Then and wow: How Parade of Homes reflects changing trends

BIA’s annual tour will showcase latest in home design June 17-25

If you toured some of the 52 homes on the first Parade of Homes back in 1991, you probably encountered a fair share of oak kitchen cabinets, brass fixtures and lots of wallpaper, too.
It’s safe to say you’ll notice something quite different when you tour this year’s entries on the Parade, which kicks off Saturday, June 17.
A lot has changed since the Building Industry Association of Lancaster County launched this annual event 26 years ago — and not just in home design.
While the main goal of the first Parade was to boost home sales amidst an early ’90s recession, it has since evolved into so much more.
The success of the Parade can be measured on many levels, says Melanie Capanelli, director of programs and communications for the BIA.
“The builders think it’s a wonderful tool for them,” she says.
Visitors to the Parade may not be looking to buy a home, but they’re definitely taking notice.
“It’s a good way to showcase you’re quality of work and the diversity of different homes,” says Janet Metzler of Metzler Home Builders. “People love to come and get ideas.”
These days, the Parade of Homes is as much about inspiration as home sales, which is why you’ll always find the latest trends in home design and decor in the tour homes.
So what’s changed over the past quarter century? Plenty.
For one, home styles themselves have changed, Metzler says, from a more traditional, Colonial or French country style of the ’90s to today’s popular modern, farmhouse and Craftsman styles.
And those raised-panel oak cabinets? They’ve taken a back seat, too, to woods like maple and cherry, says Greg Miller of Merv Miller Builder.
Flat-panel, Shaker-style cabinetry is also the popular choice today, Metzler says.
Finishes like satin nickel and matte black have given brass the boot. And those bold wallpapered and faux-painted walls are passé.
In general, kitchens have undergone a huge transformation from the early days of the Parade of Homes, with hard-surface countertops, soft-close drawers and stainless steel or slate-colored appliances replacing the laminate countertops and bisque finishes that were once considered on-trend.
Appliances have also gone to a new level, with built-in microwaves that look like part of the wall and professional-grade ovens that can cost as much as $12,000, Miller says. “They’re made for residential homes, but they look like commercial kitchen stoves,” he says.
Even kitchen flooring has changed.
“Hardwood in the kitchen used to be a no-no,” Miller notes. Not anymore.
In fact, flooring choices abound, with engineered hardwood that won’t shift or shrink and luxury vinyl options that can cost as much as tile.
Gone are those ’90s days of wall-to-wall carpet in varying colors and Oriental carpet runners on the stairs, Metzler says. Today, hardwood or luxury vinyl plank are popular in main living areas, with neutral carpet in bedrooms, and painted risers and stained treads on the stairs.
Bathrooms, in particular master baths, have also seen an upgrade over the past 26 years. Parade homes of the early ’90s may have showcased corner vanities with space for a makeup area, whirlpool tubs, and biscuit-colored bath fixtures with brass faucets and hardware.
“Today, we’re seeing custom tile showers with freestanding tubs and white bath fixtures with chrome or satin nickel faucets,” Metzler says, noting his-and-hers vanities are also popular.
Home features are not the only evolving trends. Floor plans have changed as well to reflect changing lifestyles.
“Back in the ’90s, you were still stuck on all your formal rooms,” Miller says. Many of today’s homes forgo formal dining and living rooms for open floor plans where kitchen, dining and living areas blend seamlessly into one another.
Home’s today are brighter, too, Miller says, thanks to recessed lighting and larger windows that let in plenty of natural light.
Then there are the trends that you can’t necessarily see, Miller says, like increased energy efficiency with improved insulation and zoned heating. Or the use of engineered wood joists and headers that won’t cause sinking like conventional lumber.
For those who build custom homes, their customers are also playing a larger role in home design than they did in the ’90s, thanks to popular websites like Pinterest and Houzz that put an endless array of design ideas at their fingertips. Those websites have made building both fun and challenging, Metzler says, largely because a lot of those great ideas come at an additional cost.
“While they see all these things that they would love to have included in their homes, it puts them over their price point,” she says.
So how long will these latest trends last? That’s the million-dollar question.
“I think everybody in the industry is trying to figure out what the next generation will want,” Miller says.
He’s seeing smaller spaces and an industrial feel in the future.
For those sitting at home staring at their ’90s-era oak kitchens and wallpapered or sponge-painted walls, take heart. Wallpaper is making a comeback, although more as an accent. Brass is making a comeback, too.
“It’s like anything else. It’s cyclical,” Metzler says.
But if you’re ready for a change, inspiration awaits at this year’s Parade of Homes.
The Parade of Homes runs June 17-25. Hours are 5 to 8 p.m. daily and noon to 6 p.m. on weekends. For more information, visit www.lancasterbuilders.org and check out the special advertising supplement in today’s LNP.