Architects: Outdoor Living, Home Offices, and Low Maintenance Are Must-Haves for Homeowners

TruExterior poly-ash siding, low-maintenance siding

It’s likely of little surprise to anyone that the latest American Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey reveals that two of the most popular features for today’s homeowners, by a large margin, are outdoor living spaces and home offices.

In its recently released Q3 2020 Home Design Trends study, the AIA reported that within the “special function rooms/areas” category, outdoor living not only led the way, but grew since last year, with 70%  of architects reporting increasing interest compared to 61% the year before. Very close behind were home offices, with 69% of architects indicating increasing interest, which was 1 percentage point higher than 2020.

These two features far outpaced other options on the list, including “multiple offices/zoom room/space for virtual meetings” (48%), flex space (46%), and an au pair/in-law suite (42%).

Elsewhere in the survey, “low maintenance” led the Products category, with 54% of architects indicating increasing interest, down 2 percentage points from last year. (Seeking to capitalize on this trend? Check out our TruExterior Siding & Trim, which offers the authentic look of wood without the moisture and maintenance concerns.) This was followed by smart thermostats (52%) and synthetic materials (48%). Farther down the list, infrared heaters, a hot item for those looking to extend the livability of outdoor living spaces into colder months due to the pandemic, saw a big jump from 10% in 2020 to 37% in 2021.

Under technology, the survey saw a surge in interest in several categories: electric car docking stations, which jumped from 62% in 2020 to 74% in 2021; technology-friendly systems, which increased from 53% to 62%; back-up power generation, which soared from 46% to 60%; and solar panels, which saw the most dramatic change, from 37% in 2020 to 54% in 2021.

Visit the Q3 AIA Home Design Trends Survey to see all of the results, previous survey categories from this year, and an archive of past surveys.

Exterior Cladding for Interior Applications

Versetta Stone stone veneer fireplace

Siding, trim, and accessories are designed primarily for the home exterior, but the properties that make some materials ideal for those traditional uses can sometimes carry over to benefit the inside of the house.

Consider these applications in which exterior materials can bring aesthetic or performance value on the inside of the home.


The beauty of a stone fireplace never falls out of favor, but installation challenges make it a prohibitive option for some projects. Panelized stone offers an easier path to creating eye-catching fireplace surrounds, combining the look and feel of stone with easy installation to deliver the dramatic look of a stone fireplace within reach.

For example, Versetta Stone panels install quickly without mortar and require no special tools. Each panel can be cut with a diamond blade and fastens to the wall with screws through the integrated nailing fin. As such, it does not require a mason for installation and can be installed by traditional siding contractors and carpenters.

The Northmade Farmhouse, shown below, features a soaring two-story fireplace made with Versetta Stone Ledgestone in the Mission Point colorway, perfect for the new home’s modern-farmhouse vibe.

Because the panelized stone eliminates the messiest parts of masonry installation—with no lath, no scratch coat, and no mortar—they’re particularly helpful for remodeling projects. Cut the panels outside and pass them through the window.

And while stone fireplace surrounds require an artisan’s touch to lay out the stones so they look perfect and fit well together, panelized stone comes pre-configured in beautiful, authentic patterns. Corner pieces also make it easy to create a clean, finished look.


Panelized stone can provide a lightweight solution for rustic accent walls. Use the panels under or behind a home bar, add a cozy feel behind a freestanding tub, or create an eye-catching accent wall in the great room.

Versetta Stone stone veneer bathroom accent wall

Bathroom Trim and Moulding

For wet areas such as the bathroom, cellular PVC trim provides a moisture-resistant option that will help avoid the potential for cracking, chipping, or even rot. Along with crown moulding, PVC beadboard, such as that from Kleer Lumber, is ideal for creating clean, crisp wainscoting. The material also resists dirt and is easy to wipe clean if needed.

Kleer Lumber cellular PVC wainscoting in bathroom

Décor & Accessories

Even shutters can play a role in sprucing up the interior. A custom color such as that from Atlantic Premium Shutters or a reclaimed vintage piece can create a unique artpiece or be used to craft a one-of-a-kind mail holder.

6 Best Practices for Shutter Selection and Installation

Atlantic Premium Shutters arch panel and louver shutters on stone Colonial home

Shutters are an easy way to add a bit of flair to a new or existing home, and in many cases are the key finishing touch to the perfect exterior. But it’s important to make thoughtful shutter selection choices and install them properly to ensure they look and function as designed.

Here are a few strategies to help ensure you select the right profiles and install them in a way that preserves exterior aesthetics.

Select the right shutter style

For shutter selection, it’s important to choose a style that marries well with your overall home design, otherwise the shutters will stand out for all the wrong reasons and can throw off the entire vibe of the façade. For example, a Southern Colonial home calls for louvered shutters, while Cape Cod-style homes often feature raised panel, louvered, and board-and-batten shutters. No matter how much your customer likes Bahama shutters, they’re not going to look right on a ranch home. (See more style combinations here.)

Select the right shutter shape and size

Shutters should be the same shape as the window they are covering so as to properly cover the window when closed (even if the shutters are fixed). Therefore, arched shutters should be used on round-top windows only. The arch should match the curvature of the window for the most accurate look.

The same goes for size: Shutters used in pairs should be measured properly so they fit inside the casing when closed. Even if the shutters are fixed, the eye will notice the difference.

Place shutters correctly

Another common installation mistake is extending the shutter to land directly on the window frame. Shutters are actually designed to hang on the inside edge of the window casing or frame next to the sash. This helps ensure a tight fit when shutters are closed to protect the window.

Account for thickness

For operable shutters, the thickness of the shutter must be considered when choosing hardware to ensure the shutter closes properly. Consult with your dealer or manufacturer rep to help calculate the thickness of the shutter in relation to the pintel and the hinge. Bring pictures of the exterior so they can account for brickmold and window trim.

Choose the right hardware

Because shutters sit differently on different types of cladding, take siding material and style into consideration when selecting hardware. Brick homes, for example, will require hardware attachment to the brickmold in many cases to ensure the shutter can close into the window recess and lay outside the brick when open. Hardware also is available to accommodate lap siding and trim board, among other styles and materials. (Learn more about choosing shutter hardware here.)

Don’t install shutters flat against the exterior

Historically, shutters are not installed flat against the exterior; they lay back at a slight angle so they can easily swing open and close tightly together to cover the window. However, many people using shutters purely for decorative function make the mistake of installing shutters flat against the exterior. To uphold the original functional design, space shutters off of the home’s exterior using operable hardware.

With an extensive range of styles and unparalleled craftsmanship, it’s easy to elevate the home exterior with Atlantic Premium Shutters. Consider these shutter selection strategies to make the most out of your choices and provide an instant boost in curb appeal.

Browse all of Atlantic’s offerings here.