The recently released National Association of Home Builders “What Home Buyers Really Want” study reveals that 2024 buyers want less square footage and more personalization in their new homes.

The smaller home size reflects not only lifestyle preferences but also the current reality of higher housing costs.

Home trends often take their cue from what’s going on in the world. Just look at the popularity of home office space since the pandemic. But much like fashion, home trends also reflect the latest styles — and lifestyles.

We took a look at home design trends over the past century as revealed in the pages of Lancaster County’s newspapers — LNP and its precursors, the Lancaster New Era, Intelligencer Journal and Sunday News — and found that some old trends can sometimes feel pretty current.

Here are just a few:

open shelving

Housewives of the 1920s were encouraged to make their kitchens pretty with flowers and other attractive items on open shelves, something still seen in kitchens today. 



Headline: “Modern housewife puts brains to work in her kitchen”

Following the trend of designing rooms for use and enjoyment, women are encouraged to make their kitchens pleasant so they will be inspired to do more than simply “fry a chop and scuttle into the living room.” A woman who takes pride in her home never neglects the kitchen, the Sunday News article states.

Design suggestions:

— Paint cans to hold sugar and spices and display them on open shelves edged with gingham ruffles.

— Hang shiny pots and pans on the walls.

— Use bright colors like a red-lacquered table with matching chairs striped in black, coordinated with black-and-white checked linoleum.

— Add blooming plants or ferns in the window, maybe even a jar of parsley, to inspire the cook to linger and create more delicious meals.

Bottom line: “The kitchen must be looked to if your home is to carry the note of modernity, and where, indeed, is the woman who wishes to be classified as a back number…”



Headline: “Modern tops in furniture style parade”

A survey reveals that more modern furniture is being purchased for the American home than any other style, most noticeably for the dining room and bedroom. “It is not the bizarre, weird moderne of several years ago, but rather a much modified modern more adaptable to the average home,” the Intelligencer Journal article states.

This new trend focuses on good design with a modern feel, emphasizing practicality without sacrificing beauty.

Among the functional innovations:

— More streamlined pieces with smoother surfaces and fewer “cruel edges.”

— Chairs proportioned for smaller women.

— Lower and larger cocktail tables, rather than coffee tables.

— Studio couches with improved mechanicals for transforming them into beds.

In an accompanying ad for National Furniture Week, Heinitsh furniture on South Queen Street offers a studio couch by Simmons, including an innerspring mattress, for $24.

Outdoor living

Outdoor living spaces are popular today, but the idea of duplicating the comfort and design coordination of indoor living in our outdoor spaces was also encouraged in the 1940s.



Headline: “Living rooms? You have two!”

Making the porch or lawn the center of summer hospitality is easy, thanks to the latest in outdoor furnishings. “Your outdoor living room no longer should be furnished with a hodgepodge of leftovers from the indoor living room and rickety remnants from the attic,” according to an Intelligencer Journal article highlighting home furnishing trends on display at local merchants as part of America’s Home Week.

“Consider that nearly every item that you enjoy indoors during the winter has its outdoor counterpart,” the article states.

Among the top outdoor living room features:

— Colorful sun-repellent pieces.

— Steel and wrought-iron tables with matching chairs and umbrellas.

— Glass-top coffee tables and cocktail tables.

Of special note are occasional chairs: “Their metal saddle seats and posture-fitting backs are curved to insure comfort for the husky male of 250 pounds, or the dainty miss who tips the scale at less than 100.”



Headline: “Modern mothers are insisting on family room”

With three-child families becoming the norm, couples want a place where the whole family can enjoy activities together, and homebuilders are taking note. “In fact,” the Intelligencer Journal article states, “every time the woman of the house is polled, her first answer invariably is, ‘we want a family room!’ ”

The same is true for remodeling, where a study shows that nearly half of women polled want to add space in the form of a rec room.

Suggestions for the family room include scuff-proof ceramic tile floors, access to the outside and an adjacent full or half-bath.



Headline: “Wallpaper with ‘zing’ for spring”

United Wallpaper Co. has designed wallpaper to go along with the latest home furnishing trend: big-scale patterns and trendy psychedelic colors.

“Today’s homemakers want to express their taste and individuality … and have it noticed,” the company’s director of design says in the Sunday News article.

The latest wallpaper designs offer everything from jungle patterns to op art in colors including yellow, orange on mustard, sapphire on emerald and red on red.

