you grew up watching the animated series "The Jetsons," then
you’re already familiar with its visionary predictions of modern
life: Piloted in 1962, the show’s creators imagined a life
chock-full of leisure, with homes flanked by technology in every room,
from flat-screen televisions to mobile devices, and remote controls
and push buttons for every household task in between.
after the show first aired on television, the country’s newest homes
aren’t too far off from the space-age capacities perceived by the
show’s animators, says Tim O’Brien, owner of Tim O’Brien Homes.
a lot of high-tech gadgets that are getting us pretty close to ‘The
Jetsons,’" says O’Brien. "More and more people don’t
want to be doing maintenance — they want to go outside and have fun
and enjoy life."
has changed the needs and wants of homeowners and continues to
transform the traditional home. Still, "everything has a way of
coming back around," says Travis Rotelli, senior interior
designer at Kohler Co.
place gadgets on full display, homeowners are harkening back to the
days when natural materials and furnishings were considered the
standard, and handcraftsmanship was considered an art.
Jetsons’ cold, futuristic surroundings, Milwaukee homeowners are
combining home automation capabilities with classic, even rustic
environments, eschewing showy mass consumption for more family
space, building efficiency and an overall consciousness for the
The future has
Automation: Twenty years ago, home automation could be considered
a central heating and air unit, an electric garage door opener or a
security system. Today, home automation systems monitor and regulate
temperature and air quality, turn on and off lights, operate small
cameras, and lock or unlock doors — often with the convenience of a
tablet or a smartphone.
Water Conservation: From energy-saving windows, to high efficiency
toilets, solar panels and automated lighting homeowners are demanding
eco-friendly features throughout their homes. These are often aided by
home automation systems.
Fixtures: It’s no surprise that touchless fixtures appear most
often in the kitchens and bathrooms of new homes. These are areas
where germs can easily spread. With touchless faucets, for example,
families can ward off cross-contamination during food prep and combat
the flu season by eliminating touch points and making hand washing a
Showers: A family is likely to have their differences, especially
during the morning routine. That’s why some manufacturers have
created digital fixtures, such as showers: programmable for up to five
family members, these fixtures regulate temperature, shower pressure
and even play music from a convenient touch pad.
Appliances: Much like programmable fixtures, homeowners can set
temperatures, turn appliances on and off, and apply others settings,
such as a timer, from a remote or digital application. Homeowners can
expect more "smart concepts," in the future, says Colder’s
spokesperson Randy Felaer.
A few years ago this would have been the "computer room;"
usually a converted bedroom. Today, home builders are adding in
separate media room for families with children, or those who want to
keep their quasi-formal living rooms free of toys, gadgets, electrical
cords and other digital clutter.
LED lights are long lasting and energy efficient. Used as ceiling
lighting, tucked into crown molding, or placed directly into walls,
LED lights give off bright or ambient glow, and are often part of home
automation lighting systems.
Steel: After a long reign by eggshell-colored appliances,
stainless steel holds firm as the most sought-after finish for kitchen
and other home appliances. A few manufacturers are trying to push
slate finishes to the top, but it hasn’t caught on, says Felaer.
Appliances and Fixtures: Behind stainless steel, however, color
appliances are slowly making a comeback, says Rotelli. "It’s
something that never really left," he says. "It’s a fresh
take. It makes a statement that you put thought into your
design." Homeowners are a bit savvier when it comes to choosing a
palette, however, he says. These aren’t your grandmother’s
matching avocado appliance set.
Floors: During the past few years residences are forgoing carpeted
floors for natural hardwood. In Wisconsin, light colored oak and maple
varieties still rule the roost, but birch and ash styles are growing
in popularity due to their resilience and durability, says Michael
Wichert, owner of Wicks Wood Flooring in Waukesha.
Counters: While granite styles are still popular, the durability
and variety of colors contained in quartz make it the No. 1 choice,
says Kate Ewings, interior designer at Nonn’s Design Showplace in
Waukesha. Unique sheens, marbling, thicker slabs and a little bit of
sparkle in the stone help to personalize a homeowner’s kitchen.
