ORLANDO—"It's the kitchen, in a landslide," said Butler. "Nothing else comes close. They see the kitchen not just as a workroom -- it's about the 'experience,'" she said.
"They want a coffee-shop feel, with banquette or bench seating," she said. "They need an organizing center, a message board, a computer center out in the open."
But, perhaps in a departure from the recent past, they want more separation between the kitchen and family room, which in recent years have tended to be designed as continuous spaces, Butler said.
"People are trying to get a balance between family and privacy," Butler said.
That family room also needs some kind of accord with the increasingly larger television screens now in vogue, the respondents told BHG. They'd like to nestle the big screens into built-in cabinets so they don't duel with the fireplace for attention. Or they want to banish the TV -- to a finished basement.
Butler said accommodating the stuff that fills children's lives -- sports equipment, toys, art supplies, games -- is high on wish lists. Consumers want kid-storage everywhere, she said.
"They want little bases for kids in every room of the house," not just in the family room or playroom, she said. The most obvious manifestation of that is in laundry rooms, for which manufacturers are racing to develop storage just the size for little ones.
And the back yard is gaining in importance, both surveys said.
"They mean a yard that's roomy, safe to play in and space for gardening," Butler said. Forty percent of respondents said their outdoor living areas are almost as important as those inside, she said.
That's because grilling is a big part of the even more major outdoor entertaining, Butler said.
So: Patios are edging out decks in desirability, Ahluwalia said.
Three-quarters of the respondents in the builders' survey said they wanted a fenced yard, and a large majority wanted a screened rear porch, fireplace or fire pit and built-in lawn sprinklers.
"And everyone, at every price point, wants seamless access to the outdoors," Butler said. They want great views and the ability to carry party accouterments onto the patio or deck without a lot of effort.
Thus, "outdoor kitchens" -- even in colder climates -- are becoming the rage.
Above all, consumers are keenly interested in personalizing their spaces, Butler said.
"They said, no cookie-cutter homes and no cookie-cutter neighborhoods," Butler said. "We even see people writing mission statements about the look and the design."