Architect Frank Lloyd Wright and builder Joseph Eichler would have smiled smugly if they had been sitting in the audience of the recent International Builders Show in Orlando. During a press conference at the show, panelists who judged the “Best American Living Awards” identified the hot trends of 2007. Our favorites are:

  • the re-emergence of contemporary design, both with interior furnishings and exterior home design
  • smaller homes
  • more outdoor spaces

While it could be argued that Wright was an American proponent of the suburbs, with his Usonian philosophy, he designed homes that were smaller and more affordable than the average house at the time. He was one of the first to eliminate the formal areas and integrate the kitchen into the primary living space of the home, and with his use of cantilever design and strong horizontals, he defined “the contemporary home” in the 30’s and 40’s. His home interiors were filled with light and natural materials and the combined use of decorative glass, brick, wood and concrete blocks helped to revolutionize the whole homebuilding process.
Joseph Eichler, the famous Bay Area homebuilder of the 50’s and 60’s followed a similar path with his A-framed roof lines and low sweeping horizontal design. Eichler homes are easily recognized and cherished for their open living spaces, where an Eero Saarinen chair would look picture perfect for any photo shoot in a modern day shelter magazine.

His use of the atrium as a home design element brought the natural world indoors where it could be enjoyed. He used radiant-heated concrete floors, rear glass panels and exposed post and beam construction. Think Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren were the first in line to mix their contemporary colors for the paint market? They’d have to stand behind Joseph Eichler who created many colors that became standards.

Although the 2007 trend of smaller homes may be driven by boomer downsizing and energy costs, it is also an opportunity for builders and architects to provide more affordable housing. Wright and Eichler’s passion was to embrace this challenge in their respective times, while recognizing the importance of making their homes not only stylish, but livable by including outdoor spaces in their designs.

While the exterior contemporary home design excitement might not be widespread across America, we believe there is enough interest to stir things up in the builder’s market and the design studios. Sometimes it takes a look back to see what the master builders were trying to tell us about our “trends of the future”!