How much can four feet of additional space matter, even if it’s in the garage? A lot, as one Lowcountry home builder has discovered. Because from the garage to the kitchen and everywhere in between, open spaces will continue to dominate home designs in 2019.

Inspired by home renovation programs on television and captivated by airy, well-lit areas, buyers continue to make open floor plans the undisputed champion of domicile design. They want big kitchens with big islands, open straight to the living room. They want everything on one story, eschewing the stairs, walls, and inconveniences that come with a two-story home. They want bigger guest suites, bigger home offices, and — yes — even bigger garages.

“We have an option where you can add four feet to your garage, and everybody is wanting that extra four feet. We opened up this new floor plan with a third-car garage, and we were going to build a model. We already have four homes under construction, and we haven’t even started the model,” said Donna Seighman, design consultant with Kolter Homes, builder of The Ponds and active-adult Cresswind Charleston neighborhoods in Summerville.

“People want a bigger garage. When I ask them why, they say, ‘We just want everything where we can get it.’ They want their vehicles in the garage, but they also want their work space. They want to be able to find all their stuff, keep it organized. It’s almost like the garage is becoming part of the house now.”

They’re discovering the same at K. Hovnanian Homes, builder of the active-adult Four Seasons at Lakes of Cane Bay neighborhood near Summerville and the forthcoming Pinckney Farms in Mount Pleasant, set to break ground in February. Some of the company’s more popular designs include a three-car garage and a golf cart garage.

“I think part of it, as someone who’s lived in the south for 20 years but hails from Michigan, is we have no basements here,” said Blanche Sullivan, division marketing manager at K. Hovnanian. “I think people coming from the Midwest miss their basements, and want that extra storage. They seem to like extra space for crafts, or if they’re into kayaking or bike riding. They appreciate that extra space in addition to a place to keep their vehicle.”

That desire for open spaces extends into the home, where expansive kitchens flowing into living areas remain the gold standard. Those elements are clearly favored by visitors to the nine-home model park at Cane Bay, Sullivan said. And at the Ponds, Seighman said homes with closed-off kitchens don’t tend to draw as much interest as those with open kitchens.

“I don’t think we’re going to see that go away.” Seighman said. “I think the kitchen is still going to be your most important room in the house.”

The desire for that openness is making two-story homes less popular, she added, perhaps another reason garages are becoming a priority. With more people able to work from home, dedicated home offices — and not desks shoved into closets or corners — are becoming a must-have. And more home buyers want not just guest rooms, but guest suites, perhaps using a barn door to close off part of a hallway that includes a bed and a bath.

When it comes to home design, combinations are growing in popularity. Whereas homeowners once used palettes that were all gray or beige, Seighman is now seeing a mixing of the two — perhaps gray-toned kitchens with beige-toned countertops, or beige cabinets with gray countertops. It’s the same with kitchen fixtures, as homeowners are proving more willing to mix finishes.

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“Chrome is still very popular, but people are getting more into mixing up their finishes,” she said. “Before it was all chrome, or all brushed nickel, or all oil-rubbed bronze. Now it’s kind of mixing up. Those gold tones are coming back.”

So are flashes of color; both Seighman and Sullivan say bold backsplashes in light kitchens and feature walls in living areas are growing in popularity. Whereas throw pillows or artwork once did the job of adding color to a room, that task now more often falls to a wall covered in textured wallpaper or washed wood.

“It’s a slight accent, nothing too heavy,” Sullivan said. “It’s something to add interest and break up the space.”

Light fixtures are also becoming design elements, with homeowners looking for distinctive pieces that can illuminate in more ways than one. “Customers have become very focused on their light fixtures,” Seighman said. “They want them unique, they want them with color. People are bringing in light fixtures and asking me to incorporate them into their kitchens. Now, it’s like light fixtures are the jewelry of the house.”

The use of wallpaper to add color, much like all-white kitchens or shiplap — wooden boards once used on exteriors, and now incorporated as an interior design element — is tied directly to the popularity of home design shows like those on HGTV. One K. Hovnanian model featured a shiplap wallpaper accent, “and people went gangbusters for it,” Sullivan said.

“Of course, it was from the Joanna Gaines collection,” she added, referring to the HGTV star. “I think that definitely comes from watching this increase of home design shows. With the internet, you can Google anything that’s popular in home design. I don’t think people want to do anything crazy, because there’s a cost involved. But they want to be trendy, and still feel like they’re in their comfort zone.”