What's trending in homes this year? Our crystal ball readers reveal all. House design The shift from traditional to more modern, urban design will continue to accelerate. "Cleaner lines, big open spaces" are the order of the day, according to Shawn Bellman, director of marketing at Rich-craft Homes. In keeping with that trend, the company - which has not abandoned its traditional lines - recently launched new executive towns with a strongly modern, urban sensibility; it will also introduce a new, modern elevation option in its singles this year. That's all in line with the National Kitchen and Bath Association rankings published in 2012. For the first time, the ratings found the more modern transitional style, which includes some traditional elements, had finally outstripped purely traditional kitchen design in popularity. Last year, Tartan Homes, anticipating a growing demand for multi-generational housing, introduced floor plans such as the Port Huron, featuring a main-floor guest suite with an insulated noise wall, walk-in closet and bathroom. Being on the main floor, it's ideal for an aging parent. Tartan's Kawartha model has a study that can be transformed into an optional guest suite. Meanwhile Kevin O'Shea, Ottawa operations manager for Monarch Homes, says in an email that many buyers are requesting upgrades to hardwood in second-floor bedrooms and quartz countertops in the kitchen. Speaking of kitchens, Bellman says those islands just keep getting bigger as they become gathering spots for family and friends. However, he says islands are vanishing from some smaller condos in Toronto, replaced by - gasp! - dining room tables. He's not sure if Richcraft will do that here when it launches three new condo projects this year. Renovations Kitchens, bathrooms and basements will continue to lead the renovation hit parade in 2013. John Liptak of Ottawa's OakWood Renovation Experts is seeing a shift from colonial and traditional style toward modern European finishes. OakWood will introduce a line of kitchen and bath cabinetry in 2013 that includes clean, furniture-style design. CMHC's third-quarter Housing Market Outlook forecast 2012 renovation spending in Ontario would exceed $24 billion. However, it predicted a slowdown in 2013 in part because households typically renovate in the first year of ownership and house sales in the province are expected to moderate in the coming months. In 2011, Ottawa homeowners spent an average of $12,853 on renovations. Creaking joints When it comes to housing designed for an aging population (bungalows with wider doorways for wheelchair access, for example), don't expect an upsurge this year. Although the latest Canadian census figures show a rapidly aging population, home builders are conservative and won't start building large numbers of aging-friendly homes until they get a clear signal from the marketplace. The United States may be ahead of us on this one. Universal design such as wider doorways and halls is a growing influence in that country, according to Sharon Dworkin Bell, senior vice-president for Multifamily and 50+ Housing at the National Association of Home Builders. "Whenever builders are just climbing out of a bad economic period like the one we've had, they often rethink what they're doing." However, she says building for an aging demographic will still be an incremental process. The great outdoors Ottawa landscape architect John Szczepaniak says to look for evermore stylish and comfortable outdoor furniture as we continue to blur the line between indoor and outdoor living. He says natural materials such as Erosan (limestone sandblasted to bring out its veining when wet) are becoming a key element of outdoor decor. Ornamental grasses and plants with coloured foliage, like sedums and coral bells, continue to be favourites. Smart homes get smarter Our fascination with all things electronic will continue this year. Lowes, for example, recently introduced Nest, an easily installed programmable thermostat that "learns" what temperatures you like and creates a heating/cooling schedule around those preferences. At $249, it also connects to Wi-Fi for remote control. New on the Canadian market: VideoCare (videocare.com). Roughly $100 a month, the service provides touchscreen video connectivity especially suited to elderly people who have difficulty with a mouse or keyboard. It allows easy contact with family, caregivers and others. Colour, light and pythons Emerald is the colour of 2013, according to the Pantone Color Institute, which establishes colour standards for home, fashion and other industries. Associated with renewal and the environment, emerald is turning up in paints, wall coverings and fabrics. Ottawa interior designer Francine Bingham says she's also seeing warmer colours such as turquoise-shaded teal and greeny yellows starting to accent the grey tones that have been so popular in recent years. That's counter-intuitive, since happier colours don't usually trend when the economy is hurting. "Maybe it's a sign of good things to come," she says. Either that or we're just in denial about the state of the world. A recent issue of House Beautiful says brass ornaments and grass cloth wallpaper will take off this year. As well, the publication is big on filtered daylight (think filmy window treatments) because diffused light warms space and softens hard edges - not a bad thing if you see your home as a bulwark against harsh reality. Look also for decor trends inspired by fashions that graced the autumn 2012 runway. That means everything from houndstooth-styled wallpaper by York Wallcoverings to animal skin-inspired designs including, from the Pearson furniture company, a small drinks table covered in Italian leather with a python design. It sells for $1,725.
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