Granted, few builders could regularly afford the kind of feedback loop we used to gather the ideas for this home, which will be open for tours during this month's International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla. (For directions to the home, see page 272.) We dispatched market researchers from Market-Scape Research & Consulting in La Jolla, Calif., with camera crews to interview eight multigenerational families in order to see how they really lived in their new homes.
It wasn't a pretty sight. People weren't using their homes the way that builders and designers thought they would. Virtually no one kept a car in the garage—that's where all their junk went. We found that grandparents were an integral part of family life, cooking meals and running carpools; they didn't want to be relegated to a casita. None of the families had storage space for their great buys on bulk items from Sam's Club or Costco.
RAISING THE ANTE Our design team, Looney Ricks Kiss, took the 10 major results and ran with them, creating a host of inspired family-friendly features. They gave us a laundry room with a Dutch door where you can stow the dog when friends come over (so the dog is sequestered but doesn't get lonely), kids' bedrooms with alcoves for serious study, a convenient storage spot off the porte cochere to drop groceries, and much more.
Our builder, Issa Homes, one of the finest semi-custom builders in Florida, not only brought the plans to life, but made them better. In addition to fine-tuning interior spaces based on their experience working closely with Orlando buyers, Don Hempel and Jeff Marchell, both vice presidents for Issa Homes, built a great house. That impression starts with the gorgeous elevation and carries through with an impressive series of interior details.
This home will be among the last built in Disney's fabled Celebration, Fla., and that's a customer feedback story in itself. The design guidelines there are much more flexible than they used to be. We probably couldn't have gotten approvals for the elevation of our home in Celebration's early days because the English Arts and Crafts design wasn't in the pattern book, even though it's true to the idea of designing from historical precedents. From the start, however, Celebration was much more flexible when it came to floor plans, and that's a good thing because many of the floor plans popular in 1996 wouldn't suit today's buyers.
CUSTOMER REACTION We hope you take away a number of design ideas from the latest in our Builder Show Home Series, which started back in 1998 with the Home of the Future. We also hope it inspires you to take advantage of customer feedback loops. These can be as simple as routinely meeting with salespeople to find out what customers are saying about your houses, to sending questionnaires to everyone who buys your homes, to doing focus group research with buyers and potential buyers.
The result—a decidedly worthwhile one—can be a home that practically sells itself, one that flies off the shelf like a great product at retail.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.