For some it’s philosophical; for others, it’s economical. But homeowners everywhere are taking a look at their living space. More thoughtful choices in the home are creating more individualized luxury for the owners and their families to enjoy.

“People of all ages are moving toward paring down to less square footage as well as making their space highly functional,” says Tulsa-based designer Deborah Gatica of SR Hughes.

By rethinking their space, owners are now able to focus on comfort and convenience with a purpose.

“With all the stressful environments and situations like the economy we want to have things work for us without complication in our homes,” Gatica says.

Simplifying the home and going to a more “clean” look is a common theme, according to Sherri Duvall, a designer at Duvall Architects in Tulsa.

“It can also mean a ‘transitional’ look and feel that is edited properly to have the exact balance of cozy, but not stuffy. People desire a nest or sanctuary innately when we come home from our crazy, hectic lives,” Duvall says.

Homeowners are moving away from formal dining and living spaces and changing into flexible usage rooms. While square footage has gone down, the kitchens are larger with higher-grade appliances capable of pleasing everyone, and the overall décor is focused on family function.

“Essential pieces that tell their family’s story without looking too staged,” Duvall says of the key to helping clients achieve their balance.

With the aid of technological advances, the home can now work for the owner. Fully automated features and wiring for media throughout the house allow the home to work for the owner by saving time and energy.

Along with responsible space planning, eco-friendly features from soy-based paints to repurposed wood furniture that are found in every room keep in tune with the return to natural elements owners are moving towards.

By making thoughtful choices and taking advantage of technological advances, today’s homeowners are not just making a choice about their house, but about their lifestyle.

Spa Treatment

For modern homeowners, a trip to the spa can be as close as the master bath.

A blend of technology and natural elements allow owners to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Heated flooring, towel warmers, custom automated walk-in showers and jacuzzi tubs are all part of the spa experience.

“Imagine having automated lighting set each morning to a certain illumination as to not hurt the eyes, the towels and flooring have been heated awaiting your arrival,” says Bryan Tosh of The Phonograph in Tulsa.

He further explains that those showering can listen to a pre-set audio channel, while those at the vanity can watch their favorite morning show on the television that shows through the bathroom mirror. Once finished, the entire system shuts itself off.

“A lot more is possible than you think – not just for new builds, but even to retro-fit,” Tosh says.

Technology doesn’t edge out eco-friendly, however. Companies like Toto blend the two with their Wi-Touch remote control low-flow faucet that can work with existing plumbing as well as dual flush toilets that conserve 80 percent more water.

Adding interest to ingenuity are heavy glass frameless shower doors by Guardian.

“These are easy to clean and resist corrosion,” says Lorie Halle, co-owner of Don Tracy Glass.

“More people are remodeling their bathrooms with granite and marble, creating a beautiful space; so it would be a shame to cover it up with a large frame door.”

Marble, travertine and limestone flooring are all natural stone options that give a luxurious feel and can extend into the walk-in shower. Granite, concrete and recycled glass countertop features are also very popular, along with a growing selection of distinct sink options.

Homeowners can now have their bathroom as high-tech or low-maintenance as they want it to be.

Going Green

Today’s homes are green – not so much in color as in concept.

There is a push for natural materials for a home’s exterior and durable siding and roofing that will add to the environment or at the very least work with it.

“People are definitely concerned that things are vanishing,” says Gatica. “Sustainability is a factor, not just a trend anymore.”

Homeowners that are building new homes are going green from the outset, and remodel projects often involve LEED-certified builders to correct issues such as the removal of lead paint.

“Less is becoming more again,” Duvall says. “This means less mixing of exterior materials and limiting the variety used together to as few as possible.”

Instead of just paint, more people are going with stone and brick exteriors as well as clay.

The process of making brick creates very little waste, and it has a nearly limitless life span. Another benefit is that brick can be recycled from demolished buildings and used in new ones.

“Stone is as natural as it gets,” says Johann Skaftason, owner of EuroCraft. “Anything man makes is not going to be as durable.”

American clay plaster can look beautiful and eliminate the need for painting.

“No more ‘faux.’ When materials are used honestly, then they have innate integrity and can convey beauty without being fussy or over-done. I like the timeless, age-old stone, brick, stucco and various woods. Just not at the same time,” Duvall shares.

Even without painting, owners are shifting their homes to earthy tones and natural colors.

Green doesn’t stop at the siding. Owners wanting to go completely green can do Re-Cover roofing and receive a tax credit. Other options are salvaged slate or asphalt roofing, both considered among the most attractive and durable materials.

“More area is being covered by xeriscaping or indigenous planting,” Gatica says of owners’ use of their yards.

Another way owners are connecting with nature is through intricate water features and strategic planting.

“In Oklahoma, plants in pots take tons of water so I always suggest a drip system on a timer.”

With all the different building material options, going green has never been more natural.

Island Cooking

While owners are paring down the size of their homes, kitchens keep getting more square footage.

“There’s no question that kitchens are getting bigger. Galley style kitchens are becoming more popular,” says Skaftason.

Large or small, an island is a must for any modern kitchen. Affording storage, extra counter space and a place for casual seating, this feature fits the bill for dual usage. Warming drawers, prep sinks and a second dishwasher are useful island features.

Professional-grade appliances are also a must. Features like electric cook tops with steamers, as well as fryers and TurboChef’s double wall oven – which cooks 15 times faster than the leading oven – provide the latest technology for efficient cooking.

“It’s all touch technology. If you want it medium-well it shows you a picture,” says Gary Gallaway, Sales Manager at Metro Appliances & More says of the TurboChef oven’s intuitive design.

Touch technology is on the rise. Products such as the SmartTouch faucet are part of a universal design concept that keeps ease of use in mind for groups including the aging population.

