Think about your market these days. A buyer’s market, most likely, with prospects growing bolder in their demands—and perhaps bored with what they see. A market ­increasingly made up of aging Americans eager for a house that suits their active, multigenerational lifestyles, and also of buyers showing a sincere appreciation for environmental concerns.

Photos by James F. Wilson

The New American Home 2008 is all about rethinking your approach to changing markets and preparing for when the pace picks up again. Now in its 25th year as a harbinger of things to come in residential design and products, the house provides the building industry with real solutions to current issues.

Co-sponsored by Builder and the National Council of the Housing Industry/Supplier 100, The New American Home 2008 inspires new thought about market-savvy aesthetics, space planning, eco-friendliness, and lifestyle. Instead of being another Mediterranean knock-off, for instance, the house presents a refreshing Gulf Coast–inspired façade to the highest end of the Orlando, Fla., market. Rather than waste space throughout its generous, 6,725-square-foot floor plan, it offers carefully designed areas that deliver volume and drama while at the same time making efficient use of its entire footprint. And even though its buyer might not care about saving $150 a month on electricity, this year’s New American Home exploits solar power and high-performance construction to reduce its overall energy use by 42 percent compared to similar homes in the same climate.

Overall, The New American Home 2008 provides valuable lessons to an industry trying to regain its footing and ready itself for the next upswing. The house displays a thoughtful perspective on family gathering areas, outdoor living, modern lifestyle needs, access, volume, and resource efficiency. Its fresh take on floor planning and exterior detailing bucks the status quo and delivers the right combination of comfort, convenience, and luxury, which well-heeled baby boomers will demand in the current buyer’s market.

Simply, The New American Home 2008 doesn’t settle for what worked in the recent past. Instead, it seeks to set new standards that will inspire you to refine and rethink the modern house to suit ever-changing market conditions.

Plan of Attack

Designer Dan Sater combined an aesthetic concept from the builder with lessons he’s learned and applied about saving space and serving affluent boomers. On the first level, Sater’s plan allows for the formal areas of the house to share footage and views at the entry and adjacent grand salon. The curving staircase, meanwhile, conceals a convenient wine closet, another nod to space efficiency and a high-end market.

Sater also put the master suite on the main level, citing research he’s conducted that first-floor masters are a must among boomers. A studio apartment at the opposite end of the floor plan accommodates occasional out-of-town visitors or an independent yet elderly parent.

The real action on the main level, however, is along the back. Beyond its good looks and excellent functionality, the home’s main kitchen focuses outward to a lake view through the adjacent leisure room, the deep covered loggia, outdoor dining area with its own full kitchen, and finally, the solana, a comfortable outdoor sitting area. Only a set of full-panel, full-height sliding glass doors separates the ­indoors and outdoors.

Upstairs, Sater’s plan continues the shared space theme. The club room exemplifies that objective by combining a home theater space, wet bar, game area, and fireplace. Similarly, a full bath across the hall does double-duty for the club room and an adjacent bedroom. Meanwhile, all second-level rooms feature generous ­balconies. The one off the club room extends to a wide, open-air sun deck with an enviable view of the water.

Family Gatherings

Rather than create separate spaces for occasional or special uses, designer Dan Sater combined several functions into the club room upstairs (above). “The reality is that a dedicated home theater or bar area doesn’t function well by itself and usually requires an event [such as a big game or a party] to be used,” he says. Instead of wasting footage on those areas, Sater’s design consolidates the theater experience with a wet bar, fireplace, and game-table area while providing access to a balcony and sun deck in order to further extend the living space and expand its functionality. “The club room encourages and enables togetherness,” Sater adds, “even if people want to do different things within that space.”

Directly below, the leisure room serves a similar function. Telescoping doors that meet at a far corner open the 850-square-foot space to the wraparound loggia, outdoor kitchen (a bookend to the home’s main kitchen) and, beyond that, the cozy solana. Despite combining footage, the kitchen, leisure room, and breakfast bump-out (opposite page, top and bottom) maintain an intimacy and human scale that’s comfortable and inviting. “We use the outdoor spaces on all levels to grow the interior spaces as needed,” says Sater. He calls the capability “on-demand” space.

