2018 Landscape Trends in Community Amenities

Whether you are designing a new community amenity or expanding or renovating an existing amenity, we are all striving to create meaningful places with lasting value. At Canin Associates, we focus on planning and designing great people places. Placemaking creates value in amenity design and landscape design is a huge aspect in placemaking. Designing well-amenitized landscapes provides venues for a variety of experiences and active and passive recreation.

Here are some community design trends we are exploring for 2018 that will help enhance your amenity design.

Water/Food/Play – Making Connections

All great amenities should provide the basics of a pool, some type of food service or cooking equipment and spaces for play. Connecting the dots between these elements is a trend we are seeing. Water-ready table games in the pool, water basketball and volleyball, outdoor kitchens on the pool deck, and age-inclusive splash pads are all trending features that incorporate these elements in creative ways.

Go Beyond the Shopping List

It’s a perennial question for builders and developers: What’s new and trending in amenities? It’s important in the planning stages to take time to think beyond a typical list of amenity elements and consider activities that may be more targeted to your specific project context or anticipated residents. Active items like Pump Tracks are augmenting trail systems for bike experiences. Outdoor fitness circuits and parkour equipment are capitalizing on the Ninja Warrior / Adventure Racing trend. Manufacturers of play equipment are now providing a variety of high quality, internet-linked outdoor fitness equipment.

Other innovative amenities include adding climate-controlled greenhouses for residents where gardening classes can be held. Incorporating art is an important element of placemaking and many communities are providing sculpture in the landscape and even promoting local artists in exterior sculpture garden galleries.

Focus on the Details

Attention to detail is crucial and given the high value placed on creative placemaking in today’s urban designs, it’s no surprise that there are numerous companies pushing the envelope with new materials, lighting and other landscape infrastructure products. In the material world, we are seeing more and more porcelain tile being used as a long term substitute for pavers and stones. Simulated wood remains a very popular aesthetic. Paver companies are continually pushing flexibility with new specialty colors, sizes and aggregate materials for a huge variety of treatments. Many projects are mixing paving techniques for an even larger variety of hardscape combinations.

Innovative for pool construction techniques and materials are available. Cushioned pool floors are a welcome advancement in fitness pools. New stainless steel construction techniques are providing long term viability with flexibility in shape and very creative coping solutions.

Electrical infrastructure for lighting and technology are a must. Lighting options have significantly advanced beyond just LED’s and combining lighting with musical systems are becoming more popular as controls have moved to your tablet. Options for music and show lighting are particularly popular in amenities that feature evening entertainment. Festoon lighting remains highly popular with a variety of commercial construction systems available for long lasting appeal. Internet technology is a must and for 2018, we are seeing builders and developers devote significant time during the planning process to adequately evaluate the network system requirements and plan for long term management. Some developers are moving away from providing Wifi and making deals with providers to move directly into the 5g IoT market. Creatively designed equipment is lacking, but look for a new emphasis on aesthetics in 2018.

Engaging Spaces

Active spaces are important, but spaces that engage the senses is a new goal. Taking a page from resort design, new amenities are creating immersive spaces that compel the user to return again and again. Many developers recognize that utilizing the rooftop can create a unique community experience and new construction techniques do not obstruct sound water and infrastructure management on the rooftop. Bars, pergolas, kitchens, dining and relaxation are all part of the programmable rooftop. A well thought out community takes advantage of every space, even the spaces left between. Even little spaces can have a big impact when design is given a priority. Add benches, hardscape, color, shade and maybe a grill and you have a community gathering spot in what used to be a simple lawn. New community amenities in 2018 should take advantage of every opportunity, both big and small.

Landscapes that Work

Trails and trail systems remain hugely popular in communities building. Developers are adding value by providing fitness opportunities, tracking and markings along with a hierarchical system that includes comfortable streetscapes for bikers and walkers. Planning for a full trail system up front is crucial. Comfort in the landscape is also critical and inspired shade systems are a necessity. Whether it’s a unique perforated metal structure or a tablet driven operable shade pergola that tracks the sun, look for more creative shade techniques in 2018. Along with creative shade, there is a myriad of options for creatively designed fire pits and inspired furniture choices that are colorful, flexible, durable and contemporary.

