Homeowners have been doing it for ages: Converting a spare bedroom into a craft room. Using a dining room as a workspace. Furnishing a loft area with fitness equipment and a desk so it can do double duty as an office and a home gym.
“Now we’re owning that space and giving it a name that’s catchy,” says Bill Martin, architectural designer for Alden Homes.
That name is “flex space,” and it’s in demand for new homes. While we might have been adapting our homes to meet our unique needs all along, builders are now becoming more intentional about creating living spaces that can easily serve a variety of purposes.
The National Association of Realtors recently listed multifunctional space among its hot trends. Flex space also figured prominently in the New American Home 2022, the official show home of the National Association of Home Builders’ annual International Builders Show.
The same is true for this year’s Lancaster/Lebanon Parade of Homes presented by the Building Industry Association of Lancaster County, which takes place June 18-26. The annual tour is not only a marketing tool for local builders, but also a reflection of the latest design trends for those who are looking to build a new home or remodel an existing one.
Two-thirds of the 18 homes on this year’s Parade tour list flexible living space as a feature.
11 Willow Street, Lebanon
Inviting front porch ∙ private study ∙ 9-foot ceilings on first floor ∙ Mudroom entry with pantry, built-in lockers and bench ∙ quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances and large center island ∙ wainscoting and chair rail in dining room ∙ Open family room with gas fireplace featuring full-height stone surround ∙ owner’s suite with expansive closet and private bath with tile shower and free-standing tub
12 Lee Drive, Stevens
Open floor plan with welcoming front porch and 9-foot ceilings on the 1st floor ∙ 2-car garage with mudroom entry ∙ versatile flex space ∙ vinyl plank flooring in foyer, kitchen, dining room and family room ∙ gas fireplace with stone surround ∙ spacious owner’s suite with private bath, double-bowl vanity and an expansive closet ∙ kitchen access to deck
140 Stillcreek Road, Millersville
Wm Murry & Sons
Gorgeous views of Crossgates Golf Course ∙ first-floor primary suite with walk-in closet and bath with walk-in shower and soaking tub ∙ vaulted ceiling in great room, dining room, kitchen ∙ hexagon ceramic tile backsplash in kitchen and fireplace surround ∙ convenient first-floor laundry and mudroom ∙ second-floor teen suite with full bath ∙ oversized 2-car garage with extra room for small vehicle or storage
156 Bonneville Drive, Ronks
Custom Home Group
Modern Farmhouse trim package ∙ first-floor owner’s suite with tray ceiling/decorative beams, tile shower, soaking tub, double-bowl vanity and linen closet ∙ first-floor luxury vinyl plank flooring ∙ quartz countertops, tile backsplash in kitchen ∙ gas fireplace with shiplap and wood mantel ∙ drop-zone with bench, cubbies and shiplap accent wall ∙ laundry room cabinetry with built-in sink
321 Freedom Drive, Ephrata
Located in Home Towne Square, a 55+ Lifestyle Community by Landmark Homes ∙ black slate appliances and quartz countertops ∙ mudroom entry with storage area, closet and access to laundry room ∙ great room with cathedral ceiling and 2-story gas fireplace ∙ first-floor owner’s suite with large, private bath, double-bowl vanity, tile shower and oversized closet ∙ vinyl plank flooring in main living areas
358 Autumn Harvest Lane, Lititz
Culinary kitchen with wall microwave and oven combination ∙ richly stained full overlay kitchen cabinets ∙ 5-inch oak engineered hardwood floors ∙ ceramic tile shower ∙ built-in desk space just off kitchen ∙ gas fireplace with built-in bookcases ∙ timeless exterior elevation
405 Murrycross Way, Millersville
Wm Murry & Sons
Overlooks 18th hole of Crossgates Golf Course ∙ Vaulted and coffered ceilings and farmhouse natural luxury plank throughout the first floor ∙ gourmet kitchen with oversized island to seat six, quartz countertops and tile backsplash ∙ first-floor owner’s suite with triple window and large walk-in closet ∙ owner’s bath with ceramic tile walk-in shower ∙ low-maintenance living with snow removal, mowing
413 Mayapple Drive, Annville
Cathedral ceiling in family room/kitchen area ∙ built-in bench seating in dining area ∙ white-painted kitchen with soft close doors and drawers, quartz countertops, tile backsplash and cast-iron farm sink ∙ fireplace with stone surround, mantel and shiplap trim to ceiling ∙ mini hexagon tile floor in powder room ∙ shiplap trim accent wall in owner’s bedroom ∙ farmhouse accent trim in foyer
898 Fenton Ave., Lancaster
Keystone Custom Homes
Classic Kitchen with eat-in island, navy cabinets with gold hardware, farmhouse sink and walk-in pantry ∙ family room with brick painted accent wall and linear gas fireplace with floating mantel ∙ first-floor study with built-in bookshelves ∙ owner’s suite with window bench and luxury Serenity Bath ∙ additional bedrooms with unique design elements, including playhouse façade ∙ back patio with pergola
1010 Percy Lane, Lebanon
Ultimate basement bar with unique island ∙ ultra-modern farmhouse kitchen ∙ waterfall countertop with flip-up USB/electrical outlets ∙ spacious walk-in pantry with coffee station ∙ lighted recessed wall for art display ∙ master vanity floating on tiled wall ∙ gas fireplace with shiplap and floating mantle ∙ smart home by Lutron with whole house dehumidifier ∙ modern farmhouse lighting
1016 Valley Crossing Drive, Lititz
Pine Hill Building Co.
