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Home improvement shows are the latest craze. Whether it#s #Trading Spaces,# #Curb Appeal# or #Extreme Makeover-Home Edition,# people can#t seem to get enough of them! And it#s all done so effortlessly, and for mere cents, dimes or thousands (depending on which one you#re watching) that it makes you feel like ripping out walls or just buying a new home altogether. After all, if they can #Design on a Dime,# why can#t you?


People are fascinated with creating the perfect nest. In many ways, it#s the dawn of a new era for the American home. The home front has taken center stage, and the latest home trends have designers, builders and buyers encountering a whole new world.


Living Large

One of the major trends seen in new construction is larger square footage and a focus on amenities. In 1950, the average home size was 983 square feet # a far cry from today#s more than 2,000-square-foot homes. If there#s one room in the house that has to be spacious, it#s the kitchen. Larger kitchens are all the rage, while living rooms are being phased out in favor of bigger family rooms adjoining the kitchen.


#Women have about 87 percent of the decision in the buying process, and they want spacious kitchens with large eat-in places,# said Ann Richardson, design expert and vice president of Richardson Housing Group. #They also want the kitchen to be well designed and very functional # pantries are a must.#


The functional kitchen takes on a new meaning at Hidden Falls, a Jim Cowart Residential neighborhood. Homes in this neighborhood have revived the colonial-era keeping room. Just off the kitchen, these keeping rooms offer an added family room space with fireplaces and cable connections. Homeowner#s are finding that larger homes like these give them the ability to enhance their living spaces, and the facility to customize rooms to meet their family#s needs. At Winmark Homes in Suwanee, homebuyers will find flexible floor plans, less two-story spaces, and islands in the kitchen as a standard.


With more space to play with, high-tech home theatres, game rooms complete with air hockey and pool tables, and playrooms or dance floors are becoming a normal part of home living. For builder Steven Miles, having the luxury of a home theatre has an added plus.


His deluxe theatre doubles as a safe room that resists winds of up to 250 mph. It also provides protection from debris carried by tornado winds and is bullet proof. #People just want to feel safer in their homes,# said Miles, who lives in Governor#s Walk in Snellville, an upscale neighborhood he is building. A fireman#s pole tucked behind a bookshelf in Mile#s keeping room offers a quick # and fun # route to the safe room.


Fuss-free Landscape

Although homebuyers are scouting for larger floor plans, many are scaling back on lot sizes in exchange for fuss-free landscapes.


#We have found that there#s a lot of people now who are looking for a smaller lot so they don#t have to spend so much time on lawn maintenance,# said Dina Gundersen, director of marketing for Monte Hewett Homes, builders of Villages at Huntcrest, a gated community across Discover Mills Mall. #The trend is really changing from people who are looking for acre lots and then they realize that#s a lot of upkeep. They would rather put more of the money into the qualities and amenities inside their home than the lot size.#


The development offers manor homes, starting at $330,000, and two- and three-story townhomes. Lot sizes are under a quarter acre in each case, but don#t think for a moment that small means less. Yards are nicely appointed with brick courtyards, cedar fencing and lush landscapes. Hate yard work? No worries. All yard maintenance is handled through the homeowner#s association, so yard wo

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