The Villa for the Modern Couple
Architect: Donald M. Rattner, Studio for Civil Architecture, New York DONALD RATTNER FOUND THE INSPIRATION for the cool, inviting loggia that serves as the entry to his Villa for the Modern Couple by a “wonderful accident.”

“Early in the project, we gathered in Orlando and went to dinner,” he says. “We went past a classic Orlando cottage and the front porch was decorated like a living room. That drove the whole front loggia. It was very important to us.”

Rattner says he was drawn to the New Urban Challenge because it offered an alternative to the “prevailing trend in our business of big, bigger, biggest.

“It was a pleasure ... to give it the charm and functionality of a larger home and show people they could live in something less than mega-sized residences.”

He chose Spanish-influenced architecture because of its historic connection with Florida and because it lends itself well to a subtropical climate. Plus it was well suited for Baldwin Park, which has several homes that complement the Villa sprinkled throughout the community, and with modifications, it could be adapted for an economical price point.

“You don't have to have thousands of details,” he says. “It could be built anywhere else.”

The critical role of outside spaces in new urbanist site planning and design is immediately evident in Rattner's plan. Much to the delight of Baldwin Park town architect Sean Lackey, Rattner saw the loggia as a framework for the mews, not just as a porch that's passed through on the way to the front door.

“It's a great transitional space,” says Bob Rohde, vice president of design for David Weekley Homes. “It starts getting you to feel what the home is about before you get into it. I think you'll see most people eat that up. ... The loggia is one of those places where you can get away. Most people get away to the backyard; in this one, you can get away to the front of the home, read that book or do your thing.”

But Rattner gave equal attention to the private realm of the backyard, too. French doors from the dining room open onto a pergola, which creates an intimate al fresco dining and grill area beside a tranquil pool and spa with a fountain.

Since Rattner was designing the house before he and his wife had their first child, he found the idea of creating a space for a professional couple “very enticing.” He incorporated many of the features that would appeal to his own personality and lifestyle and kept the plan free-flowing and informal while incorporating amenities that affluent couples expect.

That resulted, in Rohde's opinion, in one of the most memorable spaces in the overall project—a soaring, two-story great room with massive beamed ceilings.

“As far as impressive, this is the ‘wow' room,” Rohde says. “Not that the others aren't, but this is the only space through all three homes that is a true two-story space. It's really tailored to that ‘young professional (with) no kids' kind of buyer.”

In designing the great room, Rattner says he wanted to avoid what happens in traditional homes—“the living room getting mothballed 350 days a year. We tried to push that space and keep the openings as wide as possible.”

Just across the foyer from the expansive great room is a room Rattner dubbed a “cozy room.” (“We made it up. We're allowed.”) Tucked behind French doors, it functions as a private retreat with a full bath and a roomy closet and acknowledges an individual's occasional need to be alone. Merchandised as a masculine home office, it could easily convert to a third bedroom. Just don't call it a guest room.

“If you call it a guest room, it's used 10 days out of the year,” he says.

Flexible space is a hallmark of the plan, Rohde notes. The only rooms in the house that have just one function are the kitchen and the master bedroom. The second-floor guest suite could be used as an office, an exercise room, a hobby room, and a study.

Senior designer Suzette Bass from Marc-Michaels Interior Design tied together the Old World feel in the house with the use of dark, stain-grade wood beams that match baseboards, window frames, built-in bookcases, stairs, and exterior doors.

Bass says that she loves the clean feel of the kitchen, especially the formal Timberlake cabinets, the cultured granite backsplash, and the new meteorite finish on the KitchenAid appliances. The dining room features dramatic Sea Gull lighting of varying heights and hidden storage space concealed by Mediterranean-inspired wooden lattice doors.

The single dining space, located at the back of the house off the kitchen, is another dramatic departure from traditional home design.