Grays, taupes and other earth tones remain the standard.
Kitchens: These kitchens are not necessarily country in style but
in function: open spaces with plenty of room for family and friends to
chat, and make meals together. Apron front sinks (salvaged or
purchased), cast iron touches, and expansive kitchen islands play into
the organic gardening movement and open concept living.
Cupboards: Homeowners have gone from light to dark woods to white
cupboards and back again. Ewings says this year’s trend is painted
cupboards in earth tone colors, and muted primary colors, such as sea
foam green, enhancing the country kitchen look now popular.
Floors: It can take more than 40 years to grow a tree, which is
why some owners are choosing more eco-friendly varieties, such as
bamboo. In Southeast Asian regions, a bamboo tree can be regrown in
Layouts: Homeowners are erasing parlors and formal dining rooms
from architectural layouts to build an open concept home. Kitchens
often flow to casual dining areas and great rooms creating a warm,
Materials: Purchased from a supplier, or gathered from a home
deconstruction site, homeowners are insisting on the use of salvaged
materials, including windows, doors, woods, tiles, kitchen and bath
fixtures and metals. Salvaged goods not only add rustic charm and
unique touches to these new homes, but are also environmentally
friendly because they are recycled.
Wood: Playing off of the salvaged look, hand-scraped wood reveals
the knots and grains not typically revealed in treated wood varieties.
Homeowners are craving natural materials, and character throughout
Bathrooms: Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, most traditional
bathtubs were tucked against a wall and were surrounded by curtains
and tile. Today’s upscale homes turn their bathroom fixtures into
art. Stand-alone toilets, tubs in blacks, metals and woods and central
showers with unique showerheads and finishes are the focus of these
Rooms: In a bid to extend the home and reconnect with nature, new
homeowners are requesting seasonal rooms. Similar to the breakfast
nook but more functional, these rooms feature lots of windows; often
double doors that lead outside to a deck, patio or yard.
Could you live in a 500-square-foot-home? The movement to connect with
nature and live a more fulfilling life without material measurement
has inspired thousands of people to test the waters by building and
moving into these tiny spaces. It hasn’t taken off in Wisconsin,
yet, but president of Stevens Point-based Revelations
Architects/Builders Corp. (with homes not quite as extreme at about
750 to 1,500 square feet), Bill Yudchitz, says people on the verge of
retirement and other local homeowners are increasingly considering
these small structures their second home.
on parade during MBA Tour
Aug. 17 and running through Sept. 8, the Metropolitan Builders
Association invites area residents to tour newly constructed
homes in its annual Parade of Homes.
national event, which began in Milwaukee in the 1940s, will
feature 17 custom built homes by 14 local home builders.
the featured homes are located in The Glen At Blackstone Creek
Subdivision in Germantown and in the Quail Haven Subdivision in
nearby Menomonee Falls.
ticket grants admission to both locations.
feature the latest trends in home building as well as interior
design. "What this event provides to consumers is one of
the few places to see ‘the best of the best’ of area
builders," says Kristine Hillmer, MBA executive director,
adding that the homes include model homes, residences and homes
for sale. "These are homes that have never been open to the
public, and will never be opened (to the public) again."
representatives will be on hand to discuss home features and to
answer guest’s questions, Hillmer says.
three-week event will be the scene for a number of special
events, including those honoring local Realtors and community
30,000 people attended the event last year, either to gain ideas
about future home building or to gain ideas about interior and
exterior design, says Hillmer.
people come simply because they have gone to the event every
year for the past 20 years," and enjoy seeing the changes
in home building and design trends, she says.
Parade of Homes is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday,
and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends and on Labor Day. Tickets
are $8 when purchased in advance online; $10 at the gate, $6 for
seniors, and $6 for children. Children younger than 3 are free.
For more information, go to www.mbaonline.org