Housing styles emerge slowly and typically appeal first to cutting-edge architects, builders, and interior designers. As a trend spreads and gains wider interest, it may go mainstream, become almost ubiquitous, and eventually lose its star power. Just look at once-favored granite, which now has been replaced by the equally durable and attractive options of quartz and quartzite.

The economy, environment, and demographics always play a big role in trend spotting. But this year there are two additional triggers: a desire for greater healthfulness and a yearning for a sense of community.

1. Community Gathering Spaces

Why it’s happening: The combination of more time spent on social media and at work and the fact that fewer people live near their family members has caused many to feel isolated and crave face-to-face interactions.

2. Taupe Is the New Gray

Why it’s happening: White remains the top paint color choice due to its flexibility and the fact that it comes in so many variations (PPG Paints has 80 in its inventory, according to Dee Schlotter, senior color expert). Though white has been upstaged by gray in recent years, this year many will be searching for a warmer neutral, which is why paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams named “Poised Taupe” as its 2017 Color of the Year. “Poised Taupe celebrates everything people love about cool gray as a neutral, and also brings in the warmth of a weathered, woodsy neutral and a sense of coziness and harmony that people seek,” says Sue Wadden, the company’s director of color marketing.

3. More Playful Homes

Why it’s happening: Americans work harder now than ever, with many delaying retirement or starting second careers, so they want their homes to be a refuge and a place to unwind.

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4. Naturally Renewable, Warmer Surfaces

Why it’s happening: The pervasiveness of technology throughout homes has resulted in a corresponding yearning for more tactile surfaces and materials that convey warmth. Natural cork is a perfect expression of these needs, with the bonus of being low-maintenance.

5. Surface-Deep Energy Conservation

Why it’s happening: As energy costs continue to increase, the search is on for ways to save. Incentives to do so only increase as states and municipalities enact new, stricter energy codes. While energy-wise appliances and more efficient HVAC systems are still appealing to homeowners looking to save on their utility bills, less costly surface upgrades are gaining in popularity.

6. More Authentic, Personalized Use of Space

Why it’s happening: As home prices escalate — up 5.5 percent, according to CoreLogic Case-Shiller — and baby boomers downsize to retire or cut costs, every inch of available space counts more than ever. To make the best use of space for each resident, design professionals are zeroing in on how clients want to live rather than thinking about how people use space generically. “One size doesn’t fit all any longer,” says Mary Cook, whose eponymous Chicago-based design firm specializes in amenities, public spaces, and model home interiors.

7. The Walkable Suburb

Why it’s happening: Urban centers have long been a magnet for residents wanting to walk rather than drive to work, shopping, and entertainment. But the trend is now spreading to the suburbs where being close to a town center — and public transit into a larger city — offers similar appeal.

8. Healthier Homes

Why it’s happening: Consumers have been increasingly aware of hazardous indoor environments over the last few years, but news of the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, Mich., raised awareness to a nationwide level in 2016. Homeowners are actively seeking out healthy water supplies, purifiers, and HVAC systems, along with nontoxic paints and adhesives. A newer element to this trend in 2017 will include enhanced environmental testing.

9. Shifting Hearths

Why it’s happening: The traditional log-burning fireplace has lost some appeal as homeowners realize it’s less energy-efficient and can send more particulates into the air. But there are a number of replacement options waiting in the wings.

10. Counter Options

Why it’s happening: Much like granite did, quartz and quartzite are predicted to be kitchen favorites until another material comes along. But other green laminate options are gaining in popularity, and they’re no longer just for the budget-minded consumer.

11. The Transforming Office

Why it’s happening: Regular work-from-home time among the non–self-employed population has grown by 103 percent since 2005, according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a San Diego–based research and consulting group focused on workplace change. Her organization estimates that number will continue to grow at between 10 percent and 20 percent a year.

DECEMBER 2016 | BY BARBARA BALLINGER

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.