Access

The word “access” is taking on broader meaning as boomers age. Some want to age in place; others plan to invite a parent or perhaps a bounce-back son or daughter with a child in tow into their home. “This demographic is concerned about their parents and what to do with them, says Sater. “Even when they come to visit, especially for an extended stay, they want and need someplace to put them.” Someplace more than just another bedroom.

To accommodate that demand, the plan provides several access points throughout the house. There’s the side-loaded pair of two-car garages that face each other across a broad motor court and flank the front façade; the plentiful patio doors along the loggia and opening to the second-level balconies fore and aft; a residential elevator that’s at once a wow factor and a could-be necessity; the elegant glass-panel fiberglass entry door; a wide second set of stairs that connects the club room to the main kitchen; and the subtle supplemental entry tucked into the front porch, which provides private and convenient ­passage to the parents’ suite.

Slideshow

The New American Home 2008

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The most dramatic example of the concept, though, are the telescoping glass sliders that meet at the corner (sans mullion) and push back neatly to pocket into the walls, exposing the indoor leisure room to the outdoor living spaces. Fully open, only the tracks in the tile floor demarcate the spaces (right).

Outdoor Living

The lake is an immediate and instinctual draw, catching the eye and beckoning residents and guests alike to the back of the house. Sater’s plan facilitates access to the view from every room along the rear ­elevation (save the grand salon, which explodes upward with windows that showcase the view from the foyer and center hall). The deep wraparound loggia provides ample space for lounging and dining with a full view of the lake.

Even so, the lake begs for more attention—and gets it. The loggia eventually leads to an oasis of outdoor areas that create extra room for dining, seating, and cooking. The outdoor kitchen (below), with its grand grill and bevy of supporting appliances, serves both the dining area and the solana. The combined outdoor living space also is convenient to folks who venture out from its deep cover to enjoy the vanishing-edge pool-spa combo (opposite page), where the pool’s water flows over a stepped-down coping and into a narrow trough to the catch basin. When bugs come out or the sun beats hot on the south-facing space, motorized, retractable screens at every square-columned opening enclose the covered area.

The open-air sun deck (above, right) on the upper level affords a panoramic view of the lake. Its south-facing orientation also puts the deck in full sunlight all day, allowing the owners to catch both sunrise and sunset from the same vantage point. The deck also affords easy access to the club room’s wet bar.

Volume

The days of gratuitous volume throughout the house are over. Buyers like to show it off, but as a daily feature, the echoes and other acoustical annoyances it causes quickly wear the benefits thin. Sater solved the issue with a selective use of volume. As one enters the house, the main staircase and view to the signature cupola at the foyer have a dramatic effect. A second dose of tasteful volume strikes when the full height of the grand salon (right) comes into view a few steps later. The combination delivers drama while compartmentalizing ambient and impact sound.

That said, ceilings elsewhere (almost everywhere) are also worth a look up. The dining room’s intricate weave of beams (below) offers just a taste. The 9-foot plates throughout the house are decorated with panels, coffers, trays, and color to provide the necessary air of affluence and the comfort of proper proportion. “Even though the house is large, it doesn’t necessarily feel that way,” says Sater.

Lifestyle

If Sater has learned anything from his successful stock plan business, it’s that the master bedroom is overrated and that it’s best kept on the main level. “It’s a bedroom for sleeping and a place for privacy,” something he insists applies across all buyer profiles, not just boomers. By contrast, he says, a second-level master suite with a deck and a view isn’t appreciated as much as one might think—especially as the owners age.

The plan still offers enviable retreats, anchored by the master on the main floor and supplemented by a trio of suites that deliver the kind of privacy the owners and their teenage (or older) kids, guests, and/or live-in parent want.

The master suite exudes luxury. The simple, square bedroom (above) is a testament to Sater’s ethic of not over-thinking the obvious. Across the vestibule, interrupted just slightly by a walk-in closet and a coffee bar, the master bath’s sea-foam color scheme and thoughtful features—a jetted, soaking tub and separate walk-in shower, dual vanities divided by a glass panel and pebble waterfall, his-and-her water closets, an in-wall fireplace—trigger multiple senses. “It’s a spa-like experience,” says interior designer Ron Nowfel. “The feeling is light and airy, with clean furnishings and finishes that don’t weigh down the space.”

