LIVING ALFRESCO: The 2005 home of the year is an extrovert. Multiple outdoor courts and covered loggias in Plan One of the Baywood Collection at Santaluz serve as “connective tissue” as well as primary living spaces.
LIVING ALFRESCO: The 2005 home of the year is an extrovert. Multiple outdoor courts and covered loggias in Plan One of the Baywood Collection at Santaluz serve as “connective tissue” as well as primary living spaces.

WHAT OFTEN DISTINGUISHES a spectacular residence from simply a “nice” one is how it relates to its environment. Whether the home is a custom, production, or hybrid product, intuitive site plans, balanced massing, and poetic use of materials all factor into achieving harmony between house, landscape, and community. If the winners of the 42nd Annual Gold Nugget Awards are any indication, there's much to be said for the importance of this concept in ensuring that a home is more than the sum of its parts.

Rejecting the notion of plug-and-play architecture, the nine jurors arbitrating this year's best in the West gave the highest marks to projects that were not just beautifully designed, but deftly contextual—from site-sensitive desert outposts to funky urban pocket-fillers complementing their eclectic downtown surroundings.

During a marathon judging session over three days in Anaheim, Calif., the buzz around the table centered not so much on the historic revivals du jour as on the wonders of holistic land planning, animated streetscapes, and problem-solving coups with regard to density and ecological stewardship. The final verdict? When all of these elements are aligned with stunning elevations, the result is an elegant blending of home and environs.