Just because owners have great appliances doesn’t mean they want to show them off. The newest trend in cabinetry and appliances is an integrated look that makes even a refrigerator look like it is part of the custom cabinetry.

Caesarstone quartz countertops, granite and limestone and bamboo are all user-friendly countertop options that are easy on the environment and allow the owner to showcase a more colorful backsplash such as back-painted glass by DreamWalls.

“There is quite a trend for a less shiny surface with more texture, or chiseling in creamier neutral tones,” Skaftason says.

In particular, honed white marble kitchen counters are in style and are often set against darker stone flooring.

Glass panels in custom cabinets as well as glass shelving are highly prized features.

“Glass cabinetry gives the open feel owners are looking for,” Halle says.

“In years past, people wanted more frosted glass, but the style is clear now.”

Some glass shelving is equipped with fiber optic lighting from within creating a warm glow.

The openness of the kitchen layouts gives families a chance to be together in their favorite room.

A Living Space

Homeowners today take a thoughtful approach to their living room making sure to consider their lifestyle needs to create a space that not only works for them, but reflects them as well.

“Today it’s about more casual living for people,” Gatica says. “Clients don’t want a room they’ll never use; they don’t feel it’s a responsible use of space.”

Convenience is key in the modern home that is now wired for media, lighting, heating and sound – everything can be adjusted with a touch of a screen for ease of use.

Automated climate control settings coordinate with automated blinds to keep energy costs down even when the owner is away. Another convenience of automation is that with one touch of a screen someone can turn off all lights in the house without having to double check each room.

Owners doing a remodel as well as building a new home can benefit from changing their windows to Low-E that help eliminate extra heat as well as keep the UV rays at bay.

“Some people think it’s just affecting them in summer, but UV light can be just as bad in the winter,” Halle says of the work Don Tracy Glass does to help prevent damage and fading of furniture as well.

Along with making use of their space, homeowners are making it reflect their family as well.

“People are having their grandma’s old chair re-upholstered and put next to a modern glass coffee table,” Gatica says of the authenticity homeowners are looking for.

Another trend in furniture is a resurgence of classic Mid-century Modern pieces from iconic designers like Florence Knoll and Charles and Ray Eames.

“You’ll see those types of pieces on Mad Men now, and they are becoming more popular,” Gatica says.

There are also several eco-friendly choices in materials for the living room, such as soy-based paint options, Forrest Service Certified wood floor choices and upholstery in hemp, organic cotton and bamboo options. A family reflected in their space can feel good about enjoying it.

The Science of Cinema

A growing number of homeowners are adding value and fun to their homes with a custom media room.

Whether the room is full of gaming systems, ping-pong tables and air hockey equipment, or it’s the complete cinema experience, owners are indulging their media wish list beginning with a big screen.

“There is actually a mathematical formula to determine screen size,” says The Phonograph’s Tosh.

“It’s based on viewing distance as well as making sure there is enough light output illuminating that much space for optimal viewing.”

The anticipated audience and size of the room determine the type of equipment that homeowners must purchase. On average, the screen will be 80 inches to a maximum of 10 feet and can also be retractable depending on the needs of the space. A Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound system is a basic feature, although many home theaters and media rooms feature 6.1 or 7.1 along with at least one subwoofer.

Hidden speakers, precision lighting and custom seating are key elements in creating the full viewing experience.

Home theater receivers from companies like Onkyo, Denon and Yamaha are controlled with touch screen remotes. Not to be forgotten are the DVD, TV signal, TiVo and possibly even VCR connections to the system. Another important addition to any media room is the gaming equipment for systems such as Wii, Xbox and PlayStation.

A concession area with drinks and refreshments as well as custom leather seating adds to the overall look and convenience of the room.

“You can have fantastic theater seats in a beautiful room, but if your screen isn’t correct you can lose around 30 percent of the picture,” Tosh says of the common mistake to just pick a large screen without considering the rest of the room.

“This isn’t TV; it’s supposed to be cinema, so we have to look at size and acoustics. It’s really a science to put a good room together.”

Open Spaces

Most homeowners have a favorite room in the house, but for a growing number, that room is outside.

“Patios have been around for a long time, but now people are going much further,” says Gatica.

Outdoor stone fireplaces, trellises and pergolas are just the beginning. Full-fledged living areas and kitchens with space heaters and sky lighting create a space that can be used for at least three seasons in Oklahoma.

“The obvious problem to overcome in Oklahoma is the weather, “ Gatica says. “When you spend a lot of money, you want to use the space for as long as possible.”

Companies like NanaWall and Phantom Screens can help create a room that opens directly to the outdoors and can be enjoyed year round.

Gone are the days of going to the backyard just to grill burgers.

“The kettle grill is being replaced with a complete stainless outdoor kitchen. At the very least, many homeowners are building in gas grills and cooking areas,” Gatica says.

Side burners, warming drawers, under-counter refrigerators and even a beverage and cocktail center make the outdoor kitchen an owners dream for entertaining guests.

Whether it’s a party or just a casual family dinner an integral feature of the outdoor living room is seating and entertainment.

The modern home is now fully wired for media including the outdoor living areas. Surround sound with multiple speakers, adjustable lighting systems including mounted sconces, as well as an outdoor plasma screen TV are must haves for any outdoor space.

Companies now offer all-weather sofas and ottomans helping to create an aura of comfort along with stylish rugs and pillows.

The stone fireplace feature that centers the space can also be an eco-friendly choice.

“Eco-smart fireplaces can be freestanding or built in and don’t require venting, plus you receive a 30 percent energy credit on your tax return,” Gatica says.

The modern homeowner can now enjoy the outdoors by taking advantage of the space they have in their own backyard.

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