What was de rigueur just a short while ago can change almost overnight. Not so long ago the dominant home styles were more traditional and organic, interiors darker and the must-have accessory a home cinema or automated lights and shutters. As we move further into the 21st century, the picture is changing…

In many parts of the world the financial crisis and ensuing ‘Great Recession’ formed a watershed in architecture. Gone were the more faux traditional styles that had been dominant since the 1980s and in came a whole new wave of ‘modern’ styling that saw a return to white as the fresh, sleek tone of the future. It’s back to the future because we’ve been here before, through early experiments in the 1920s and 30s, and the Modernism of the post-war era, but while there is a direct link of inspiration and a ‘picking up of the thread’ it wouldn’t be fair to label this latest outpouring of creativity a mere chapter in a book already begun. Today’s design movement may search for references in the past but its materials, relevance and urban context are entirely of our age.

At any rate, it feels very different showing homes now that are open-plan, full of panoramic glass, sliding doors that disappear into the wall at the touch of a finger and architectural forms that can vary from rigidly geometrical to sculpted and rounded. It’s a process that is in continuous flux, already evolving away from white minimalism to the inclusion of more natural materials and more playful elements, all the while building on a great new era of technology that provides novel materials, engineering techniques and software technologies that reside under the skin of a new house.

Water features, floor to ceiling windows, large open-flowing living areas and kitchens where you can cook up a storm and then hide the evidence, add a sense of drama to today’s luxury home. The kitchen, once a functional room hidden away amid cooking fumes, is now a crisp, clean design feature of a home, where state-of-the-art extractors enable you to lounge around your breakfast bar with a coffee or glass of wine, while various gadgets pop up and down at the touch of a button, espresso machines make a delicious macchiato and your double-door American spec fridge dispenses ice cubes.

Speaking of American influences, the open kitchen concept is attributed to the USA, and is therefore sometimes also called an American kitchen, and of course it’s a classic element of the now-iconic loft renovation home. Aided by modern technology, the modern kitchen and open-plan layout uses space more efficiently and does away with so-called ‘dead areas’ such as corridors and walls. The result is a more integrated home where you can feel more connected with the property and its occupants without having to be in the same room. Villas, in particular, also offer sliding doors and latticed wooden screens that add privacy and intimacy to a larger open-plan interior, and there is no reason why this can’t also be applied to apartments and penthouses, for they too assist in the efficient use of space and take over the role that was previously played by walls and doors.

With the cubicle effect of small rooms gone, we’re left with spacious, open-plan living areas that flow into one another. Combined with high ceilings, natural light and views coming in from tall, floor to ceiling windows and sliding doors, it makes for a finer architecture and more pleasant and stylish living environment in which we are seduced by soft LED lighting, white acrylic furniture and brushed steel, but also by ingenious blends of such materials with richly veined matt wood, earthy stone and darker iron, not to mention an array of potentially brightly coloured synthetic materials.

New Trends

Today’s homes have become more compact and efficient than before, attempting to do away with inert spaces such as long corridors through innovative design concepts, and the technology now available makes early home automation systems positively archaic. Just as you can ‘hook up’ your car to the internet of things, you can now do the same with your home, enabling it to fulfil a range of duties that leave mere shelter far behind and turn it into an energy-efficient entertainment centre, state-of-the-art workplace or a well-secured private home.

Living areas are now open-plan, bathrooms sleeker and simpler in a Zen kind of way, and split levels are also making a comeback, indoors as well as in the garden. The latter is more geometrical than before, less subtropical paradise and more Japanese garden, with large terrace areas that extend the indoor comforts outdoors and an inviting splash pool that perfectly frames the horizon. In regions with a Mediterranean climate such as Marbella, but also California, West Australia and the Cape, the tendency is towards using beautiful yet water-efficient indigenous species in landscaping. This is not only good for the environment, but also cuts down on irrigation bills and maintenance, all of which are increasingly important to buyers today.

Home cinemas, traditional wine cellars, gyms and early home spas used to be separate entities, often occupying the basement floor of a villa, but here too an integrated open-plan approach is taking over that also brings natural light and direct garden access to what were once dark spaces. The chill-out zones found as an extension of your terrace are also in evidence indoors, where one great interactive entertainment area brings spa, gym, home cinema, games room and sometimes even bowling alley together in great style. Many a wine cellar has migrated up to the kitchen and shed its traditional brickwork to become a design feature made of LED-lit glass and your personal collection of wines. Even garages, once the musty home of your prized luxury cars, are now celebrating the automotive works of art in what looks like a gallery complete with panoramic windows and lighting that highlights your collection.

Add a fireplace, comfortable sofas, an industrial style kitchen and bar, and it becomes an entertainment area with a touch of art gallery and car showroom thrown in – quite the place to relax and entertain, as long as you’re fairly confident the guests won’t damage either the art on the wall or the art on wheels! While most of us focus on the return to modern architectural styling, the changes going on inside the home are more revolutionary by far as they open the door to a whole new lifestyle experience.