The rich not only get richer, they get bigger houses.
Five and 10 years ago, most custom designed homes averaged about 2,500 to 3,500 square feet of living area. Today, a typical client wants a house with 4,000 to 9,000 square feet, with some demanding houses in the 10,000 and 11,000-square-foot range, according to an Encino-based architect who specializes in that field.
"Ten years ago, a two-car garage was considered sufficient," said William M. Bray. "Today, most custom homes have three- or four-car garages. Large-screen television sets have been responsible for an increase in the size of the average custom-home family room. Microwave ovens, trash compactors and walk-in pantries have increased kitchen areas to luxury proportions."
The rich may have the money for these large custom houses, costing at least $70 a square foot, but they don't necessarily have the sophistication to know what to ask for, Bray said.
"An architect who designs custom homes must know how to lead a client through the design process, gently suggesting features he knows the client wants," he added.
The traditional shake-roofed, low-lying California ranch house was popular with clients a decade or so ago; today, they want Country French, English Tudor, Spanish, Mediterranean and Colonial houses, Bray said.
"Demand for flat-roof designs has slipped to an all-time low, even though a low-pitched roof silhouette is a requirement in some areas where stepped lots dictate a view-saving consideration," he added.
Along with the bigger houses with their volume ceilings and elaborate kitchens and baths, his clients want larger lots, security guard-gate settings, swimming pools and north-south tennis courts.
"Ten years ago, hardly anyone wanted home gymnasiums and saunas, not to mention computer rooms, but today they are desirable features in upscale houses," Bray said.
Another trend that has blossomed in the last decade--spurred by massive increases in property values--is the construction of new custom homes on lots where the existing house was demolished.
"This is most evident in Beverly Hills, thanks to its close-in location, but it's happening in other affluent communities, too," Bray said.