Two weekends. 40 open houses. Trends alert!

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Interested in seeing new trends in home building? Want to go rubber-necking at some of the most beautiful new homes in our area? Look no further than the Rochester Area Builders 45th annual Spring Showcase.

“If you are in the market to buy a new home, this is a great chance to talk to the person who will actually build it,” says Patrick Sexton, the Rochester Area Builders Association Executive Director. “Ask all the questions you want, see how they design their kitchens, find out what their cabinets are like. Our members love the chance to meet potential clients and to show off what they’ve done. They’re awfully proud of their homes and if you come, you’ll see why.”

The 2024 Rochester Area Builders Spring Showcase of Homes is set for two weekends, April 20 and 21, and April 27 and 28. Open houses are set for noon to 5 p.m. each day.

If you happen to walk up to one of the open houses—say, a home designed by Susan Volden—she wants to make an impression right at the front door.

With the “Millie” house, a newly constructed rambler by Mitch Hagen and Distinguished Homes in the Millie Meadows Estates subdivision, that statement comes through in an oversized, eight-foot door with seven panels of glass, bordered by two long vertical windows.

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Distinguished Homes’ “Millie” will be one of about 40 homes, townhomes and condos spread across Rochester on display for public viewing at the Spring Showcase.

Volden hopes the natural light shining through creates a dramatic entry point.

“It’s a fantastic front door,” says Volden, owner of Susan Volden Interiors and also a home designer of new builds for Hagen. “Each house has its own personality that needs to show inside and outside of the house when it’s finished. It’s fun to pull it all together.”

Open season for open concepts, still

Starting on the outside, builders say they are seeing a trend toward mixing several different textures on the exterior. With the “Millie” home, they went with a combination of stone, lap siding that looks like cedar, and regular lap siding.

Located at 5259 Maggie May Lane SW in Rochester, the luxury home carries spacious living areas spread across 4,256 square feet of living space, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms.

The rise of home improvement shows over the past decade on networks like HGTV created a more discerning homeowner, with open concept kitchens and living rooms becoming the standard. It’s a trend that is still in high demand, local home construction experts told us.

In terms of layouts, bedrooms on the same floor so parents can be close to younger children, is a focus, Hagen says, as well as adding three-stall garages.

In my family, there’s a popular saying: “TVs and garages can never be big enough.” Some clients are making that push, looking for oversized four stall garages, appreciating the additional storage space.

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Even in two story homes, the opened up main floor is a must for their clients, Hagen and Volden agree.

“Absolutely open is the big thing,” Volden says. “The heart of the house is always the kitchen.”

Plans are often no longer incorporating a dedicated dining room, but a dining space just off the kitchen.

Walking inside “Millie,” a cozy entryway welcomes you, opening up into a large great room awash with natural light from generous windows bouncing off of 12 foot ceilings. Built-in shelves surround a gas fireplace on the left side, while the open concept kitchen and eat-in dining space sit just to the right.

The master bedroom rests on the main floor, connected to a walk-in closet and main floor laundry room. Another bedroom is on the main floor, while the three remaining bedrooms are on the lower walkout level.

A screened porch just off of the main level dining area invites outside meals even when Minnesota’s notoriously uninvited but always present mosquitos are out in full force.

In the kitchen, white cabinets are still the most sought after, Volden says, but if clients want to add splashes of color to the cabinets, the overall design often keeps a white perimeter. Black spindles have become in vogue, as is dark colored hardware to contrast with the light cupboards and shelves.

In “Millie,” many of the cabinets are wall hung, leaving space underneath, or have furniture-type legs on the bottom, a look becoming popular, she says. It gives cupboards the finished look of a larger piece of furniture.

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Kitchens are coming stocked with oversized islands that flex from meal preparation, to eating spaces, to a spot for an after dinner cocktail, but one of the newest changes is taking the closet-style pantry, and leveling it up to a larger “butler’s pantry.”

The pantry then becomes a place for all of the smaller appliances, the mixer, the food processor and the like. But a closet, the space is not.

At the “Millie” home, Volden said the high-end finishes didn’t stop once they got to the butler’s pantry; they chose to put a $1,000 light fixture there.

“It just needed to happen. It’s such a cool pantry,” the designer says.

Shades of gray rocking the burbs

What about color? Is Sherwin Williams’ popular shade Agreeable Gray still going platinum in the suburbs?

In a sense, yes. But like the trend of mixed textures outside the home, taking that trend indoors allows designers to use classic neutral colors like gray, beige, and white in new ways, allowing homeowners to furnish the spaces however they choose.

“Those colors are kind of timeless,” Volden says.

Carpets are no different, breaking up the basic plush with some kinds of texture, and wood slats on walls are adding another visual element, Volden says.

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Wood slats are a bit skinnier than shiplap, which has taken a bit of a step back after exploding in popularity in large part to interior designers Chip and Joanna Gaines on “Fixer Upper.”

The colors of the moment that might be popular nationally don’t always play in the Midwest, Volden says. Using different textures has had a big impact in bathrooms, like bathtub and shower surrounds.

“The coolest thing is it really adds some dimension,” Volden says.

She likes throwing in some rich color here and there, potentially a “moody blue,” a type of blueish-green. In the “Millie” house, Hagen and Volden chose Sherwin Williams Iron Ore, a rich dark gray that provides a modern contrast with planned lighter stone surfaces, and brushed gold touches that peek out in light fixtures.

When designing, Volden says she seeks a “cohesive calmness.” She wants clients to be able to take a piece from one room, and take it to any other space in the home without breaking up the compatibility.

Hagen and Volden are particularly excited to have the public see “Millie” all finished.

“I fall in love with every house we design,” Volden says. “Sometimes I fall in love with one more than others, and I love the Maggie Mae Lane house. I think it might be the prettiest one we have ever done.”

The 2024 Rochester Area Builders Spring Showcase of Homes is set for two weekends, April 20-21, and April 27-28. Open houses are set for noon to 5 p.m. each day. For info, check out

www.rochesterareabuilders.com/spring-showcase

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