Thanks to the economic downturn of the mid-2000s, the McMansion -- a very large suburban home with a mix of architectural styles and a variety of room types -- seem to be a thing of the past. Family sizes are shrinking. Many people can't afford a big house, and some of those who can are realizing that they don't need all that space anyway. Nor do we have unlimited amounts of space in which to build.
One way of dealing with these issues is to go back to those old homes that are so often remodeled and deemed "too small" by some standards and make the best use of the space that's already there. But in the case of new builds, smaller and more flexible houses are going to be more popular. Although the economy will inevitably turn around, in the future we're more likely to want houses that will work for a variety of lifestyles and interests. In other words, having a scrapbooking room with special built-in storage for your rubber stamp collection will only appeal to a small number of people when you try to sell your house, so it may not be the best idea.
In 2010, Builder Magazine "built" the Home for the New Economy, a virtual concept home. At 1700 square feet, it was more than 600 square feet smaller than the average house size in the United States at the time [source: U.S. Census]. Instead of separate living spaces, the living room, kitchen and dining room flow together. The concept home also includes two different rooms that are adaptable depending on the owner's needs (one can even be turned into a studio apartment). There's a lot of built-in storage, and the three bedrooms and three bathrooms are just that -- not massive living spaces unto themselves. While it may seem a bit spartan, it's completely functional and so well-planned that some builders are using it in communities today.
We won't all want to live in a single-family home for a bunch of reasons, though, and the maintenance required to keep up the house and yard is just one of them. But expect the generic rows of apartment buildings to become less common. People want to live where they work and have a sense of community. Common and outdoor spaces mean you don't need as much inside.
Flashy home designs of the future are fascinating, but they probably won't become commonplace. In 50 to 100 years, we'll probably live in more high-tech, more environmentally friendly, longer-lasting and smaller homes that look much the same as your home does right now.