Along with exterior athletic equipment advances, builders and developers are recognizing the importance of a wise investment in quality play equipment. Play equipment quickly becomes a liability if it doesn’t work or if maintenance is required too often. Sound choices in quality play equipment are available and manufacturers recognize the need for long term durability. More and more creative play options are available as manufacturers provide customizable components and design assistance for parks and play spaces.

Waterwise landscape is not just a trend, it is being regulated by jurisdictions intent on conserving water and providing a more sustainable landscape. Builders and developers will continue the trend for waterwise landscape design to comply with jurisdictional requirements but also for long term maintenance and replacement value.

Recent landscape architecture trends have highlighted infrastructure as art. We could see more of this in 2018. The trend will show up in custom site furniture integrated in the landscape, benches and signage with interactive Wifi, and contemporary designs for age old landscape elements like fire hydrants. Every opportunity to be innovative and creative with infrastructure adds to the character, enhancing the amenity and therefore the community.

Contact Greg Witherspoon in our Landscape Architecture Studio to see more on Landscape Design Trends for 2018.

2018 Outlook: Home Design Trends



Looking toward 2018, I thought it would be interesting to first look back a decade to see what was trending in home design in 2008, at the start of the Great Recession. The economy, jobs, wages, and the size of homes were all contracting. Home sizes, like companies, were “downsizing”. Before the crash, normal floor plans with spaces like Great Rooms, Cafés (or Breakfast Nooks), and formal Living and Dining Rooms had become smartly condensed into “Everyday Living” spaces with an open kitchen. Tubs in shrinking Master Bathrooms were removed to accommodate larger showers. These floor plan trends began to stick back then and are still preferred by most buyers today.

Over the past 10 years the pendulum has started to swing back, with plans starting to slowly grow larger again. Space gained through consolidation has translated to larger Kitchens, Outdoor Living Areas, Walk-In Closets, and Storage. Evolving plan drivers are more focused on enhancing the living experience within the home. Here’s a look forward at new design trends progressing into next year.



Buyers are spending more time outdoors, enjoying time with family and friends. Covered outdoor living spaces today are designed the way we design interior living rooms, with comfortable outdoor furniture and TVs. Some include gas fireplaces, outdoor bars, grills for cooking, and dining areas. 2018 trends include painting the color of the exterior living space walls the same color as the interior, not the color of the siding, and also extending the flooring from the inside to the outside. Eliminate the barrier between the indoors and outdoors with large, pocketing sliding glass or folding doors. Buyers love the openness of the two spaces, and they perceive the combined usable spaces as higher value.




Buyers still prefer large kitchen islands, especially with seating. But now that Kitchens are open to the Everyday Living spaces, countertop clutter needs to be hidden. Buyers love to show off their high-tech appliances, but not the coffee maker, can opener, blender, etc. So next year our floor plans are including “Sculleries” or “Small Appliance Pantries”. They replace the same space Butler Pantries used to and provide extra countertop preparation space and cabinet storage too.







Storage ranks high on buyers preference surveys. In new floor plans, we provide small signature spaces for buyers to use as they please. Only utilizing 48-64 square feet, or 6’x8’ to 8’x8’, these small spaces can be used for a hobby room, luggage storage, wine room/cellar, home tech closet, shopping club storage, pet suite, or any other use a homeowner can imagine.






Who would want to buy a new home with a tight, cramped, and undersized laundry room? Or have no place to store the vacuum or Swiffer? Buyers love the expanded functional space of Domestic Suites, especially when they are conveniently connected to a Master Closet for easy access. The Domestic Suite should have enough counter space to the left of the washer/dryer to sort clothes and countertops to the right for folding and ironing. It should also provide a clothes rod for “delicates” to air dry. In your suite, include a broom and vacuum closet with an outlet for recharging; include shelves for household cleaners. Use the extra cabinetry in the room for extra household storage (batteries, flashlights, tape, scissors, lightbulbs, etc.), and use the wall space for dry goods shelving. There is an opportunity to impress buyers if the room can be made large enough for a small work island or hobby desk. The Domestic Suite can also double as a Pet Suite. Well-designed and planned utility spaces add tremendous value to the home and they can be scaled for all home sizes.




