8 Residential Architecture Trends and Ideas for 2020

Fred Wilson, AIA

Fred Wilson, AIA
Founding Partner at Award Winning Chicago Architects, Morgante Wilson

Jan 28, 2020 - 5 min read

8 Residential Architecture Trends and Ideas for 2020

Architecture trends come and go, which is why we avoid them. Instead, we prefer to think in terms of things we notice our residential clients asking for more frequently. What do they think about when they think about the idea of home? Here are eight of the most popular residential architecture ideas we’re sharing and discussing with our clients:

1. Fewer rooms

Whether on Chicago’s North Shore or a Utah mountain, very few new homes today include a formal living room. A nice great room is all most of our clients want or need for entertaining and relaxing. This is hardly a new idea – great rooms have been popular for more than a decade. What is new is the growing understanding that there’s no point in wasting square footage – or budget – on any room that won’t get used every single day.

2. Larger rooms

While the number of rooms in houses we’re designing may be going down, their size is definitely going up. Spacious, airy rooms are at the top of our clients’ wish lists. I’m not talking about giant party rooms; I’m talking about generously sized spaces that are designed to work as well for two people as twenty. I can personally attest to their livability – Elissa and I designed our house to include one big room that’s versatile enough to be used multiple ways. We unwind in it, just the two of us, in a cozy seating area right in front of the window. We work in it, since it’s furnished with a pair of tables that act as both desks and dining tables. And we host the whole gang at Thanksgiving in it, routinely inviting thirty people to join us for a sit-down dinner.

3. Spaces defined by ceilings, not walls

To make big, open spaces like the one I just described work, you need to break them up into smaller pieces so they feel welcoming, not overwhelming. We’re doing this not with walls, but with articulated ceilings. By treating one big ceiling in a number of different ways, you can give the impression of smaller spaces within a larger room. That makes your large room feel cozy, and helps define different areas, or zones, within it.

4. Modular people planning

Here’s how the idea works in our house: say we’re hosting a dinner party with four other couples. The ten of us might have cocktails on the screen porch. We’ll eat dinner at the dining table (remember those two desks we work at?) in our multi-purpose room. Later, we’ll sit by the window and have coffee, because the room is large and there’s enough furniture for everyone to settle into. Its size is also the reason it can accommodate a thirty-person dinner, like at Thanksgiving, and even a 100-person party (not as a seated dinner, but certainly for cocktails and conversation).

On the other hand, if we’re only hosting one other couple, our house works perfectly for that scenario, too. We might enjoy cocktails in the small den off our larger room, and then, because it’s more intimate, we’ll likely sit down for dinner in the breakfast room rather than the large dining area. The point is, we only really have three rooms on our first floor (den, kitchen/breakfast, and multi-purpose), yet each is versatile enough to do everything we need them to do for the way we live.

5. Floor-to-ceiling glass

This says it all. Huge expanses of glass bring the outdoors in, which is becoming more of a thing every day.

6. Welcoming calm

Ten years ago, clients weren’t as concerned as they are today about making their homes a respite from an increasingly chaotic world. But that’s all changed. Not only do people need and want a sense of calm, they want it to extend to every aspect of the way their homes function. Your home might be peaceful and pretty, but if it doesn’t allow you to wrangle your stuff – your mail, your kids’ toys and homework and muddy boots, your gigantic package of paper towels from Costco – you’re going to feel frustrated and agitated. For most people, clutter equals anxiety, and so we’re designing, as we always have, to reduce that. The difference is that clients are recognizing how important that sense of calm is to their well-being and are asking for it before we even bring it up.

7. Being a good neighbor

What I mean is that most of our clients want to make sure their house fits nicely into its neighborhood and that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb among the other houses on the street. That’s an admirable attitude to have. But if you live in an area of smaller, older homes and plan to build something new and larger, you face a dilemma. We’re solving that dilemma by designing homes that don’t scream, ‘Look at me!’ in the front. But then in the back, we’re taking more risks. We’re opening these homes up and pulling the outside in, making them a lot more dynamic than we’d be able to get away with in the front.

8. Lightening up

We’re seeing a move away from pretense toward a lighter, softer look. Not so long ago, people wanted a house that looked as big as possible. Now, they’re becoming more comfortable focusing on how their house will work for them, and not what other people will think when they pull up to it. This translates to mixing stone with stucco or siding to achieve something less like an imposing castle, and more like an interesting hybrid of textures and materials that speaks to their personal aesthetic. That’s a real departure from the past, and something we heartily believe in.

To see more of our residential design ideas, check out our website, or follow us on Pinterest and Instagram. You’ll find plenty to inspire you!

Morgante Wilson Architects provides architectural and interior design services in Chicago, Deerfield, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Northbrook, Northfield, Ravinia, Wilmette and Winnetka – along with Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Utah, Wisconsin and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Fred Wilson, AIA

Fred Wilson, AIA

Founding Partner at Award Winning Chicago Architects, Morgante Wilson