When Jennifer Ott of Jennifer Ott Design, LLC. asked readers on the designer website Houzz for their feedback on what they would consider a “must-have” for their kitchens, the most popular response wasn't anything to do with having a bigger kitchen. In fact, many people wanted a smaller one. Why? They still desired the features of certain appliances like a refrigerator and cook top but without the square footage required to maintain. At the same time, cutting down on space didn't mean they wanted to sacrifice quality in the way of storage, work surfaces or seating.

tiny house

That #1 answer gives us some insight into the trend we’re seeing with the very purposeful downsizing going on in real estate right now. For years, the idea that “bigger is better” has often ruled buying decisions. However, a swing in the opposite direction is occurring in which homeowners are taking a fresh look at what they truly value. They’re defining themselves by multi-functional spaces that feel more simplistic, sensible and yes, small. Don’t mistake this as purely an affordability issue either. By investing less on the size of the home, owners are often able to invest more on the design and materials within the home.

How much “stuff” do we really need?
It’s a question that homeowners may be asking themselves. After all, the byproduct of buying a bigger home is needing more furnishings. More home? More furnishings. And those furnishings, from a style perspective, don’t always hold up well over time - from a dated look to limited functionality. Suddenly more furnishings feel like more clutter. The kitchen and bath are still highly regarded, but areas such as a formal dining room are not as much of a “must have” either on a seller’s list or on a buyer’s. That’s why the switch is not only to smaller spaces but also more timeless and comfortable designs.

As you approach homeowners with the prospect of doing work in their kitchen or bathroom, remember these themes they’re responding to: Low-maintenance elements. Durability over time. Investing in high-quality design for smarter functionality, not merely to show off a space.

In their world, no matter how much square footage you’re actually dealing with, there’s always room for simplicity.