The home of the future: What will it look like?
Julie Garton-Good, GRI, DREI

Remember television shows during the 60s portraying ideas of the "home of the future?" Some featured ergonomic furniture rendered in wild colors, automatic sliding doors, even sidewalks that moved throughout the house.

While the shape of homes in the new millennium won't be quite that avant garde, there will be some changes. Home builders are starting to gravitate to new floor plans, more technology, as well as more environmentally friendly and cost-effective building materials. Let's take a look at home change ideas from the inside-out to see how the complexion of home may appear after the turn of the new century.

Technology will perhaps play the biggest role in new homes. One unit will control most lighting, heating and cooling functions, and can be programmed by time, day or month. For example, if you want to lower the lights in the evening starting at 6 p.m., you'd program the system to dim the lights, draw the blinds and close the shutters. Or, if you like waking up to a warm and sunny room, you could program the system to open the bedroom curtains at 7 a.m., turn up the heat in the bathroom and even start the coffee brewing. Technology will become so sophisticated in new homes that it will be possible, using voice-control activation, to command the doors to lock and the alarm system to activate -- without lifting a finger.

Room configuration and style will be somewhat different, too, in tomorrow's homes. There will be more open space -- known as great rooms -- that combine dining, living and kitchen areas. This will allow the family to have more "togetherness." The room would include alcoves for hobbies, such as sewing and crafts, computer units and game areas. Also look for more mother-in-law suites in the home of the future because of the growing need to house elderly parents, make extra space for kids who don't leave (or perhaps return) as well as have privacy from guests when they visit. It will be complete with its own mini-kitchen with refrigerator and microwave.

Exteriors may not look much different in the future, but take a closer look. There will be much more use of molded plastics for everything from foundations to sturdy, long-lasting fences. Wood and other natural products will be used primarily for decorative purposes, not as primary materials (like wood siding is used today.)

Landscaping will be eco-efficient, and will contain lots of walkways and paths. Many developers will be adding broad walkways where homes sit closer to the street. These are especially apparent in planned neighborhoods, (like Seaside, Fla.) where sidewalks and front porches are a zoning requirement. This allows for greater opportunity to meet and chat with neighbors, which will create a friendly community and, hopefully, deter crime.

It appears that consumers want flexibility, comfort and efficiency in their homes of tomorrow. Sounds a bit like the wishes of today's homeowners. The more things change, the more they stay the same!