Cruise past the tidy rows of Victorian bungalows and classic cottages in the eminently picturesque town of Celebration, Fla., and you'll sense something out of the ordinary in Artisan Park, the fifth and final neighborhood in the acclaimed new urbanist community. In fact, when the light is right, you might just see something flying out the window of 1453 Stickley Avenue. Something that looks a lot like conventional wisdom.

That's BUILDER'S 2006 show home staging a quiet rebellion. And frankly, we can't say we didn't ask for it. When we assembled the team that would create The Reality House, our show home to debut at the 2006 International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., our first order of business was to go out looking for signs of unrest in the marketplace. Before architects at Looney Ricks Kiss (LRK) cranked out a single concept drawing, before Issa Homes hauled its first backhoe to the lot, there was research. Not focus groups in hermetically sealed rooms, mind you. Instead, we dispatched Barb Nagle and Doris Payne, investigators with La Jolla, Calif.–based MarketScape Research & Consulting, to visit eight families inside the houses they'd just purchased. Their mission: to see how new homeowners truly behaved in their natural habitats.

Well, let's just say what they caught on video wasn't pretty: Stacks of newspapers piled up in corners. Kitchen countertops strewn with mail, book bags, “appliances on parade,” and homework. Makeshift home offices crammed with computers, full-size photocopiers, and even product inventory. Garages being used for everything but parking. So much for that utopian promise of order and harmony portrayed in your typical model home.

Compounding the chaos was the intergenerational makeup of the families in our study. Noting that 4 percent of U.S. households now shelter extended families, Nagle and Payne purposely dropped in on residences where grandparents were part of the mix. They took stock of what that dynamic entailed—the toll of having extra bodies, extra noise, alternate sleeping habits, and double the stuff.

As homeowners shared their biggest gripes about their homes, some key findings bubbled up to the surface. Among them, that even members of close-knit families crave alone time. That today's homeowners will happily trade showy square footage for more functional storage space. That there's no reason to quarantine appliances in the kitchen if their presence elsewhere can bring some modicum of sanity (or luxury) to an otherwise hectic existence. And finally, that the front porch—that holiest of design features in the new urbanist canon—isn't nearly as useful as a side patio or backyard outdoor space that affords more privacy.

The big challenge for our team was parlaying those sentiments into a hardworking home that offers both ergonomic smarts and good looks. Turn the page to see how our reality check translated into a house for the real world.


  • BUILDER: Issa Homes, Orlando, Fla.
  • ARCHITECT: Looney Ricks Kiss, Memphis, Tenn.
  • INTERIOR DESIGNER: The Interiors Group, Boca Raton, Fla.
  • MEDIA: BUILDER magazine and Home magazine
  • LANDSCAPE DESIGNER: Caribbean Design, Orlando
  • RESEARCH: MarketScape Research & Consulting, La Jolla, Calif.

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