Resource Efficiency

Green is the rage these days, but what does it really mean (or matter) to folks who have enough scratch to afford expensive homes? Ego, pure and simple. And perhaps a dash of guilt at the notion of ­trading youthful idealism for an adulthood of excess.

Regardless, the goal of The New American Home throughout the years has been to push the mainstream envelope of performance and efficiency, and this year’s version is no exception. In its design, construction, and on-going operation, the house leverages its location and orientation. It’s built tight and ventilated right, deploying insulation, high-performance windows, and a zoned approach to indoor air conditioning that not only saves energy and money, but also creates a comfortable environment.

As a result, it is the first home certified under the NAHB’s new Green Building program scoring method, achieving a gold level. The house also is modeled and monitored by the IBACOS Consortium of the federal Building America program to use 42 percent less energy compared to a similarly sized home in the same climate, including a 62 percent reduction in cooling energy demand.

Within a systematic approach to energy and resource efficiency, the project called for autoclaved, aerated concrete block for portions of the first-floor exterior walls (below). It’s a lightweight, more workable solution than poured concrete or concrete masonry units, and it achieves an R-8 insulating value prior to rigid foam panels on both sides of the walls.

Adding to the overall efficiency are an unvented, insulated attic achieved with R-20 expanded foam insulation on the underside of the roof sheathing (right), a trio of high-efficiency heat pumps, and a roof-mounted solar thermal collector for tankless water heaters. And in a nice touch, the panels are concealed smartly behind the cupola, out of view from the street.

Design

The Gulf Coast–inspired front façade offers an alternative for Orlando’s elite, providing an attractively distinctive departure from the neighbors’ Mediterranean knockoffs. Sater also drew two other options for the exterior, one each for French-colonial and authentic Spanish-inspired tastes (opposite page, bottom left and right).

Meanwhile, Sater—a passionate proponent of floor plan efficiency—applied space-saving lessons to this house and also came up with a New American Home series for his stock plan business that scales the concepts to more mainstream footages. “I started asking, what if this was a 3,700-square-foot plan, or even smaller?” he says. “The key is to create flexible and multi-use spaces in lieu of dedicated formal areas so that rooms are interactive and spill over into one another.” (See alternative plans on opposite page.)

Location

In a tough market, you have to go where the action is. Or better yet, where the action will be. The New American Home 2008 is in the new and exclusive Water’s Edge section of Orlando’s Lake Nona community, a 7,000-acre master plan that’s on the cusp of a major employment boost. Within three years, the community will welcome a medical school, a full health-services campus, and research and technology parks. Plans also call for a town center to supplement Lake Nona’s stunning golf course, new YMCA, and other activities already in place.

The community is also only 10 minutes (two toll-road exits) from the Orlando International Airport—far enough to be out of the flight path, but ultra-convenient for traveling professionals. All of this bodes well for homes in the new Water’s Edge section, especially the lake view lots, where you’ll find The New American Home 2008.

Project Partners

The National Council of the Housing Industry (NCHI)/Supplier 100, made up of the world’s leading building products manufacturers, once again co-­sponsored The New American Home by contributing products and services. Local suppliers, installers, services, and utilities also added to the mix, making invaluable contributions to the project.

