Repurposed rooms, recycled materials and an increasingly relaxed decorating style characterize the end of a decade that began as a party on a grand scale.
These are among the home decor trends cited by experts for the just-passed decade.
Over the past 10 years, the formal living room in most homes has been reinvented -- it's now a library, workspace, perhaps a music or game room. Many are now willing to buy a new home without a living room at all, according to a survey last spring by the American Institute of Architects. What we want is some combination of kitchen and great room where the family can interact. Homes are more laid-back and user-friendly.
The most well-liked rooms now are the home office, mud room and media room, the survey indicated. What we don't want so much anymore? Three-car garages, guest rooms and formal living rooms.
While the economic downturn has caused people to scale back their dream-home wish lists, "households are using their homes as intensely as ever," AIA chief economist Kermit Baker noted in the group's newsletter this fall.
Technology has continued to transform the home. At a recent housing industry conference, Steven Bomberger of Delaware-based Benchmark Homes said, "Ten years ago, baby boomers didn't know how to program their VCR. Now they want computers, structured wiring, programmable thermostats and security systems."
We're also getting comfortable with terms such as low-VOC paint, sustainable flooring, home energy management and wireless telecommunication.
Some trends over the past 10 years:
LIVING LARGE: At the start of the 2000s, many jumped on the real estate thrill ride. McMansions, gobblers of space and energy dollars, became ubiquitous. Now, we're rethinking how we live, says Jennifer Boles, founder of The Peak of Chic design blog and contributing editor to House Beautiful .
"Some homes had five or six rooms dedicated to living and relaxing, despite the fact that most of us really only spend time in two or three," she says.
Oversize furniture like sectionals and big coffee tables, popular at the start of the decade, are being scaled down.
However, one oversize space remains popular. "Spa baths have staying power," says Tampa-based kitchen and bath designer Jamie Goldberg. "They tie into several current trends: creating comfortable environments for aging, bringing back the luxuries of travel and spending more time in our homes."
LIVING AL FRESCO: "The outdoor room's really been one of the biggest changes. Everyone has an outdoor space now, even if it's tiny," says Elle Decor's Cheminne Taylor-Smith. "With seating, dining, even kitchens and sleeping pieces, these rooms are treated like their indoor counterparts."
Firepits, weather-resistant fabrics and furniture, and commercial quality heaters extend the outdoor season.
LIVING GREEN: After a long fallow period, gardening took off in the past few years. From containers to victory gardens, we've got our hands back in the dirt. We're concerned about the provenance of produce, and about our carbon footprint -- how many thousands of miles did that tomato travel? Renewed interest in environmental stewardship starts literally in the backyard. We're digging up the lawn and planting native greenery that requires little maintenance or water. We're putting down less pesticide. More of us are composting.
Indoors, being green moved from the fringe into mainstream design. We started demanding paint and other home products that were enviro-friendly. Sustainably harvested wood became a selling feature. Many designers embraced the trend, giving us beautiful art and furniture made of recycled materials. Now your kitchen counter may have once been a truckload of soda bottles, your sheets may be bamboo, and solar panels can power everything from hot water heaters to patio lighting.
LIVING CREATIVELY: We're spending about $260 billion a year on home improvement projects, according to the Housing Industry Research Council. That's up about $90 billion from 2000. Empowered by informative blogs, magazines and TV shows, the DIY boom continues.
We're turning linen closets into offices, embellishing IKEA stock furniture and repurposing what we already own in clever, practical ways. Designing on a dime, or close to it, has become a hobby.
With more creative freedom now to express our personalities at home, the world became our inspirational marketplace. Global crafts found a wider audience. Mainstream stores such as Target and Pottery Barn brought decorative pieces from every corner of the planet to our doorstep, and design became more eclectic than ever before.
LIVING RELAXED: We've loosened up. It's OK to have the computer and TV in the heart of the home. There's been a shift toward a more practical, casual lifestyle over the past decade.
As designer Mark Hampton says, "Real comfort, visual and physical, is vital to every room."
Suites of furniture? Passe. Untouchable formal rooms? Over. We're comfortable mixing and matching -- a major shift from the '80s and '90s when people mostly picked one style for the whole home.
OTHER HALLMARKS OF THE DECADE INCLUDE: stainless steel appliances, granite counters, mid-century modern furniture, media furniture, wi-fi, home theaters, organics, Scandinavian design, Craftsman style, ottomans, wallpaper, cherry cabinetry, low profile home entertainment systems (flat screens, mini speakers, integrated components -- many of them standing free, released from the 1990s media armoire), less-is-more window treatments, high pigment one-coat paints.