Hot new-home trends for 2011 (© Thinkstock/JupiterImages)

The housing market may be down, but it's not out. Houses continue to be built across the nation, especially homes aimed at first-time buyers. But the Great Recession has limited the bells and whistles that many people demanded under their new roof even four years ago. Would-be homebuyers want — and are getting — different things from "home sweet home" today.

From front porches to LED lights, here are the top six things experts say are trendy in new homes for 2011. How does next year's wish list compare to yours?

1. Smaller homes that 'live' the same
"One big trend is the smaller homes," says David Barista, editor-in-chief of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines. In fact, the median size of new U.S. homes fell from 2,277 square feet in 2007 to 2,135 square feet in 2009, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

"There's a couple drivers here," Barista says. "I don't think buyers are looking for that opulence of several years ago; they're looking for something more modest. (But) they still want the amenities and the spaces" in these smaller homes.

So he's not seeing the number of rooms in a home being cut; instead, the size of the rooms — and the overall home size — is shrinking 10% to 15%. That, of course, also brings down the price, which is key in a market in which new houses are competing against foreclosures.

Despite that shrinkage, Barista says homeowners still want nice touches such as quality faucets, higher-end appliances and granite countertops in that smaller kitchen.

2. The old front porch, revisited
Front and side porches are making a comeback, says Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects, which performs a quarterly Home Design Trends Survey. One reason is simple: Front porches help create a sense of community, something that more traditional suburbs lack.

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But something else is driving the interest in front porches, Baker says. Thanks to the recession and the soft housing market, homebuilders have sharply curtailed their construction of big, self-standing communities of hundreds or even thousands of homes. Instead, they're doing more "in-fill," adding dollops of homes here and there among existing homes. Porches can help integrate these homes with the existing community, Baker says.

3. A ‘greener’ home
Not surprisingly, energy efficiency is one of the year's hottest trends.

Efficiency takes many forms, from builders adding insulation in the walls, to better windows with glazing and higher "R-value" — or insulation ability — to sealed ductwork that doesn't leak air, to Energy Star-rated appliances throughout the home. Some builders are even installing low-energy LED lights for accent lighting, Barista says.

"There is a premium that (builders are) paying for these products," Barista says, "but they're doing their best not to pass along all the cost to the consumers."

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Ideal Homes is one of many builders now offering a guarantee on ongoing energy savings for homeowners for their new home. The builder "does the math" on the savings for buyers, estimating their savings as part of the sale process.

"Multiple large national builders, including Beazer Homes and Meritage Homes, are now offering energy-efficient homes, some as standard (no premium cost to the buyer) and many rated or certified through third-party programs," Barista says, such as Energy Star or the National Green Building Program.

The trend is less about consumer demand and more about builders needing to stay competitive, not only with other homebuilders but also with existing homes and foreclosures.

"They see 'green' as adding value to their products," Barista says.

4. No 'upstairs, downstairs' drama
Single-story homes remain popular, according to the AIA. Why? It's simple: As the baby boomers age, such homes are easier for older folks to navigate. They're also easier for aged friends or parents to visit, too.

5. The downscaled kitchen and bath
Our desire for big kitchens and bathrooms ballooned during the boom years, and homebuilders were happy to oblige. That's changing.

"Functionality is now preferred to more and larger kitchens and bathrooms within U.S. homes," Baker wrote earlier this year. "But since kitchens remain the nerve center of the home, doing more with less space is a key consideration."

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The upshot: Practicality and multiple use rule. Making a kitchen a family space is a priority. Kitchens will have areas devoted to charging laptops, mobile phones and PDAs, Baker says.

In the bathroom, some of the bloom is off the rose. Adding linen closets and storage is in. Adding a doorless shower? Not so much.

6. A home that serves you well
"Buyers are looking for value and how features contribute to the efficiency of their lifestyle," says Stephen Melman, director of economic services for the National Association of Home Builders.

That's why "walk-in closets in master bedrooms and well-designed laundry rooms are likely candidates to repeat as most likely features for 2011," says Melman, whose association is performing a survey of the year's most requested items in homes. Those requests may not be dramatic, but they underscore how homeowners want their home to work easily for them.

And there you have next year's hot house. Get yourself a big master closet and a big front porch and start enjoying yourself in 2011.