Trend Watch: January 2013

By ericg January 1, 2013

Design pros and builders on what we'll see in the year ahead.

A lot of those happy cheers you heard bringing in the New Year came from the region's homebuilders, real estate agents and designers. All the signs indicate that real estate sales and new homebuilding are rebounding in Sarasota and Manatee, and those long-awaited retiring baby boomers are finally starting to arrive. We asked some local insiders what the rising wave of buyers will find in their new Southwest Florida home.

"Homebuyers are looking for smaller homes in the 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot range, and everything's leaning more modern," says T.J. Nutter of Nutter Custom Construction. Case in point: his company's new Windward model going up right now in The Lake Club at Lakewood Ranch. Unlike the mega-homes built in The Lake Club at the height of the building boom, The Windward will be on trend at 3,586 square feet and will have a light, West Indies architectural feel. "Coastal design is popular; we're using Bermuda shutters and lighter exterior colors, and we're bringing the outside in with more open floor plans," says Nutter. "It's simpler, cleaner design, free from so many of those ornate finishes of the boom years."

Kitchens are more contemporary in design, too, say Ron and Margaret Cook of Cook's Custom Cabinetry. "People are looking for cherry wood cabinets in a dark stain, flat doors—or clean-lined Shaker doors for a more transitional look—and very contemporary hardware, either long pulls or radius pulls to bring some softness to the room," says Margaret.

Gray is a hot color this year, the Cooks report, and they're using more Silestone on countertops. It's pricier than granite, but has a quieter look and complements the new colors. "Customers are not going wild," says Ron. "Subtle is in." And—surprise—more homeowners are opting for polished chrome appliances vs. stainless steel. "It's easy to wipe off fingerprints," he says. As for floors, "Wood is the hottest thing going; it's easier to clean and easier on the legs if you're standing for a long time." The Cooks are now working on a new 11,000-square-foot home in Punta Gorda, and cherry wood floors will be used throughout.

The color palette for 2013 is tailor-made for Florida living, with soft, muted shades like dusky blue, grayed jade, African violet and nectarine, says Tracee Bomberger of Trade Mark Interiors. "These muted color palettes still can be bold," says Bomberger, "but not just as vibrant." Also new for 2013: an American Vintage look, with denim and linen fabrics in distressed finish in the blue-gray-green families. Bomberger says they can be used sparingly in any room as an accessory accent—art, pillows, rugs. "A little goes a long way," she says. And geometric patterns in textiles, rugs and accessories are still going strong, she says. "The chevron pattern is huge, and others like ikat are popular, too."

The open-concept floor plan is still popular for 2013, says Denny Yoder of Yoder Homes and Remodeling. "We tear out a lot of low ceilings and walls and rarely put a wall back," says Yoder. "The trend is to open it up and make it feel bigger than it is, especially in kitchens and even baths. We do a lot of both because that's where you get your most bang for your buck."

In the kitchen, there's tremendous interest in recycled glass countertops, Yoder says, and in open stainless-steel shelves along one wall instead of upper cabinets. Cabinets are evolving to offer more variety in drawers and pull-out shelves to maximize every inch of available space. That's a smart trend, says Yoder. "Our homes, and especially our condos, just don't have the storage people are used to when they come from the North or if they're downsizing."

Comfort and practicality rule, says Louise Stewart of Stage III Designs. "Everybody wants a house they can really live in, that is functional, designed not just for looks," says Stewart. "People are spending more time at home, and they want to make sure they have that comfortable chair, that they have furnishings that are adapted for their grandchildren or their children or their pets."

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