Home Design Adapting to Modern Life

Smaller space, busier families make great design essential
March 25, 2014 Updated: March 25, 2014

“People right now are looking at price, and they understand it’s more expensive to live in the city, but they are drilling down more on what’s included,” said Peter Comyns with PMA Brethour Realty. 

Comyns knows that for the prices we pay for new homes in the Greater Toronto Area, we expect luxury and customization to be standard.

The GTA is North America’s largest new construction market. Builders travel regularly to bring us the best and brightest, and we expect no less.

“Good enough is no longer good enough,” Comyns said. “If a house costs $350,000 and it feels like a $350,000 house there’s no need to buy it.” 

For it to sell over a competitor, the finish should feel like you paid $450,000. How interior designers create that feel has everything to do with finishes and use of space.

Space the Final Frontier

Today’s dwellings are far more open with fewer hallways and walls. We’re seeing fewer foyers and separate breakfast rooms. Homes need long sightlines and each room should serve multiple purposes. 

Because homes are now so open, every finish counts. “The hard surfaces have become very critical in the sale,” Comyns explained. 

Technology is responding with products that hopefully meet at the intersection between affordability and fashion. Marble is beautiful but Ceasarstone, being mostly quartz, is more durable and cheaper. Hardwood floors are great, but modern engineered hardwood flooring is tough, and you can refinish it.

Too Many Cooks?

With space at a premium, kitchen layout can be a deal-breaker. The old enclosed kitchen designed to be mom’s exclusive territory doesn’t suit today’s reality. 

“Now guys cook, children cook, people cook together, so the peninsula kitchen is out and you have a galley kitchen back with no walls,” Comyns said.

Today’s buyers want massive islands and big long runs of counter for zone cooking. “They want people to circulate around the kitchen.”

Men’s increased presence in the kitchen has fuelled the movement toward industrial-looking appliances. “They want the kitchen to look like the garage,” said Comyns. 

Massive fridges clad in stainless steel and six-burner Wolf ranges with big flashy knobs, two ovens, and a grill, are the cooking man’s muscle car.

“When their buddies come over they want to say ‘that’s my stove!’” joked Comyns. 

Kids are cooking now, too. Small additional fridges and microwaves located under the counter of the kitchen island provide self-serve snacking for the family’s shortest members.

Family Management Centre

Don’t worry, you aren’t going into counseling. The “family management centre” makes room for a laptop or tablet right next to the kitchen, where you can cook while checking online recipes, paying your bills, or monitoring your children’s homework. 

As families change how they use their space, accessing the balcony or patch of grass outside means moving the kitchen off the back wall.

“We’ve swung the kitchen off to an interior wall with a big island,” said Comyns. Now you may find a galley kitchen with easy access to a sliding door. 

As patches of grass get smaller and condo patios replace lawns, outdoor furniture as sophisticated (and sometimes as expensive) as what you’ve got indoors is trendy. Canadian homeowners are extending the season with covered patio areas. 

Bathtubs are also returning to ensuite bathrooms as design advancements make space-efficient freestanding tubs less expensive and easier to install.