An added bonus: They are vinyl-coated for easy cleaning and pre-pasted for easy DIY.


President Jimmy Carter’s down-home style inspired a trend toward more rustic decor in the late 1970s.



Headline: “Down-home decorating trends”

Who knew Jimmy Carter was an interior design trendsetter? The newly inaugurated president’s “barefeet and jeans lifestyle” has inspired an interior decorating trend toward rustic and country, featuring natural materials, hanging plants, barn siding, artificial bricks, rough-hewn paneling, butcher block tables and wicker bamboo chairs. In furniture, denim, calico and gingham are replacing a previous Art Deco comeback that smacked of “big city slickness.”

“Historically, there’s nothing new in this desire to surround ourselves with reminders of our rural past,” the Intelligencer Journal article states. “In the wake of every turbulent epoch had come a wave of nostalgia for the uncomplicated ‘good old days.’ ”



Headline: “Trends in house design”

The baby and housing boom of the 1950s may have inspired the family room, but things are different in the 1980s. Housing costs are high, couples are having fewer children and more homes are owned by singles.

Rather than set aside a single room for family activities, “the design trend now is to make the best use of available space,” according to the Sunday News article.

The solution: the great room, a concept designed to capitalize on versatile open space by combining three smaller rooms, typically the kitchen, dining room and living room.

Design suggestions:

— Beware of design pitfalls. Too few furnishings can make the space look like an empty warehouse, while too many can make it look like a full one.

— Find a common style to tie everything together.

— Have good, organized storage because you can’t close a door on clutter.



Headline: “A marriage of workplace and your place”

Citing lifestyle trends, technology and a recent national work-at-home survey, local Ethan Allen interior designers tell the Intelligencer Journal they expect to continue seeing an increase in requests to design home office space.

A New York-based research firm survey found the number of people working at home grew by 5 million from 1988 to 1992. In 1995, the survey showed, 1 in 3 new businesses were home based and half of all American workers brought some work home from the office.

Among their design suggestions:

— Decorate the contemporary home office to coordinate with the rest of the home.

— Design it to also accommodate children doing homework.

— Include upholstered sofas, chairs and other pieces that don’t necessarily look like traditional office furniture, such as an armoire that opens into a computer station with printer and fax machine.



Headline: “Warm and comfy environs beckon us all”

Wendy Dowling of Bed & Bath Affair notices more people “nesting.”

“Because of Sept. 11, people aren’t going anywhere, they’re staying home,” she says. “So they want to make their homes wonderful, have friends over and stay where they are.”

People are hunkering down and spending more money on their homes for things like bedding, drapes and pillows. They’re looking for comfort and color.

“People want to be cozy and warm, but they also want bright, happy things,” says Mitchell Gold, a manufacturer of upholstered chairs and sofas.



Headline: “6 home-design trends to watch for on this year’s Parade tour”

The annual Parade of Homes tour is not only a showcase for local builders but also a chance to see the latest home trends.

“The way people enjoy their homes and function in them is constantly evolving,” says Andy Dula of EGStoltzfus Homes. And Krista Heffley, a new construction sales coordinator with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, notes that buyers are willing to sacrifice square footage for functional upgrades that suit their lifestyle.

Among the top design trends, according to the Building Industry Association of Lancaster County:

— Large kitchen islands for food prep and gathering with family and friends.

— Lots of natural light.

— More hardwood and tile and less carpet, especially in high-traffic areas.

— Larger mudrooms with built-in storage.

— First-floor living.

— Sliding barn doors that create a more open floor plan than a traditional doorway but also allow for privacy when closed.

Modern open space apartment interior

Open floor plans that incorporate the kitchen, dining and living areas have been common home features since the 1980s.



Headline: “Open plans are modified, but not gone”

Homeowners still prefer open floor plans for the feeling of extra space and the ease of gathering with friends and family (even if they can’t do it just yet), but they are making tweaks thanks to the pandemic, which still has many working and learning at home.

Families are looking for places to carve out office space, whether it’s in a spare bedroom, under the stairs, in an attic or basement. There’s also a demand for pocket doors and barn doors as a means of closing off space when privacy is needed.

Among other trends:

— Butler’s pantries and “mess kitchens,” where homeowners can keep their dirty pots and pans and other food prep hidden while entertaining in their open-concept kitchen.

— Man caves and she sheds that offer some of the privacy and comfort lacking in open floor plans.

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