Stairway encased with wraparound windows ∙ chef’s kitchen with 10-foot island ∙ scullery and pantry conveniently tucked behind kitchen ∙ owner’s retreat with large tile shower and integrated soaking tub ∙ linear gas fireplace and full height windows in family room ∙ first-floor guest suite ∙ glass partition walls ∙ white oak floors ∙ Open floor plan with 10-foot first-floor ceilings and 9-foot second-floor ceilings
1035 Valley Crossing Drive, Lititz
Coffered ceiling in kitchen, family room ∙ 2-story foyer with curved staircase railing ∙ mudroom with shiplap trim, bench, pegs with cubbies ∙ stone fireplace in family room with unique built-in bookshelves and 2×2 windows ∙ corner fireplace and tray ceiling with shiplap trim in owner’s suite ∙ freestanding tub and doorless walk-in shower in owner’s suite ∙ breakfast room with ladder transom and shiplap trim
1452 Fieldstone Drive, Mount Joy
Alden Homes interpretation of Northwest modern architecture ∙ surprising spaces in a functional floorplan ∙ vaulted owner’s bedroom with floating bed ∙ tiled spa-like owner’s bathroom ∙ steel fireplace wall ∙ monostair stringer with reading area beneath ∙ smart home by Lutron ∙ skylights and picture windows for natural light ∙ show-stopping clean lines kitchen ∙ glass garage door by Haas
3925 Hill Church Road, Lebanon
Price not published
Three-car garage ∙ first-floor owner’s suite with luxury bath ∙ coffered and tray ceiling accents ∙ custom cabinetry, quartz countertops and walk-through pantry ∙ stamped concrete porches ∙ covered back patio with wood burning fireplace and stained wood ceiling ∙ board-and-batten vinyl siding, stone veneer and standing seam metal roof accents ∙ 9.5-foot first-floor ceilings ∙ 4279 square feet ∙ Home is sold
Modern contemporary farmhouse style ∙ stained exposed truss beams and stamped concrete in entryway ∙ private owner’s suite with tiled shower/Bain Ultra air jet bath and generous walk-in closet ∙ gourmet kitchen with large hidden pantry ∙ upscale cozy gas fireplace that can be enjoyed from several rooms ∙ covered stamped concrete back porch ∙ angled garage with room above for storage
1906 Edington Place, Lancaster
Built by Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology students ∙ engineered hardwood first and second floor ∙ studio vault in owner’s suite ∙ owner’s bath with large walk-in shower and heated floor ∙ finished basement with custom bar ∙ stone fireplace with reclaimed bar beam mantel ∙ custom kitchen ∙ open floor plan with reclaimed lumber beams ∙ interior shiplap accent walls ∙ exterior brick and stone veneer
105 Princeton Place, Lebanon
Double staircase ∙ shiplap trim and farmhouse trim accents ∙ fireplace with penny tile surround ∙ blackboard paint in laundry ∙ anthracite rustic wood accent wall in study ∙ wallpaper accents in several locations ∙ luxury owner’s bath with free-standing tub ∙ 2 large walk-in closets in owner’s suite ∙ quartz countertops and tile backsplash in kitchen ∙ Superior walls in basement
333 Amber Drive, Lititz
Finished basement ∙ “Retreat” Bath with free-standing tub and ceramic tile shower ∙ large 5-by-5 kitchen island ∙ butler’s pantry ∙ mosaic tile backsplash ∙ apron-front farmhouse kitchen sink ∙ cathedral ceiling in owner’s bedroom ∙ wall oven/microwave cabinet in kitchen
“I would say it’s much more in demand since the pandemic,” says Charles Sensenig, partner and director of operations for Pine Hill Building Co. “The root cause of that is obviously people are working from home more, or had worked from home more, and are able to continue to do that.”
