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House design trends of the past and future

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Outdoor kitchens are gaining momentum. Gone are the days when a barbecue pit or a small metal grill piled high with charcoal represented the ultimate in outside entertaining. Cohen says outdoor kitchens are huge and predicts their use will grow. "As travel gets more expensive, more and more people would rather be in their own homes," he says.

Outdoor accoutrements vary, but range from rotisseries to beverage centers. Cohen says you can add ambience by breaking the space into smaller conversational areas -- but keep it simple. You can be up-to-date and classic at the same time.

Just like Bill Cosby
As a paternal doctor and head of television's Huxtable clan, Bill Cosby worked from a home office. Who would have ever thought Cliff Huxtable would ride the crest of a future trend?

"Home offices are a must," says Bob McLemore, founder and president of HouseRaising Inc. With technology allowing more workers to operate from their residences, home offices are becoming the rule rather than the exception. They also provide a nice space to pay bills.

While you're adding an office, consider expanding that master bedroom closet of yours. Although it's a pricey move and you may not recoup all the cost when you sell, adding a large, spacious closet can be a future selling point and provide extra space for putting all that "stuff" you collect.

McLemore and Cohen both agree that the front door and entryway are critical considerations. He recommends adding double-entry doors if you have the space. If not, consider a high-end door with sidelights, to dress up the front and let in extra light.

Another biggie in McLemore's book -- spacious covered porches. Decks, which aren't as popular as they were a few years ago, have slipped out of general favor, with both builders and buyers tilting toward patios and porches.

Natural light and lots of windows that overlook a lovely, green view -- perhaps of all those trees you've planted in your yard -- add value to a home and will continue to do so. "People love to go inside a house and see the outside," McLemore says.

He adds that living spaces will be more open and less boxy. Instead of walls as boundaries, some rooms -- such as the family room and kitchen -- will be divided by columns. But while broad open spaces curry favor with buyers, don't do away with your formal areas in the process. "People still need that formal dining room," McLemore says. "Without it, you'll kill off 50 percent of your buyers."

While upgrading from cheaper materials to pricier ones, look for timeless quality, not trendiness. Today's dream countertop may be the butcher block of tomorrow.

Tomorrow -- that's what a lot of home buyers should consider both for future sales or their own well-being if they decide to age in place. A handicapped-accessible home that doesn't look like one, with wider doors and halls, can add value, as well as utility.

McLemore adds that the most important thing to remember when remodeling is: Make it consistent. If you modernize your kitchen, make sure the rest of the house is style-compatible. And do quality work. A cheap job may seem like a bargain at the time, but when you're trying to sell a house with walls that aren't square and floors that aren't level, you're going to take a beating.

So whether you own a bungalow or a bona fide mansion, remember -- it's never too early to start preparing for the day you put a "For Sale" sign in your well-lit, tree-lined yard.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Updated: Nov. 27, 2006
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Remodeling trends stick to the script
2006 Guide to Home Improvement
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