the hallway, kitchen and bathroom, where its eminently practical properties are needed the most.

Today’s buyers are usually pretty savvy and know exactly the look they want from their new property. Thanks to social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram, they can research the interior look they want and source products from their favoured brands. So much so, that when it comes to visiting the new home marketing suite, there’s an expectation that they will have a variety of options available to them – including flooring, fabrics for curtains and blinds, tiling and everything else in between.

This is where the show home property comes into play. Careful research of the target demographic will help the design team to shape an interiors scheme that will help the developer sell properties.

Done well, a show home can prove to be the developer’s greatest marketing tool, offering a great return on investment. In designing it, everything from the flooring, to the quality of the builder’s fixtures and fittings, are taken into consideration. Detail is critical in a market where competition for sales is rife.

People are much more discerning too. Gone are the throw-away days of fast- fashion culture, and in their place are considerations towards the impact of goods on the environment. From a supplier’s perspective, the sustainability of a product and whether it can be recycled are crucial. Where has it been sourced? What kind of packaging has it arrived in? And can it be recycled? They are all questions that suppliers need to address.

So, what is shaping the modern home? It would seem that variety and quality products which stand the test of time are increasingly important, along with an emerging and very real concern about the environment. And, of course, style that will never go out of fashion.

Peter Kelsey is MD at Designer Contracts