Luxury without excess: Designing and building for right-sizing boomers
Older homebuyers are seeking smaller homes that don’t skimp on comfort and beauty. AIA partner James Hardie explores how architects can meet these needs.
Recent housing market data show that the average home size in the nation’s top 15 markets has gotten smaller since 2016. As the largest American generation, baby boomers are driving this trend.
In fact, more home buyers aged 53 and older say the desire for a smaller home was their primary reason for wanting a new one, according to 2018 data from the National Association of Realtors. But unlike generations before them, boomers aren’t simply downsizing, and they’re not looking for cheaper homes. They are “right sizing.” They’re looking for comfortable, low-maintenance spaces that come with amenities they can enjoy after years in the workforce. Here are common features that boomers look for in smaller homes.
Boomers want to pare down without sacrificing quality. They still expect the high-end amenities they’ve grown accustomed to. According to NAHB’s 55+ Housing Online Magazine, older homeowners want kitchens with gourmet appliances and master bedrooms with spa-like ensuite bathrooms.
However, it’s not only what’s on the inside that counts; boomers also gravitate toward high-quality home exterior products with high-end finishes. The Aspyre Collection by James Hardie features versatile exterior design options for high-end residential properties, while also delivering superior durability.
For example, the collection’s Artisan Siding's 5/8-inch thickness introduces deep shadow lines, making the product look beautiful and perform well on the wall. Just by holding a sample, it’s easy to tell that it’s a well-made product.
Durable home building products can help free up precious time that older homeowners can instead spend with grandchildren. This group isn’t alone in looking for more time for experiences — a 2018 study found that 74 percent of all Americans now prioritize experiences over things.
James Hardie products, including those in its Aspyre Collection, are low maintenance and engineered for climate to perform beautifully no matter what nature brings. The products have unique formulations that resist the effects of humidity and moisture, and damage from mold, and provide superior dimensional stability to resist shrinking, swelling, and cracking.
Accessibility within the home is also important to this generation. They may be more active than their parents, but according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, the majority of older adults spend most of their time in their homes.
Among the details designers can incorporate to accommodate older homebuyers:
- Widen doorways and install walk-in showers so wheelchairs can pass through
- Select soft, non-slip flooring materials
- Install cabinetry that is easy to reach
- Remove separate living rooms in favor of open, accessible floor plans
- Avoid stairs
Incorporating these features will typically limit the home to a single-floor design.
On the outside, right-sized homes mean architects have less façade space to make an impact. Choosing versatile building products can help make small-scale designs unique and beautiful.
For instance, the Aspyre Collection’s Artisan profiles and the Reveal panel system can be used in combination with each other; Artisan siding allows for details like mitered corners and unique ceiling and soffit designs while the Reveal panels introduce a more contemporary look.
“James Hardie makes the Artisan lap siding in different depths—you notice that when you’re driving down the street,” said Sheryl Schey, a principal at White Picket Fence. “That allows me to make every home I design a little bit different.”
Right-sizing boomers will appreciate a home that makes their retirement years easier. During the design process, make sure to listen to what they’re saying—after a lifetime of experience, they know exactly what they want. By building them a beautiful, low-maintenance home that caters to their lifestyle, architects can help the golden years live up to their name.