Formal Living Rooms were once seldom used, however new floor plans have evolved by changing the Living Room into a “Flex” room. Buyers now have the option of making these spaces home offices, as the trend over the past decade shows more people are working at home. Flex Rooms are still a 2018 trend, which gives buyers the option to “office” somewhere else in the house and use the flex room as an office or a Guest Bedroom.

A home office does not necessarily have to be in the default location in front of the house. Often the homeowner benefits from a more private location, out of view from guests. 2018 trends include smaller home offices, called Pocket Offices, because bookcases, file cabinets, and bulky PCs are no longer needed. With laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices, a desk in a small space is sufficient for a printer, router, and basic office needs. These small spaces often hide the “clutter” with barn doors.



Small, detached retreat spaces are a new thing. Modest and remote “getaway” spaces are perfect for that small work-at-home space, a playroom for kids, a media room, a hobby room, or any other use. You do not need to program this space, buyers will do it for you!




96% of Americans shop online, and the majority of those shoppers prefer doing so to save time and avoid crowds. Look at the success of Amazon and how it is changing retail. Wal-Mart is competing, meal delivery programs are consistently becoming popular (Blue Apron and HelloFresh), and prescriptions can now be delivered right to your door. Most people seem uncomfortable by Amazon Key, Amazon’s new electronic feature that temporarily unlocks your door for the delivery to be placed in your home and then locks the door again when the delivery driver leaves, all while you watch from a security camera. However, there is a better way to guard against “porch pirates”. As a safer solution, with just a little extra wall width, a wall-mounted package drop vault ($440) can be installed on a front porch or near the foyer.




There is not enough space in this article to go into all the exciting new things for 2018, but technology is certainly making an impact on every aspect of design and construction. As technology continues to grow and influence everyday lifestyles, it will provide us with more modern conveniences and spaces to enjoy with family and friends for the next decade to come.

Download the full PDF: Design Trends 2018

Courtyards in Mexico: More than an architectural feature

Canin Associates Fall Studio Sponsorship at the University of Miami

The group walking the streets of San Miguel de Allende


This Fall, Canin Associates sponsored an upper-level research design studio at the University of Miami to study “Courtyard Housing.” The focus was around the history, theory, practice, and technology of courtyard houses in three cities in Mexico. The aim of the project is to translate the design principles of courtyard housing and apply them to a master plan in Florida and then develop appropriate architectural typologies for the community.

Each student was provided an opportunity to study notable courtyard examples from around the world, including some by famous architects and designers including Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and OMA. Most of the studio then had the opportunity to travel to Mexico and tour three of the most important “Magic Towns,” or “Pueblos Magicos,” in the center of Mexico: Guanajuato, Santiago de Queretaro, and San Miguel de Allende. Canin Associates’ President, Brian Canin, traveled with the group. Each city provided excellent examples of courtyards with a variety of topographic conditions, materials, vegetation and scale. The students had the opportunity to document both public and private buildings with shared typologies and plazas. Each courtyard and plaza exhibited powerful placemaking design techniques. The site  chosen for the implementation of the master plan is  in Homestead, Florida, which is home to many seasonal Mexican migrants. The six block,  95-acre site will be planned to accommodate this population using courtyard designs.


San Miguel de Allende courtyard space


Each student will design a “Mexican Enclave” with an elaboration of one section of the plan containing all proposed building types, including facades, sections, plans, physical models, and perspective views. The final presentation will take place on December 11th at the School of Architecture at the University of Miami with Brian Canin in attendance. The Canin Associates team is looking forward to seeing the final designs so look out for a follow-up post later next month!

Queretaro tree-lined public courtyard