Changes in the recreational habits of a major segment of the population have new home designs heading back to the future.

According to a new study of interior design trends, new home buyers are turning to an updated version of the 300-year-old one-room "house on the prairie" design to make their home-buying dollar more valuable and hours spent in the home more functional.Today's version combines a specialized kitchen design, called a command center kitchen with the home's family room to provide an up-to-date one room living environment.

The command center kitchen's work areas face a breakfast counter that's open to the family room. The design allows the chef of the day to attend to food preparation activities while still keeping an eye on the children, television, or guests. Some buyers are going so far as to fully integrate kitchens and family rooms.

"There's a major difference between this new design trend and the decade-old greatroom concept" said Gene Dreyfus, president of New York-based Dreyfus Inc., a 23-year-old interior design firm which also has offices in Chicago and Palm Beach, Fla.

"The greatroom was just an oversized living room and dining room space. It didn't relate to the kitchen environment at all, nor did it provide the lifestyle options this new design offers," said Dreyfus.

"A recent national survey showed that 85 percent of the population would prefer to spend their leisure time at home, rather than out."

According to Dreyfus, there are three reasons behind this growing emphasis on one-room living: the desire to buy smart; increased options for spending discretionary income; and time demands. "Today's buyers want more than just status."

Although the one-room cabin was short on privacy and the plumbing was inconvenient, the concept was efficient and cost-effective. There was no wasted space, said Dreyfus. Parents could keep an eye on the children while still taking care of daily activities like food preparation.

"Wise, not big, guides today's home purchase decision. In a real sense, today's dollar-conscious buyers are using old fashioned home-spun horse sense in evaluating their alternatives."

Size to value relationships are important," he said. For example a formal living room occupies 300 square feet of space that could cost about $37,000. More and more buyers think that's a lot of money to spend on a room that might be used only occasionally."