Jessica Randolph’s custom home in East Nashville’s Shelby Hills neighborhood has an open floor plan and a gourmet kitchen. Aerial Development Group, the builder, added a feature intended to appeal to urban, millennial homebuyers — an Airbnb apartment.

In suburban Nolensville, The Jones Co. added covered outdoor living space and extra walk-in storage space to the home purchased by Ross and Jennifer Wetzel, who have two young children.

Goodall Homes, meanwhile, is offering flex space on the main level that can be used as a formal dining room, an office or as a guest suite complete with a full bath.

“Our customers really like having a choice in how they use that space in the home,” said Laura May, sales manager for Goodall.

Homes for modern living

Homebuilders are offering innovative new floor plans designed to reflect how people live in their homes today.

For Jessica Randolph, including an Airbnb-type apartment in the home creates an opportunity to be part of the “sharing economy.” Many millennial homeowners are interested in earning income while enjoying their homes.

“My husband and I wanted to be smart about our home. We worked with Aerial to create a design that would help us to not feel daunted by our new mortgage payment. We both love to travel and have enjoyed staying in other VRBO and Airbnb properties in different cities, so we felt comfortable being a host ourselves,” she said. “One of our favorite things about our beautiful new home is sitting on our large porch and meeting new guests as they arrive.”

Many millennial homeowners are interested in earning income while enjoying their homes.

“The homeowners of today are looking to be smart with their finances and find ways to capitalize on their assets,” Randolph said. “Being that Aerial has a millennial owner and several millennials on staff, their designs are created specifically for our generation and for boomers. Similar to Uber or Lyft, we like finding new ways to produce income and live an exciting lifestyle in a frugal manner.”

In some of Williamson County’s newest condominiums built by Regent Homes in the Berry Farms master-planned community, you might have to walk through a closet to reach the bathroom.

“People ask, ‘did we make a mistake?’ ” said Regent President David McGowan. “We did it on purpose” to add character to the condos, he said.

“The interiors are like a building that got rehabbed instead of a new building,” he said. Prices range from around $239,000 to $250,000.

Open floor plans gain popularity

In Franklin’s Westhaven community, Regent is building condominiums with completely open floor plans that make their relatively small size — 1,500 square feet — seem much larger. They are especially appealing to buyers downsizing from larger homes. The condos are priced in the mid- to high $300,000 range.

Regent’s sold-out Mason Rowhouses, on Long Boulevard near Centennial Park, emphasize vertical living space. The three-story townhomes are just 16 feet wide. Placing the master bedroom on the third floor creates living and entertaining space on the first two levels. The floor plan emphasizes the kitchen as a gathering space for family and guests.

“The kitchen is like a showpiece, in the center of the house,” said McGowan.

When Ross and Jennifer Wetzel bought their Jones Co. home in Nolensville’s Whitney Park neighborhood, they were especially attracted by the open floor plan. The great room is open to the kitchen and breakfast area.

“The kitchen in many houses is tucked away and feels like a separate space,” said Ross Wetzel.

They enjoy family time with their two children, ages 3 and 8, in the shade of their covered outdoor living area.

“We live outside. It’s a good place to watch them play out of the sun,” said Ross Wetzel.

Builders meet range of buyer needs

Homes with around 2,800 to 3,000 square feet of living space and open floor plans are popular today, said Jen Lucy, director of sales for The Jones Co.

“It’s not 4,000 square feet, but it allows them to live larger,” she said.

Fewer people want formal dining rooms. Instead, they are asking for main-level space that can be used as a home office, said Lucy.

“A lot of people work from home or own a business. Laptops and iPads may make a desk and a computer seem antiquated, but they want space for a printer and a scanner,” she said.

Goodall Homes has introduced its “pocket office,” a small space that can be used as a private getaway, said May.

The concept is “great for those who do not need a full-size room for an office and prefer not to use one of the bedrooms as an office,” she said.

In the master bath, oversized showers are taking the place of garden tubs. Master closets that provide direct access to the laundry room are also popular. So are outdoor living spaces, said May.

Many homebuyers are looking for floor plans that will allow them to age in place and not have to move if they can no longer climb stairs or eventually need a wheelchair.

“One-level homes with oversized doorways are some of our hottest floor plans right now,” said May.

Published by THE TENNESSEAN