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A Legacy of Innovation

  • 1984: Open Plan The only one in the program¢¬¢s history listed for less than $100,000, the inaugural home featured an open main-level floor plan, which at the time was an innovative concept. A 10-foot plate and living areas outlined by furniture, flooring, and a few columns expanded the efficient footprint. High windows enabled the master ¢¬retreat¢¬ (perhaps the first time that moniker appeared in print) to share natural light between the bedroom and bathroom.

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    1984: Open Plan The only one in the program¢¬¢s history listed for less than $100,000, the inaugural home featured an open main-level floor plan, which at the time was an innovative concept. A 10-foot plate and living areas outlined by furniture, flooring, and a few columns expanded the efficient footprint. High windows enabled the master ¢¬retreat¢¬ (perhaps the first time that moniker appeared in print) to share natural light between the bedroom and bathroom.

    Robb Miller

    1984: Open Plan The only one in the program’s history listed for less than $100,000, the inaugural home featured an open main-level floor plan, which at the time was an innovative concept. A 10-foot plate and living areas outlined by furniture, flooring, and a few columns expanded the efficient footprint. High windows enabled the master “retreat� (perhaps the first time that moniker appeared in print) to share natural light between the bedroom and bathroom.

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    1988: Sawtooth Serenity The 2,450-square-foot, single-level home featured a jagged footprint that further evolved the concept of open interiors and long sightlines. The innovative plan offers a 60-foot view all the way from the foyer to the family room; in the center, a bright nook highlighted by a sloping greenhouse window sits across from the kitchen. Meanwhile, the envelope included a thin, flexible, woven membrane (now known as housewrap) installed just behind the home¢¬¢s brick exterior to block air and moisture infiltration.

    John Rogers

    1988: Sawtooth Serenity The 2,450-square-foot, single-level home featured a jagged footprint that further evolved the concept of open interiors and long sightlines. The innovative plan offers a 60-foot view all the way from the foyer to the family room; in the center, a bright nook highlighted by a sloping greenhouse window sits across from the kitchen. Meanwhile, the envelope included a thin, flexible, woven membrane (now known as housewrap) installed just behind the home’s brick exterior to block air and moisture infiltration.

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    1989: New Ideas Legendary architect Charles Moore used the opportunity to design one of his last residences by having a little fun with the plan¢¬namely, a colorful living space that curled around to a shielded ¢¬opium¢¬ den that, while not exactly replicable for the mainstream, inspired the idea of offering pockets of private space within a public realm. Meanwhile, the master suite, alone in the lower level, featured a dedicated home gym.

    Gabriel BenzurInc.

    1989: New Ideas Legendary architect Charles Moore used the opportunity to design one of his last residences by having a little fun with the plan—namely, a colorful living space that curled around to a shielded “opium� den that, while not exactly replicable for the mainstream, inspired the idea of offering pockets of private space within a public realm. Meanwhile, the master suite, alone in the lower level, featured a dedicated home gym.

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    1992: Desert Made A covered entry courtyard, surrounded by glass, provided access to each of the three wings of the horseshoe-shaped house, specifically a massive kitchen, nook, and family room; formal living at the entry; and a bedroom wing featuring the now-requisite master suite retreat¢¬this time with a mini-kitchen added to the mix. The design also promoted concepts such as passive solar and thermal mass, proper shading, and xeriscaping.

    Everett & Soulé

    1992: Desert Made A covered entry courtyard, surrounded by glass, provided access to each of the three wings of the horseshoe-shaped house, specifically a massive kitchen, nook, and family room; formal living at the entry; and a bedroom wing featuring the now-requisite master suite retreat—this time with a mini-kitchen added to the mix. The design also promoted concepts such as passive solar and thermal mass, proper shading, and xeriscaping.

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    2004: Loft Living Breaking new ground both in its design and construction, the 2004 house brought contemporary loft living to the single-family suburbs while employing a combination of insulated concrete forms, steel framing, and structural insulated panels. A below-grade, walk-out lower level offered a conditioned wine cellar and a dedicated home theater; and an elevator served the entire house, enabling the owners to age in place.

    James F. Wilson

    2004: Loft Living Breaking new ground both in its design and construction, the 2004 house brought contemporary loft living to the single-family suburbs while employing a combination of insulated concrete forms, steel framing, and structural insulated panels. A below-grade, walk-out lower level offered a conditioned wine cellar and a dedicated home theater; and an elevator served the entire house, enabling the owners to age in place.

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    2007: Flip Side Built on a teardown site in Orlando, this house turned traditional floor planning upside-down with a home office, lounge, and guest suite downstairs and the public areas on the top floor two stories above; the master suite occupied the entire level between them. The contemporary bungalow employed an insulated precast panel structural system, including interior walls and floor platforms to enable its loftlike look and feel.

    James F. Wilson

    2007: Flip Side Built on a teardown site in Orlando, this house turned traditional floor planning upside-down with a home office, lounge, and guest suite downstairs and the public areas on the top floor two stories above; the master suite occupied the entire level between them. The contemporary bungalow employed an insulated precast panel structural system, including interior walls and floor platforms to enable its loftlike look and feel.

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It was an inspired idea then that has inspired ideas since. Conceived in the early 1980s by then-Builder editor Frank Anton in partnership with the NAHB, and delivered for the first time as a modest yet distinctive 1,500-square-foot bungalow in a Houston suburb to entice attendees of that year’s annual Builders’ Show, the New American Home continues to shine a national spotlight on trending housing designs, building practices, and new product applications.

The 2013 version of the program commemorates 30 years of innovation. And while this year’s house follows its predecessors by showcasing a host of methods and materials destined for the mainstream in some capacity or combination, it presents a truly breakthrough approach to floor planning.

“It looks at a residential program in a completely different way,” says architect Michael Gardner of Blue Heron—the 2013 home’s design/build firm—echoing design legends Rodney Friedman, Robert A.M. Stern, Barry Berkus, Charles Moore, Carson Looney, and Jack Bloodgood and builders John Wieland, Chris Stuhmer, and Kim Goehring, among others who also have contributed their considerable talent to the program. “You may not want or be able to apply this exact plan, but you can appreciate the thought process.”

That’s a familiar mantra for the dean of idea home programs. Beginning with the 1984 house, new takes on traditional floor plans that respond to contemporary market demands have been the norm in the form of shared areas, flexible and multipurpose spaces, off-center main stair locations, and room uses that reflect today’s technological, telecommuting, and leisure living trends and needs.