Pine Hill’s Parade entry at 1016 Valley Crossing Drive, in the Lititz Bend community, has what Sensenig considers two flexible living spaces. One is a first-floor room with its own bath that can function as a guest suite, office or additional living area. The other is a scullery, a small prep kitchen that allows home cooks to keep their messes hidden from the main kitchen, so they can more easily entertain guests around the island.
Sensenig says some traditional rooms, such as the dining room or living room, are not always defined as such anymore, a recognition that not every homeowner will use that space for the same purpose.
And for those who are still working from home, at least part of the time, creating a smaller, pocket office off the mudroom or drop zone is also popular, he says.
Bonnie Martin, interior designer for Garman Builders, agrees.
“I’ve seen flex spaces in the laundry area or the mudroom area that can be converted into bulk storage or could be used as a garage workspace,” Martin says. “That space could also be turned into a pocket office or an expanded laundry room.”
The Parade entry from EGStoltzfus Homes, at 358 Autumn Harvest Lane, Lititz has a pocket office off the kitchen, offering overflow space to keep documents and other messes out of the kitchen itself. The home is located in the Warwick Crossing neighborhood.
EGStoltzfus Design Studio consultant Stephanie Lachance notes that home plans are not only offering more flex space, but also more options.
The builder’s Glen Mary model offers an optional garage extension that could serve as storage, a workshop, a home gym or more.
“Some of our home plans now have an optional first-floor guest suite,” she says. “We have a lot of buyers who have international family members who come and stay with them for extended periods of time. … We are seeing more multigenerational living, kind of having the ability to have their own space, their own corner of the home, but still allowing that flexibility for it to be converted to something else if someone decides to move out.”
While home offices are the most popular use Bonnie Martin is seeing for flex spaces in Garman homes, she says multigenerational living is a close second.
“As a result, we’ve been — especially recently — having conversations about how to make those flex spaces work for that type of buyer,” Martin says.
Garman’s Parade entry at 105 Princeton Place, Lebanon, in the Strathford Meadows neighborhood, offers a multigenerational option. The Ellsworth floor plan has a formal living room, study and powder room on the same side of the house, Martin says. However, a multigenerational family could create a parents’ quarters in that space by opting for a full bath and using the study as a bedroom and the formal living room as a more private living area, she says.
Garman’s Huntleigh model at 1035 Valley Crossing Drive in Lititz Bend has a flex room with an attached full bath off the mudroom. With a separate entrance connecting to a one-car garage, the space would make a perfect multigenerational living area for an older parent or college student, she says.
In Alden Place, a 55-plus community by Alden Homes in Cornwall, the Stanford model on this year’s Parade, at 1010 Percy Lane, offers a flexible study with sliding glass barn doors as well as a bedroom and full bath in the finished lower level that could serve as a private living area, Bill Martin says.
Flex space is often a room or rooms, but it doesn’t have to be. Martin says it can simply mean creating a space that’s not part of a traditional design.
Alden Homes has long touted the benefits of smaller, smarter homes that boast an efficient use of space, with creative features like a built-in desk tucked beneath a staircase. For their Parade entry at The Gables at Elm Tree, 1452 Fieldstone Drive, Mount Joy, Martin and designer Rhoda Zook used the space beneath an open staircase to create a reading nook, but it could also serve other purposes, such as a little play area for the kids.
“I don’t need to put a title to that space,” he says.
Like all good flex space, Martin says, it can morph as the family ages — or as the home changes hands.
“As a design point,” he says, “there’s no two people in this world that live alike.”