Smart Design With Suzette: Highlights Of 2016 International Builders Show

White kitchen with wood accents. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos

The last column I wrote indicated design trends for 2016. Let’s continue the conversation and take a look at some residential design trends that judges of the Best in American Living Awards (BASA) at last week’s International Builders’ Show (IBS) in Las Vegas, predicted would be this year’s most prominent.

High on the list were intimate outdoor spaces, intricate stairwells, and Mid-Century Modern detailing. Repurposed wood, which has also become a staple accent throughout many styles of residential design, is expected to grow especially popular this year when paired with white-painted surfaces.

Get Smart

The exhibit showcased virtually every product for the home getting smart. Signs on the show floor called attention to everything from smart bathrooms, to smart water heaters, to smart toilet seats ─ all of it, of course, working wirelessly.

Builders are taking a minimalist approach and saving money. They believe the most affordable way to deliver technology is by wireless ports throughout the house. Builders design a base home with a strong, hardwired Wi-Fi hub, or hubs, then allow buyers to upgrade it with wireless smart home packages, for security, entertainment, etc.

Floating bathtub. Courtesy photo

Floating Bathtubs 

Master baths are expanding, in part to accommodate floating bathtubs, which were everywhere on the show-floor. They were also common in bathrooms that won Best in American Living awards (BALA) at the show. Floating tubs, wood accents on otherwise white walls, and clear glass created a sauna-like impression in many of these bathrooms.


Indoor/outdoor space. Courtesy photo

Indoor-Outdoor Convergence

New homes have shifted away from a distinct separation between the indoor and outdoor spaces, and now feature a more fluid and undefined separation between the two areas. These new designs often include floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls and screens, stackable doors and new floor materials that contribute to a sense of converging the outdoors with the indoors.

Intimate outdoor spaces

Outdoor space was one of the most buzzed-about areas during IBS. Experts said outdoor spaces have become almost as important as the interior of the home, as owners look for a relaxing area where they can socialize and de-stress. This emerging trend often includes outdoor fireplaces or pits and a small seating area. 

Prep Kitchens Come Into Vogue

Meanwhile, kitchen islands keep getting larger, such as double islands with seating for 10. As kitchens become more of a showpiece, builders are creating more behind-the-scenes prep kitchens where the cooking and washing actually gets done, especially at party time.

Waterfall Islands

Although this trend isn’t new to the design world, waterfall islands are coming back. Homebuyers continue to show demand for these kitchen additions, which can be made of granite, quartz or wood. 

Laundry Rooms

Designers are lavishing more attention on laundry rooms becoming more utilitarian and more luxurious often making them more functional through connections to either linen or master closets. Designers will work to make them light, airy, and open – a room that people want to be in.

Intricate Stairways

The judges said they found that staircases were a more prominent design feature in BALA winners this year. They often feature glass accents, detailed tile designs, iron posts and other new design elements. 

Overall, architects and designers are starting to move staircases closer to the front of a home to offer more of a unique design feature that can be the focal point of an entrance.


Barn door pantry. Courtesy photo

Barn Doors

Barn doors have become increasingly popular in all rooms of the home, including kitchens, closets and bedrooms. They allow you to open a room you might want to close off. It’s very practical and functional. 

Low-Impact Design

Award-winning designs often featured green and sustainable elements that were conscious of their surrounding environments. Homebuyers will continue to request designs that incorporate native species in landscaping, permeable pavement and other green features, according to the presenters. 

Mid-Century Modern Detailing

Home designs, especially in Nevada and California, are starting to incorporate mid-century modern details again. It’s a trend in production housing that is more contemporary. It hasn’t worked its way into production homes until now. Mid-century detailing is very unusual. What’s old is new and what’s new is old. What we’re seeing is maybe a contemporary version of a traditional style.

White With Exotic Or Repurposed Wood Accents

Residential designers should keep an eye on the trend of stark white interiors with accents of exotic or repurposed wood in ceilings, flooring and cabinetry, the judges said. 

Everyone thinks of contemporary as very cold and hard, but just the introduction of wood to the white really warms it up a lot. 

Feel free to contact Los Alamos Interior Designer Suzette Fox to suggest specific design topics or for help with your home. For more information, find her on Facebook at and on her website

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