Rooms of the Rich

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Since the passing of the great age of mansion building, home owners have kept architects, builders, and the construction industry busy by tweaking and adding, all in pursuit of the perfect home. Indeed, the National Association of Home Builders projects that in 2000, Americans will spend $89.7 billion in home improvements. But the perfect home never stays that way for long. Greenwich, Connecticut-based architect Richard Granoff specializes in 3,000-4,000 square-foot additions-that's one-and-a-half to two times larger than the average single-family home built in 1995. Kitchen/family room combos, he says, are crowding out intimate formal spaces like living rooms. Another trend he's seen in the last decade: the master bedroom suite, a self-contained enclave with a sitting room, gym, home office, and dressing room. Oh, and a bed and bath, too. Several other specialty rooms have come in and out of vogue. To wit:

1. Rub-a-dub-dub: "It is truly uncivilized not to have a bathroom for each member of the family," declared Park Avenue resident Victoria Langdon in a 1973 issue of Architectural Digest. She would be pleased with today's refinements in the master bath: customized steam and shower systems. Add a heated towel rack to one-up the neighbors.

2. Stay in only ten minutes: Americans skipped the sauna and headed straight for the Jacuzzi starting in the early '70s, then splashed into the hot-tub '80s.

3. Pass the popcorn: The late '80s marked the beginning of the home-theater boom, featuring curtained silver screens and seating for a small army of friends.

4. Here comes the sun: Solariums and greenhouses peaked in the '80s, when energy efficiency was an issue.

5. Check my pulse: In the early '90s, Americans plunked down $180 million for the luxury of sweating on a Stairmaster in a home gym. That figure swelled to $225 million in 1995, then began to drop off. Many machines now double as clothes horses.

6. Punching in: Technology transformed the decades-old study into today's sleek home office, allowing telecommuters to wear pajamas all day and still earn a paycheck.

7. Ommmmmmm: The feng-shui craze of the late '90s has ushered in the yoga/meditation room. But make sure that trickling fountain is positioned in its proper karmic location.

8. Aging gracefully: Wine cellars, a staple among the mansion set, now come equipped with custom racks and climate controls that allow frequent checks of the vintages.

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