There are certain immutable laws of human nature that are pointless to try to change. Take, for example, the tendency of dinner guests to congregate in and around the kitchen. Why fight it?

LRK and Issa Homes didn't. Instead, our team embraced the demand for informal overflow areas next to the main kitchen. The culinary realm thus spills seamlessly into a comfortable entertainment zone complete with a toasty hearth, built-in bookshelves with alcove window seats, and a 50-inch flat screen TV from Best Buy. A ganged suite of Pella windows frames the view to the pool terrace and beyond, facilitating a natural flow of the entertainment space to the outside. Armstrong's Robbins Fine Hardwood floors, with planks of varying widths, give the house a warm, homespun feel.

“The whole house has a casual elegance to it,” says Looney. “You can dress it up, or enjoy it for daily use. That's a big plus. It's important to have a home that works for you every day, not just when you're hosting opulent events.”


Get A Grip All handles and locksets come from Kwikset: Commonwealth levers on the interior, round locks on the pocket doors, and the Powerbolt 1000 deadbolt lock on the exterior. Commonwealth levers have curved lines that make them easier to operate than conventional knobs, while the round design of the pocket door lock prevents door warping. Both styles have a Venetian bronze finish. The battery-powered Powerbolt unit on the door to the garage provides security with the convenience of keyless access with no wiring.

BEARABLE LIGHTNESS Light floods the interior of the house thanks to Pella Windows & Doors' Architect Series casement windows (shown here in a four-unit grouping in the family room). The openings feature the company's Integral Light Technology, which consists of traditional high-definition grilles permanently bonded to the inside and outside of energy-efficient argon-filled insulating glass. Brown aluminum cladding resists fading, chalking, and corrosion, while self-storing retractable screens keep out insects. Oil-rubbed bronze hardware finishes the look.

FUN ZONE Every house needs a little fun and games. Xbox 360 with Windows Media Center Extender from Microsoft Corp. provides both. The product is a regular gaming console that can also tap into all of the home's digital entertainment through the use of an XP-based personal computer that performs all the usual tasks. Once the Xbox 360 is connected to a TV, users can press the green “start” button on the Xbox universal remote, the media center remote, or the computer and pull up the media center menu for access to stored on-demand movies, music, videos, and photos. Household members have access to a host of entertainment options at the desktop or in other rooms of the house.

GREAT WALLS Drywall is perhaps the most versatile and inexpensive wall system there is. With the right treatment, it can look like anything. Temple-Inland's regular ½-inch drywall and fire-resistant 5/8-inch wallboards are used throughout the house. In addition to its easy workability and consistent surface, the synthetic gypsum core is created with recycled material. When exposed to flames, natural moisture contained in the core is slowly released as steam to retard heat transmission.

PREP WORK The best tile job isn't worth much if the prep work and the installation products are inadequate. Every tile job in the house, including this first-floor powder room, received the royal treatment with products from Laticrete International. The substrates were treated with Watertight Floor N' Wall, which rolls on like paint to prevent water damage. Next, 254 Platinum multipurpose thin-set mortar provides a tight bond between the tile and the substrate. Finally, SpectraLOCK PRO grout finishes off the job. It provides a consistent color and fights mold and mildew.


Need home-tech design services and installation? Best Buy for New Homes is just a phone call away.

It's sound advice to do what you know and leave other things to the pros. That's exactly what happened with The Reality House. Wanting to create a totally wired house with all the bells and whistles, the project team turned to Best Buy—the one-stop source for all things technology related.

“Using our knowledge and expertise, we try to be the [builder's] smart friend and partner in the field,” says Travis Misterek, technical design manager for the builder channel at the Richfield, Minn.–based company.

Best Buy doesn't design cool systems for the heck of it, Misterek explains. The company wants to design systems that are easy to use and useful to the consumer. “If the tech system is not user-friendly and reliable, the home buyers will be disappointed and you will have unhappy customers.”

The company's first goal was to future-proof the house as much as possible, so technicians installed three tech tubes in the house. “The tubes are open pipes where you can fish wire to any room in the house,” says Misterek. That way, the house can easily be upgraded without tearing into drywall.

In addition to supplying all the plasma TVs, flat panel monitors, speakers, and audio devices, Best Buy loaded the house with far-out features. One of these is the Slingbox. “It takes a video source and puts it out on the Internet so you can log in to watch TiVo, stored media, or cable from the next room or across the country as long as there is broadband capability on both ends,” Misterek says. Security is also taken into consideration so homeowners can access the house's camera from the Internet anywhere in the world. Exterior cameras can even see in the dark, Misterek says.

A dual-source, multizone audio system allows two different rooms to play separate audio devices, but Misterek says a house can be wired for more. And an ibus iPod docking station is strategically located near the door heading into the garage. “It's a high traffic area, so you can set your iPod to recharge, listen to music in the house, and you always know where it is when it's time to leave,” he explains.

Misterek says the company offers its expertise on these and a whole host of other tech services from design to installation. It can be as simple or as complex as builders want. The good news is that they don't have to cost a lot. “Features like these are getting cheaper and cheaper all the time,” he says.

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