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By Melissa Sprouse Browne, Real Estate School of South Carolina
While the style of homes remains fairly consistent from region to region, the materials used for construction and decorating are changing with the times. Just think, in the 1950s, you would have never found a home with a media center. Now, it is becoming more and more commonplace. Homeowners are looking to make their residences into a place of refuge from the stresses of work and school. This year's design trends reflect that concept in comfort and long-term utilization.
Here are 10 top design trends in the home building industry for 2006-07:
Green Materials: With the rapidly rising costs of energy, interest in energy-efficient, sustainable materials is increasing proportionally. Using construction materials that are easily renewable is becoming more popular. Bamboo as a material for wood flooring is a hot choice - bamboo provides a very hard material that can withstand more use and abuse than many traditional hardwoods and is a renewable resource because of its extremely rapid plant growth.
Power Generators: For those who live in storm-prone areas, backup power generators are a smart choice. Available in a variety of load limits, generators can be added to your home that carry only a limited number of circuits, or can carry your entire home system. The generators are easy to install and can be set to automatically start once the absence of your regular utility is detected. Backup generators can be powered using natural or propane gas.
Elevators: For homeowners who already live in a two story home and don't want to move to a single story structure, adding an elevator may help. As the population ages, climbing stairs can become difficult or impossible, depending on the level of disability that develops. An elevator could mean the difference in staying in your existing home or having to move to an assisted living facility.
Texture: The textured look is hot! Paint products that come in hundreds of colors are available that can imitate textured surfaces and are easy to clean.
Finished Garages: The days of the unfinished garage are over. Giving your garage a complete makeover can make it into a multi-purpose, useful space. Clever additions include paneled walls, finished floor systems such as Race Deck or high gloss epoxy paint, heating and cooling units, cabinets, shelves, bright lighting, a hobby station, professional automobile lifts and a full entertainment system with TV, surround sound and DVD player. A three-car garage is larger than most rooms in your house, so why should it be left unfinished?
Multiple appliances: Two refrigerators have been accepted in a single home for years. Many people are now choosing two dishwashers, two washers, two dryers and two water heaters to meet their needs. A new trend is to have a complete washer/dryer setup inside the garage and dedicated to dirty shop towels.
Pre-wired smart homes: A centralized panel that controls the main systems of the home, including television and radio sound, security, temperatures and lighting is becoming more common. Systems that offer the opportunity to control them from a distance through an internet or phone connection are very popular.
More color: Splashes of bolder, deeper colors are in for shutters, doors, window frames, and even roof tiles. Historic colors are also popular.
Faux Materials: Materials that replicate brick, granite and limestone for outdoors and indoors are hot. In the kitchen, a new trend is the use of quartz countertops instead of granite. Quartz doesn't require sealing and looks beautiful for many years. In the greater Columbia area, Southeastern Stone carries a line of stone veneers for a variety of projects, from retaining walls to stone fireplaces.
Media rooms: Even in the mid-price range, some new homes feature an entertainment center, outfitted with a projection screen, leather stadium-style seating, a surround sound system, recessed dimmable lighting and a black ceiling