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From the middle of the second-story balcony of the New American Home 2013, overlooking the center courtyard, you can glimpse a portion of the open-air basement two levels below. Shift a little to your right, and the telescoping patio doors of the basement’s enclosed home theater also come into view, as does the kitchen above it and a bit of the bedroom suite above that. Move all the way across the balcony to your left, and the view changes again, this time revealing the entrance to the home’s library at one end of the foyer and, through its second-level band of windows, the ridge of rugged hills beyond.
It’s no surprise that such discoveries are available from nearly every point of view within the 6,721-square-foot, four-level home in Henderson, Nev., a few miles south of Las Vegas. Seeking and seeing a variety of perspectives is the trademark of its builder, Blue Heron. Since 2009, in what was arguably ground zero of the housing industry’s recession, Blue Heron has taken a decidedly different view of the Las Vegas luxury home market and how to serve it. And it has met with remarkable and nearly exclusive success in otherwise desolate economic conditions.
The company’s innovative and integrated design/build approach to business is evident in the creative and distinctive homes it produces. But none exemplifies that approach more clearly than the latest version of the New American Home.
“We intentionally pushed the envelope with this house, and not just because it’s the New American Home,” says Tyler Jones, a local who cut his teeth hauling plywood and concrete for his father and uncle on their custom home jobsites while gaining an acute appreciation for high-level housing design. “That’s just our personality. It’s what makes the job fun.”
It’s also smart. Blue Heron’s homes are not only a distinct departure from the bargain-priced, neo-Mediterranean McMansions left in the wake of the recession, they’re also not easily replicable by the few local competitors still operating in that realm.
“It may look easy on the floor plan, but it’s hard to re-create in reality,” says in-house architect Michael Gardner. “It makes sense, it’s comfortable, but it’s not easy to understand how we got there and how to apply it.”
Once you cross the threshold from the front steps into the entry courtyard and down a path flanked by a narrow canal of water that runs to the back of the house, you really don’t care how Blue Heron did it. You just can’t wait to get behind the thick wood-and-glass entry door into a foyer that opens completely to the outside and looks across a koi pond below, fed by a gentle cascade of water from the first of two zero-edge pools separated by a sunken outdoor living area. Beyond that is a pergola that appears to float on the second pool that limns the back of the property at the edge of a narrow canyon.
That layering of multiple spaces and textures across a single sightline, says Gardner, is what keeps such a large home to human scale. “It doesn’t look or feel huge,” he says. “There’s a series of vignettes from almost any point of view that keep you interested and engaged, but never intimidated or small.”
Blue Heron’s deliberate departure from conventional floor planning also liberating. “We don’t have to worry about achieving a particular bedroom and bathroom count (for the record, the home has three and nine, respectively) and other things you have to nail to satisfy a given demographic,” Jones . “Our goal is to make it look amazing, hit a nerve with buyers, and deliver a more sophisticated design than everything else they’re seeing.”
With the New American Home 2013, there are endless elements that can attract a buyer, from its ubiquitous and soothing water features to the clean yet comfortable interior design with Asian-inspired lines, striking landscaping, and nearly seamless indoor-outdoor transitions. “We wanted to keep the interiors peaceful and slightly eclectic,” says in-house interior designer Lyndsay Janssen. “No matter where you are, there are so many elements to appreciate.”
The fact that Blue Heron stretched itself to move the needle a few more ticks ahead of its competition with this house speaks to the builder’s understanding of, respect for, and response to the custom home market in Las Vegas. And to staying in business for the long haul. “If we’re given a creative challenge, even if we don’t have a clue how to pull it off, the answer is always ‘Yes,’” says Jones. The house will serve as the model home at Seven Hills, a 31-lot gated community, ideally inspiring buyers to request their own version. “We now have a playbook of really interesting ideas that we can reformulate into new applications and apply in fresh ways.”
Even so, it’s hard to imagine what’s next for the builder after witnessing its work at Seven Hills, but history says it is only the latest example of what promises to be a legacy of remaking the mold.