A home is much more than just a place to hang your hat, it’s a place where you sleep, spend free time, and relax with your loved ones. But what current trends can help you make the most of your space, and give you a sense of calm and comfort when the outside world sometimes seems so harsh and unforgiving? With the economy working to repair itself from the 2008 collapse, people are searching for less expensive, more energy efficient ways to create a comfortable living space. As many people downsize in our current economic climate, the definition of “home” shifts and changes; we are more open to community living situations, smaller spaces, and even the thought of houses on wheels.
Whatever home you choose, give yourself a minute to consider the following home trends for 2014 and beyond. If you’re struggling to find a place or are looking to buy a new home, check out Trevor Roberti’s How to Buy a Home, and get ready to create your perfect living space.
1. Natural Landscaping
I live in the desert, and can never figure out why many of my neighbors insist on maintaining a lawn. Lawns put a strain on your community’s water supply, and often require hours of maintenance. Consider planting your yard with local native plants and trees, and include a vegetable garden if your climate allows. By focusing on native species, you’ll better understand your environment, while simultaneously preserving the local habitat and reducing your water consumption. For more information on organic soil and gardening, try Samantha Langlois’ Organic Soil Building for the Backyard Organic Gardner.
2. Feng Shui
Thousands of years old, Feng Shui is a Chinese system of orienting buildings to create harmonious spaces. It can also be used in interior spaces including your home or office. In Glenda Feilen’s course Feng Shui the Easiest Way, you’ll learn the basics of this age-old art form to maximize the balance and harmony within your household.
3. Focus on You
There’s no point in buying furniture you dislike simply to follow a fashionable trend. Think about your preferences and your budget and use your own personal style to create a comfortable home. Current decorating ideas lean toward neutrals with a splash of color, and I recommend taking a pragmatic approach to your home. If you have small children or pets, avoid the white or light-colored couch. Think about your favorite color and choose pieces that inspire you and make you feel happy.
4. Go Eco
Reduce your carbon footprint and increase your home’s energy efficiency by using LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs. Try to shop locally when considering any home improvements, and utilize locally sourced materials whenever possible. These small choices may not seem like much, but they add up, and can contribute to a more stable local economy and a reduction in your energy costs. I also recommend installing rain barrels to collect rainwater for landscape irrigation, and solar panes to decrease reliance on traditional energy sources.
5. Maximize the Minimal
Tiny homes are a current trend that doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. Building kits for these small structures are available online, and they maximize the use of minimal space. If you’re not into moving your family of five into a 100-square foot house on wheels, consider at least how you can utilize you current space more efficiently. For years I used my drafting table as my primary office space, which was a great idea, but discouraged me from drawing since I’m always on my computer for work. Instead of adding an unnecessary addition onto our home, I decided to finally clear out the hall closet and turn it into a workspace. It forced me to organize (and get rid of) my many boxes of junk, and has also afforded me the opportunity to draw at my drafting table or work in my office whenever I want.
6. Get Rid of Your Stuff
As Americans, we are a nation of consumers. We constantly feel the need to fill our spaces with numerous objects and clothing and things that we don’t need. De-clutter your space by going through each room and donating or recycling the things that you don’t use. This will create a much more harmonious space, and will aid in relaxation. The old adage “less is more” really resonates when you’re trying to keep your home neat and tidy. A rule I like to follow is that for every item I purchase, I donate or recycle an item that I already own. This helps prevent me from buying things I don’t need, and cuts down on the level of stuff that sometimes tends to accumulate.
7. Recycled Furniture
Numerous designers are following the idea that creating a sustainable and eco-friendly space can help reduce waste and can contribute to a fashionable home. Architect Frank Gehry has an impressive line of cardboard furniture, and multiple designers experiment with reclaimed barn wood and steel. Fallen Industry, a New York City based design studio incorporates reclaimed wood from fallen trees to create stunning tables and custom made pieces, and Oregon-based design firm Bill More Design offers handcrafted reclaimed steel coffee tables. Choose pieces that you love, and you’ll never want to leave the house!
8. Energy Efficiency
Install well-insulated windows and doors, and check to make sure your heating and cooling systems are running effectively. Check to make sure your faucets are low-flow and aren’t dripping. Make sure your toilet isn’t running constantly, and that you turn out lights when you leave a room. Many homes can now be controlled from a single cellular phone. Thermostats, lights, and security systems can all be accessed through a since portal. Install solar panels if you’d like to further reduce your energy costs. For more information about increasing your home’s energy efficiency, check out Gerard O’Driscoll’s Learn Step-by-Step How to Build a Smart Home.
9. Get Some Wheels
An interesting trend that seems to be popping up across the country is the use of recreational vehicles as permanent living structures. A great way to travel and see the country, recreational vehicles offer all the comforts of home in a smaller more compact space. For those who have flexible jobs or for those who work remotely from home, a portable living space makes a lot of sense. Life on wheels can give you the freedom to avoid rent or mortgage payments, and while the costs of gasoline can be high, nothing compares to the feeling of bouncing along the open road.
Vegetable gardens are one of the latest trends sweeping the country as we all seek to improve out health and extend the contents of our pocketbooks. Build a few raised beds in your yard, or if you live in harsher climate like me, build yourself a little greenhouse. Planting a garden is a great way to reconnect with the Earth and with your family. Kids love digging in the dirt, and you may be surprised by how willing they’ll be to help you plant, water, and harvest food for the dinner table.
Make the best of the windows in your home by opening them! Don’t block the airflow through your home with furniture or too many window coverings. The German Bauhaus design school of the 1920s posited the importance of light and air to create healthy people and a healthy environment, and the idea still resonates today. Keep window coverings minimal if you can. I like to use blinds that I can draw up during the day and pull down for privacy in the evening. If I’m home and it’s warm out, I try to keep the windows open at night to bring in the cool air, and I close up the windows in the morning to cool the house down during the day.
Regardless of the trends, the most important idea to remember when making your house a home is to focus on what makes you happy. If you love that old Afghan that your grandma made, show it off! Don’t be afraid to express your own interests and tastes when you’re creating your personal space. I love the dog portrait that hangs over my sofa despite the fact that it looks like a painting of an alien. I like what I like, and you should too. Keep in mind that the current trend toward increasing energy efficiency and having a positive impact on the environment can benefit you as well as your neighbors, community members, and future generations. Also keep in mind that a comfortable space is essential to maintaining proper mental and physical health. If you’re living in an unpleasant space, try to figure out how to make it more bearable by incorporating personal touches into your décor.
If you’d like further information about finding comfort in your own space, look into Laurie Gardner’s There’s no Place Like Home.