NCHI Contributors
    •    Armstrong World Industries (hardwood flooring)
    •    Bose Corp. (home theater and music systems)
    •    Broan-NuTone and Best by Broan (kitchen and bath ventilation; door chime; central vacuum; ironing center)
    •    Closet Factory (closet storage systems)
    •    Copper Development Association (gutters and downspouts)
    •    Dal-Tile Corp. (natural stone; tile)
    •    Dell Home & Small Business Division (personal computers)
    •    Dryvit Systems (insulated stucco cladding)
    •    Formica Corp. (solid surfaces)
    •    Fortune Brands Home Products
    •    Dixie-Pacific Manufacturing Co. (columns)
    •    Simonton Windows (windows)
    •    GAMA/Vent-Free Gas Products Association
    •    CFM Corp./Vermont Castings (fireplaces)
    •    Lennox Hearth Products (fireplaces)
    •    Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association
    •    Alfresco Open Air Culinary Systems (outdoor kitchen)
    •    DESA Outdoor Leisure (patio heaters)
    •    Travis Industries (in-wall fireplaces)
    •    Icynene (spray foam insulation)
    •    InSinkErator (waste disposer)
    •    Kohler Co. (plumbing faucets and fixtures)
    •    Kohler Power Systems (generator)
    •    Lubrizol Corp.
    •    BlazeMaster Fire Sprinkler Systems (fire sprinkler system CPVC pipe and fittings)
    •    Other system suppliers: Harvel Plastics; IPEX; NIBCO; The Viking Corp.
    •    FlowGuard Gold Plumbing System (CPVC plumbing system components)
    •    Other system suppliers: BOW Plastics; Charlotte Pipe; Cresline Plastic Pipe; Genova Plastics; NIBCO
    •    Masonite (interior doors)
    •    National Renewable Energy Laboratory (energy consulting services)
    •    ODL (tubular skylight)
    •    Oldcastle/APG West (pavers)
    •    Overhead Door Corp. (garage doors and openers)
    •    Owens Corning Masonry Products (manufactured stone and brick veneer)
    •    Phantom Screens (motorized retractable screens)
    •    Portland Cement Association
    •    Aercon Industries (aerated concrete block)
    •    Rinker Materials (poured concrete)
    •    Progress Lighting (lighting)
    •    Propane Education & Research Council (consulting and market- ing support)
    •    Riggs Workwear by Wrangler (work clothing)
    •    Rinnai America Corp. (tankless water heaters)
    •    Schluter Systems (waterproof shower system)
    •    Schneider Electric/Square D Co. (electrical system components; structured wiring; lighting control)
    •    Juno Lighting Group (recessed lighting)
    •    Sharp Electronics Corp. (television displays)
    •    Shaw Industries (carpeting and area rugs)
    •    The Sherwin-Williams Co. (exterior and interior paints and stains)
    •    Simpson Strong-Tie Co. (metal framing connectors)
    •    Therma-Tru (entry door system)
    •    ThyssenKrupp Access (elevator)
    •    Timberlake Cabinetry (cabinetry)
    •    Tyco Fire & Building Products (fire sprinkler system)
    •    Tyco Thermal Controls
    •    Raychem/QuickNet (radiant floor heating system)
    •    Whirlpool Corp.
    •    Amana (appliances)
    •    Gladiator GarageWorks (garage storage system)
    •    Jenn-Air (appliances)
    •    KitchenAid (appliances)
    •    Maytag (laundry equipment)
    •    Whirlpool (laundry equipment; vent hood)

Local Contributors
    •    All Solar (solar thermal collector and installation)
    •    American Door & Window Co. (window and patio door installer)
    •    ArcusStone Distributors Florida/Caribbean (limestone coating)
    •    Atlantic Premium Shutters (exterior decorative shutters)
    •    Automated Sliding Doors of Florida (telescoping glass patio doors)
    •    B & Z Custom Sheet Metal (sheet metal supplier and installer)
    •    Berger Building Products (gutters and downspouts supply and installation)
    •    Bluworld Innovations (indoor water fountain)
    •    Bright House Networks (cable utility)
    •    Castle Elevator (elevator installation)
    •    City of Orlando (entitlements)
    •    Cornerstone Custom Pools (pool contractor)
    •    Falcon Pest Control (pest control system)
    •    FAS Windows & Doors (window and door installation)
    •    1st Choice Structural Connectors & Fasteners (framing connectors)
    •    First Commercial Bank of Florida (financing)
    •    Four Seasons Gas Services (propane line installation)
    •    Gale Insulation (insulation contractor)
    •    Garage Design Works (garage storage system installation)
    •    Heritage Propane (propane distributor)
    •    HD Supply (lumber and panel supplier)
    •    Inspiration Stone (stonework)
    •    Kempfer Sawmill (custom millwork)
    •    MonierLifetile (roofing)
    •    Outside Productions (landscape design)
    •    Palmer Electric Co. (electrical contractor)
    •    Paver Systems (paver installation)
    •    Plaza Door Co. (door installation)
    •    Schlage (locksets and door hardware)
    •    Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association (cypress supplier trade association)
    •    StairWorld (stair parts and installation)
    •    Wise Landscaping (landscape installation)

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.