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What's new for design in 2017? We interviewed some of the brightest minds in the industry to get their take on trends, styles, features, amenitites and more.


Denise Ashton150

Denise Ashton, CGBP
Senior Principal,
Planning/Community Design,
William Hezmalhalch Architects, Inc.



Manny Gonzalez, FAIA, LEED AP
Managing Principal
KTGY Architecture + Planning



Steven W. James, AIA
Founding Partner
DTJ Design

Join these speakers at The Re-Think Conference at PCBC 2017.


What design trends are resonating for Millennials?


DENISE: This is a broad age range group. We see three distinct groups within it: older, middle and younger. The older end of the millennial group can afford to buy a home; they’re starting new a household formation, having weddings, starting families, and wanting homes with yards and good schools. The middle groups want to buy but can't afford it – they’re responsible, have no credit cards (or debt) except school loans and work off debit/cash, but they’re accepting of an economically forced decision to rent. Lastly, the younger group is the 'you tube' generation – they’re still in high school, hip, and want to be where the action is.

The new design trends we are seeing that resonate with Millennials are anything related to cars, especially because of Uber and Lyft. This includes parking configurations (garages), drop offs, wait areas, and reduction of needed parking spaces. Also, standard retail models don't work and retail needs to be decentralized. One example of this is Amazon Go: an 1,800-square foot grocery store. Customers enter and register with their Amazon app. Then, they select their merchandise, and leave. Their account is charged later. The selections are fewer than at a traditional grocery store but there are, no cashiers, no lines, and no waiting.

Other design trends are contemporary architectural style, which works great for roof decks, and neighborhoods providing walkability to goods and services. Grocery stores are ideal within apartment complex – just call, order, then pick-up or have your order delivered.

Lastly, the two keys of new design? Storage and affordability.

MANNY: The recent trends have been urban apartments, but I don’t think the next trend has hit yet. It’s on its way, but the industry is still trying to figure it out. Millennials are starting to form households… FINALLY! And will be looking to buy a home. I am not convinced they will want to live downtown once they have children, because schools will still be one of the leading drivers, but we have been developing the “Urban Nest” concept which creates a more child-friendly environment for the starter family and that might be the answer.


STEVEN: With millennial’s preference for Urban Living, the trend for new suburban Apartments resembles urban streets, vs. suburban MF buildings surrounded by parking. EXAMPLE: Ohio based “Lifestyle Communities” is providing a “traditional streetscene” with fresh interiors at Providence, Nashville TN ( .) On-site amenities include a restaurant, brew pub, up-scale fitness center, resort style pool, beach volleyball and pet perks. Millennials bring little furnishings and art….but value interesting architecture, full of light, with upgraded finishes and fixtures (found in today’s most compelling rentals).

What innovative density trends can we expect in 2017?

DENISE: We are working a lot on density solutions. Here are some trends to expect in 2017:

  • Convertible garages/reduction of parking requirements
  • Continued indoor/outdoor living with privacy
  • The "shared" economy may have a dramatic effect on housing and community design. Shared spaces within homes – perhaps even a co-living house idea.
  • Even more technology in the home (home automation will be standard – such as Alexa, Google, and Siri working together).
  • Flexible kitchen and dining rooms - large enough for family gatherings and entertaining, but with flexibility to convert to other uses such as a home office
  • Accommodation for dogs/pets still are a big design impact, reinforcing the need for trails and walkability
  • Due to the increase in goods being delivered to all home types, design needs to include a delivery-safe drop off area (such as delivery lockers)
  • Tight courtyard townhomes with roof decks (outdoor space but with a small footprint)

MANNY: I think we will be looking at the next generation of cluster housing that may start to borrow from the City of Los Angeles’ Small Lot Ordinance. The Small Lot Ordinance allows opportunities to develop a more compact footprint and maximize the size of the home on the lot within existing multifamily zones, all with ownership and long-term commitments to the existing neighborhood in mind. Additionally, the Small Lot Ordinance creates fee-simple ownership rather than condo air-space ownership, avoiding costly HOAs and providing additional FHA loan program opportunities that can make home ownership attainable.


STEVEN: Attractive “Fringe Projects” are bringing “Urban Touches” to suburban development. Millennials and Boomers alike appreciate detached living, now gone vertical (8-12 du/ac). Both buyer types seek private open space. Front porches may help the streetscene, but they don’t accommodate private gatherings. There’s an ongoing evolution of courtyard plans, furnishable decks and roof terraces. Simple, affordable 4-corner building footprints are rising to three levels, plus roof terrace options. A new surge of vertical Townhomes (resembling Rowhomes) accommodates higher densities (12-18 du/ac) with individual identity “on the street” or “paseo”. Garages, attached or remote, are still a sought after amenity for all buyer types.

