At San Francisco’s annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference in June, which is always chock full of new products and ideas, a group of architects and other home design experts discussed what’s new and hot in home design trends.

Some of it represents a bit of a departure from past years, and if you’re thinking of building or you’re planning on a remodel — either for yourself or to make things more attractive for a potential buyer — these trends might offer some valuable insights to help with your planning.

Garages are doing a lot more

Many home designers are looking at ways to design smaller homes with spaces that serve multiple uses, and that’s now including the garage. With space in many homes at a premium, it’s not too much of a stretch to consider cleaning up that vast cold expanse of concrete and making it more than a place to park the car. Garages are now sharing space with exercise areas, hobby rooms and other uses.

One of the most important uses for the garage is storage, but not just shelves tacked to the wall. Built-in storage cabinets with doors achieve a clean and uncluttered look that also protects the contents. There are a number of companies now offering sleek and sturdy garage cabinets, workbenches, and wall-mounted storage systems that are versatile and quite attractive. There are also ceiling-mounted platform lifts for even more storage.

Walls should be drywalled, textured and painted with a washable paint. Use ample lighting, especially in work areas. Consider an epoxy coating for the floor, or even a garage mat surface, which creates a brighter, more attractive area that’s easier to clean.

Ditto for the laundry room

Another space in the house that’s doing double and even triple duty is the laundry room. Rather than having a single room that’s used solely for laundry, many of today’s designers are looking at making this room larger and allowing it to handle multiple chores, which lets other rooms be smaller or even be eliminated.

Once again, storage is emphasized, with lots of cabinet space for everything from cleaning supplies to extra toilet paper. Space can be provided for just about any part-time use that doesn’t require a large amount of square footage elsewhere, such as crafts or even a small home office.

For most situations, unless the bulk of the living space is on the second floor, the design pros felt that a first-floor laundry room was preferable. One designer adds a doggie door in her laundry room designs that goes through the wall to the backyard. "The laundry room is a great area for the dog during the day, and the doggie door provides direct access to the yard," she said. "It’s been one of our most popular options!"

The designers also emphasized the importance of a transition area between the garage and the house: "The garage wants in," was the way one architect put it.

This transition area might be the laundry room, or it might be another intermediate space such as a mud room area, with a sink for washing up. The transition area should contain a bench or other seating for removing shoes, as well as storage for hats, coats, gloves and other outdoor essentials. It should also include convenient storage for things like keys, and perhaps a charging station for phones and other electronics.

Some thoughts on kitchens

Kitchens, of course, are one of the biggest sellers in home design. Some designers are getting away from traditional "work triangle" design, and are looking more at designs that work for specific users.

But one thing that all the designers agreed on was a growing emphasis on islands. Islands are very popular, and may incorporate a cooktop, prep sink or some other element that makes it easier for two cooks to operate at the same time.

Eat-in kitchens remain popular, with space at the island or at a peninsula for eating. But what’s definitely changed is the arrangement of the seating. Designers are getting away from the "picnic bench" seating arrangement, with all the stools or chairs in a row, which is not conducive to conversation. That’s being replaced by 90-degree seating, with stools along two or even three perpendicular edges of the island, the way they would be at a conventional table.

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