We've heard a lot about baby boomers in the last decade or so, usually accompanied by phrases like “800-pound gorilla.” No wonder experts have been analyzing the weighty impact of this group in all arenas of modern life. residential architect magazine's parent company, Hanley Wood, LLC, is no exception. As part of its annual American Housing Conference held last fall, the company commissioned research into the domestic likes, dislikes, and heartfelt desires of the baby boom's leading edge—the most affluent cohort turning 60. Based on the findings, residential architect invited two architecture firms to respond with concepts for a new boomer house and a remodeled house. Ed Binkley, AIA, National Design Director of BSB Design, took on the new prototype, and Dennis Wedlick, AIA, of Dennis Wedlick Architect LLC applied his vision to the revised house.

And what did these hypothetical clients want? A hodgepodge mix of selfless and selfish requirements. They want houses that are smaller, more luxurious, and high-tech; they want them more functional, lower-maintenance, and energy-efficient; they want a better connection to the outdoors and room to party with friends; they want to welcome their visiting children but not have them stay too long; they want space for their hobbies but not for their aged parents. They care about green design. They're tired of traditional architectural styles. They'd prefer a hardworking one-level floor plan and universal design features so they can age in place. They expect to remain active and engaged in outdoor pursuits. As Wedlick says, “They like to get muddy, so they need a mud room.” Binkley's buyers “like a glass of chardonnay by the pool.”

The leading edge of the baby boom is ready for the good life. And both Binkley's courtyard house and Wedlick's compound remodel provide it, with oasislike escapes from the outside world. Each house also has a smaller second level (not shown) with overflow room for visitors or hobbies. Together, both houses show how good design can grow with us, responding to our changing needs and desires.