Parade of Homes: Builders designing flexible spaces for homeowners’ changing lifestyles | Home & Garden

Homeowners have been doing it for ages: Converting a spare bedroom into a craft room. Using a dining room as a workspace. Furnishing a loft area with fitness equipment and a desk so it can do double duty as an office and a home gym.

“Now we’re owning that space and giving it a name that’s catchy,” says Bill Martin, architectural designer for Alden Homes.

That name is “flex space,” and it’s in demand for new homes. While we might have been adapting our homes to meet our unique needs all along, builders are now becoming more intentional about creating living spaces that can easily serve a variety of purposes.

The National Association of Realtors recently listed multifunctional space among its hot trends. Flex space also figured prominently in the New American Home 2022, the official show home of the National Association of Home Builders’ annual International Builders Show.

The same is true for this year’s Lancaster/Lebanon Parade of Homes presented by the Building Industry Association of Lancaster County, which takes place June 18-26. The annual tour is not only a marketing tool for local builders, but also a reflection of the latest design trends for those who are looking to build a new home or remodel an existing one.

Two-thirds of the 18 homes on this year’s Parade tour list flexible living space as a feature.

“I would say it’s much more in demand since the pandemic,” says Charles Sensenig, partner and director of operations for Pine Hill Building Co. “The root cause of that is obviously people are working from home more, or had worked from home more, and are able to continue to do that.”

Pine Hill’s Parade entry at 1016 Valley Crossing Drive, in the Lititz Bend community, has what Sensenig considers two flexible living spaces. One is a first-floor room with its own bath that can function as a guest suite, office or additional living area. The other is a scullery, a small prep kitchen that allows home cooks to keep their messes hidden from the main kitchen, so they can more easily entertain guests around the island.

Sensenig says some traditional rooms, such as the dining room or living room, are not always defined as such anymore, a recognition that not every homeowner will use that space for the same purpose.

And for those who are still working from home, at least part of the time, creating a smaller, pocket office off the mudroom or drop zone is also popular, he says.

Bonnie Martin, interior designer for Garman Builders, agrees.

“I’ve seen flex spaces in the laundry area or the mudroom area that can be converted into bulk storage or could be used as a garage workspace,” Martin says. “That space could also be turned into a pocket office or an expanded laundry room.”

The Parade entry from EGStoltzfus Homes, at 358 Autumn Harvest Lane, Lititz has a pocket office off the kitchen, offering overflow space to keep documents and other messes out of the kitchen itself. The home is located in the Warwick Crossing neighborhood.

Multigenerational living

EGStoltzfus Design Studio consultant Stephanie Lachance notes that home plans are not only offering more flex space, but also more options.

The builder’s Glen Mary model offers an optional garage extension that could serve as storage, a workshop, a home gym or more.

“Some of our home plans now have an optional first-floor guest suite,” she says. “We have a lot of buyers who have international family members who come and stay with them for extended periods of time. … We are seeing more multigenerational living, kind of having the ability to have their own space, their own corner of the home, but still allowing that flexibility for it to be converted to something else if someone decides to move out.”

While home offices are the most popular use Bonnie Martin is seeing for flex spaces in Garman homes, she says multigenerational living is a close second.

“As a result, we’ve been — especially recently — having conversations about how to make those flex spaces work for that type of buyer,” Martin says.

Garman’s Parade entry at 105 Princeton Place, Lebanon, in the Strathford Meadows neighborhood, offers a multigenerational option. The Ellsworth floor plan has a formal living room, study and powder room on the same side of the house, Martin says. However, a multigenerational family could create a parents’ quarters in that space by opting for a full bath and using the study as a bedroom and the formal living room as a more private living area, she says.

Garman’s Huntleigh model at 1035 Valley Crossing Drive in Lititz Bend has a flex room with an attached full bath off the mudroom. With a separate entrance connecting to a one-car garage, the space would make a perfect multigenerational living area for an older parent or college student, she says.

Another view

In Alden Place, a 55-plus community by Alden Homes in Cornwall, the Stanford model on this year’s Parade, at 1010 Percy Lane, offers a flexible study with sliding glass barn doors as well as a bedroom and full bath in the finished lower level that could serve as a private living area, Bill Martin says.

Flex space is often a room or rooms, but it doesn’t have to be. Martin says it can simply mean creating a space that’s not part of a traditional design.

Alden Homes has long touted the benefits of smaller, smarter homes that boast an efficient use of space, with creative features like a built-in desk tucked beneath a staircase. For their Parade entry at The Gables at Elm Tree, 1452 Fieldstone Drive, Mount Joy, Martin and designer Rhoda Zook used the space beneath an open staircase to create a reading nook, but it could also serve other purposes, such as a little play area for the kids.

“I don’t need to put a title to that space,” he says.

Like all good flex space, Martin says, it can morph as the family ages — or as the home changes hands.

“As a design point,” he says, “there’s no two people in this world that live alike.”

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