The A plan looks too elegant to be the home of an eight-year-old and her parents. But think again--new-century materials are durable and easy to clean. By Christina B. Farnsworth

The New American Home: Townhome Trilogy

The 2,950-square-foot plan A, as envisioned by the interiors firm ABA Averybrooks & Associates, houses a dual-income couple and their daughter.

Entry to the house is from a covered portico off the driveway/entry courtyard. The front door opens to a view of the family's private courtyard. Centered on the window across from the front door is the outdoor fountain. An immediate sense of tranquility greets visitors.

A corridor to the right leads to the home office with direct access to the private courtyard. It can be easily set up for clients to enter from an alternative street entry, preserving the home's privacy.

Floors throughout the house are from Bruce Hardwood Floors, except in the laundry and home office. The office features Armstrong's Urban Settings' Kyoto in copper tan, a vinyl floor that looks like a woven textile design.

Turning to the left from the front door provides a choice: Climb the stairs to the second level or walk down the corridor adjacent to the courtyard back to the family living areas.

The kitchen in this home is command central and faces the great room. Much of the interior wall sports floor-to-ceiling cabinets. Granite counters and a raised bar shield kitchen messes from the rest of the living space. The kitchen ceiling provides an architectural surprise; it curves up from the cabinet wall and peaks at the window wall, a soft curve subtly repeated by the kitchen island counter shape and the open wall of the media room.

As decorated, the zone detailed on the plan as the informal eating space is the home's main dining area, though the rolling table makes it easy to dine in other areas in the large open space if so desired. A terrace off the dining area and great room has a spa and a barbecue.

The three-sided Lennox fireplace also serves as a room divider for a library nook tucked in a corner. In this space, a seamless corner window (the glass meets to form the corner without an additional window frame) plays with the visual perception of space.

Also open to the kitchen is the media room. Standing at the kitchen island, the cook and clean-up crew can easily see and enjoy the adjacent home theater with its plasma screen television to their right. The screen is so large and placed high enough on the wall that it is even visible from the dining area.

The great room has a series of custom-made divans along its length. These may look like they are covered with fragile butter leather, but they are not. The room is as practical as it is inviting--21st-century faux fabrics pretend to be leather and suede but easily wipe clean. Paired with the blond wood floors, the overall effect is modern and elegant but definitely not fragile.

Interior designer John Gilmer describes the look as "eclectic with a witty dialogue of disparate elements that normally would not connect." They look fresh and inviting here. Among those seemingly foreign elements are the use of table lamps on the kitchen counter; normally used on side tables as reading lamps, they are a fun and unexpected way to illuminate the kitchen island. And why not have some fun?

Turn away from the central living hub to immediately sense what Gilmer, an architect and director of design at ABA Averybrooks amp; Associates, refers to as layered spaces. A bridge traverses the upstairs hallway, and the view up the stairs draws the eye to a trapezoidal skylight. Up those stairs are the home's private areas.

On one side of the bridge, above the home office, is the little girl's haven, a place to hide from mom and dad, if she wishes. Down the corridor to the back of the house is mom and dad's private area, complete with mini-kitchen, exercise room, bathroom, and not one but two private covered decks (these have the added advantage of shielding windows from direct sun).

But there is more. Just as Italianate homes had their towers, so does the A model. Its tower holds an open air pavilion that RNM architect Bob Tyler calls the star room. This aerie reverie includes another kitchenette (with sink and refrigerator) and another fireplace, a perfect spot to enjoy annual meteor showers.

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Fragile not: This great room looks too fragile for a child--but guess again. Floors are from Bruce Hardwood; a look so inviting the designers eschewed adding a rug. Custom-made banquets are upholstered in a new faux leather that really feels like leather but easily wipes clean. Similarly, the faux suede on the vintage chairs (borrowed from designer Jennifer ann de Lignieres' own home) and fabric on the solid-color pillows are also easy clean.

Cabinet creation: Timberlake cabinetry in Unit A allows the home to maximize an awkward space in the kitchen. The 12-inch-deep, floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets provide easily accessible storage spaces and allow more room for the table and chairs. The manufacturer supplied a transition base cabinet with an angled front to allow the cabinets to flow from a 24 inch depth to 12. The cabinets have solid hardwood doors and face frames, tongue-and-groove construction, and adjustable hidden hinges.

Photo: James Wilson

Counter intelligence: All three homes feature DuPont's Zodiaq quartz surfacing in a variety of applications and colors, such as Borealis Blue, Cygnus Pearl, and Abyss Black. Quartz surfaces have the depth and character of quartz crystals and are made of a naturally refractive material that gives it a subtle sparkle, the manufacturer says. The surfacing is now available in more than 20 colors.

Yum room: The A plan's kitchen is the home's command central. It is one end of the generous great room. The Sub-Zero integrated refrigeration system is an assemblage of appliances. The tall refrigerator and freezer are the same size. Refrigerator/freezer drawers are underneath the door units. A Wolf range with grill and hood are to the right of the refrigerator. The curved bar counter is equally inviting for eating a snack or serving a buffet.

Photo: James Wilson

Eating plan: Timberlake's Washington Cherry Spice cabinets provide an entire wall of storage. A design challenge, ending in a happy curve hiding ductwork, resulted in a curved ceiling that starts low near the cabinets and curves up toward the patio doors. The rolling dining table adds flexibility in how to position a table for dining; it might morph into a buffet or even roll outside to the patio (to the right and out of view).

Photo: James Wilson

Quiet nook: Designated on the plan as a library or optional computer room, this away-room is ensconced in wrap-around windows with frameless corners. A reproduction Eames 1948 La Chaise provides comfort and sculpture, perfect for an architect's home.

Photo: James Wilson

Soothing reverie: The owners' suite is a symphony in blue, with access to both a terrace and a private deck, and plenty of room to sit and read.