What new amenities can we expect to see in masterplan communities?


  • Unique utilization of smaller surprise spaces
  • Smaller retail treated like an amenity closer to homes and 'within' the neighborhood
  • Amazon Go small grocery stores with outdoor coffee space linked to trails
  • Smaller micro-homes in proximity to trails and unprogrammed open spaces
  • Dog parks and orchards
  • Education “clubhouse as classrooms,” offering flexibility to create a learning environment for all ages
  • CreativePlay - an education-based activity

MANNY: There have been several examples of successful integration of age-qualified communities into traditional masterplan communities. I foresee more “multi-gen” masterplans with dedicated amenities for various ages. Hiking and trails always rate at the top of the list of desired amenities and the latest feature is a trail rating system much like you would see on ski runs. It allows users to either stay within their comfort zone or step up to a more advanced hike to challenge themselves.

STEVEN: The Urban Touch means gathering and connecting between events… 24/7. Regardless of the afforded amenity program, a hip “gathering place” is essential. Outdoor integration, with SHADE, is key to keeping the indoor facility within budget. Farm to Table supports new urban Agriculture ventures. And commercial farming is a viable trend within MPC’s. Farm Land is bought (vs. subsidized) to make a timeless amenity: “The next generation of Healthy Living.”

What new feature(s) will we see in kitchens and baths this year?

DENISE: In the kitchen, efficient, compact appliances will be desirable for small homes. Automation will re-think the “Costco pantry” with new on-demand systems. In the bath, expect fewer bathtubs and a continued interest in spa-like bathrooms. The latter will be smaller, but more efficient.

MANNY: I am starting to see more “dirty kitchens”, especially in larger floor plans. While the kitchen island is not new, they are getting larger in size and incorporating multiple work areas. Also, green walls where residents can grow their own veggies and herbs are becoming popular. Walk-in zero threshold showers with drying areas are becoming more of a standard these days. And with the much more attractive fixtures and accessories, the incorporation of Universal Design in bathrooms is now possible without looking institutional.

STEVEN: “High Tech appreciates High touch”; expressed with “hand lettering” at the local coffee shop and café. Comfortable, relaxed….but clean. Hand crafted (one of a kind) elements are celebrated in the landscape. Kitchen and Bath trends feature the “artisan touch”, through textures and patterns of Nature’s world, balancing the harsh vibe of composite (geometric) products and surfaces.

Are there any new styles we will see in exterior elevations? How might they differ for urban vs suburban locales?

DENISE: Here are two: abstracted versions of conventional styles to create fresh modern adapted designs and “soft” modern styles with conventional roofs.

MANNY: There does seem to be a trend toward more contemporary design if the local jurisdiction is accepting of it, but, in particular, the active adult market seems to be adopting it too. We are also working on designs for Assisted Living and Memory Care communities that are contemporary in style as well.

STEVEN: Progressive elevations with a “familiar roof” appeal to the masses, in a timeless way. And fresh styles grow from “heritage roots” (vs. modern fads). The “modern farmhouse” is prolific; with “modern” having a different expression, coast to coast. There’s also a revival of Mid-Century Modern (a simpler version of Craftsman, with its familiar silhouette). “Material Blocking” and Color Contrast (incorporating white or black in the palette) offer fresh “moderated-modern” style elements, beneath the “familiar roof”….. an appealing alternative to the conventional suburban (beige) re-sale market.

Check out the other articles in our 2017 Trends Series:

Technology (Part 1)  /   Technology (Part 2)  /   Marketing and Consumer Insights  /   Multifamily  /   Land Planning  /   Business Management  /   Capital  


William Hezmalhalch Architects, Inc. is a land planning and architectural design firm that specializes in shaping new communities, and reshaping urban and existing in-town neighborhoods. 


KTGY Architecture + Planning, founded in 1991, is an international full-service architecture and planning firm delivering innovation, artistry and attention to detail across seven offices and studios worldwide, ensuring that our clients and communities get the best we have to offer no matter the building type or location. 


DTJ DESIGN, Inc. (DTJ) is an award-winning International design firm based in Boulder, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia. DTJ combines the ingenuity, personal attention, and design focus of a boutique firm with the talent and expertise of a large company. We deliver creative solutions inspired by a vision of excellence. Our integrated design approach embraces a shared vision, resulting in artful, renowned, and enduring destinations across the globe. 




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