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Buyers Feel at Home in "New Old Houses"

Even if the average size of a new home in the U.S. is creeping back up after taking a promising dip during the recession, trophy McMansions are out as home buyers seek designs that blend traditional home styles with modern floor plans and amenities.
January 28, 2014, 5am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Dale Hrabi examines the latest trend in new home design, the New Old House: "a sanely proportioned residence that's historically accurate on the outside, but conceived for the needs of modern Americans on the inside." 

"According to Amy Albert, editor of Custom Home—a Washington, D.C.-based magazine that caters to architects, designers and high-end builders—a hankering for authentic traditional residential design is one of 2014's big trends. That said, 'People aren't seeking exact replicas of historical houses,' she added. 'They want architectural purity in the elevations and the details, but inside they want connectivity and open floor plans.'" 

A cottage industry of architects and designers who specialize in studying old homes and culling from builder's guides and house-plan collections from the 19th and early 20th centuries has grown along with interest in the "psychic comforts of yesterday."

So why not just buy an old home, rather than painstakingly copy their details and proportions? "Many people try, only to find that these real-deal houses are next to a highway, or dilapidated beyond repair, with 7-foot ceilings (built low to conserve heat) and tiny kitchens designed for servants, not impromptu gatherings of children high from a soccer victory who've been promised s'mores," writes Hrabi. 

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Published on Friday, January 24, 2014 in The Wall Street Journal
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