With apologies to Charles Dickens, the International Home Builders Show (IBS) in Orlando last week was the worst of times and the best of times. Worst because of an economy that meant fewer exhibits and lower attendance and snowstorms in the southeast that closed airports and highways. Best because the smaller size — only one vast convention hall
and a thousand exhibits to cover — made it easier to see everything and find time for several especially interesting show homes, like the net zero energy concept home produced by KB Home and Martha Stewart. The 2,667 square-foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bath subdivision house is slated to sell for $380,000. As you would expect from these folks, it’s full of great ideas and products, from the invisible glass-front, gas living room fireplace (Montebello by Lennox)
under the elegant round mirror that brings the entire room into focus (showing the media tour in progress), to the kitchen at the opposite end,
where cabinets, open shelves, and cubbies by Merillat allow for multiple storage and display options to make the rear wall both functional and visually compelling. The Dupont Zodiaq-topped island, 7 feet 6 inches by 4 feet 6 inches,
includes a wide, deep Kohler apron-front farmhouse sink, a convenient “drop-in” stainless steel compost canister by Blanco (want it!) instead of a disposal, pull-out recycle bins (to right of sink, not visible here),
accessible through glass-fronted double doors beside the microwave and wine storage. A built-in desk to the right of the pantry has space for a laptop.
Ten foot-tall sliding glass panels by Windoor open the kitchen/dining area to a spacious lanai,
with its own fireplace,
allowing the house to expand for entertaining in good weather.
At the media conference I asked Martha Stewart what her greatest challenge was in shaping the interior. She said it was “to keep it gracious, with good proportions, and high 9 foot 4-inch ceilings.” I would elaborate that her team’s simple but sophisticated decisions — such as adding chest-high, white-painted horizontal wainscoting, setting windows low in the wall, using stone-like ceramic tile floor tiles and a refined pastel color palette (with AkzoNobel’s Martha Stewart low VOC paint) throughout — made this house feel custom-designed.
Martha also said she was excited at the opportunity to make a production home so green that it uses less power than it produces — thanks in part to photovoltaic roof tiles (by SunPower)
and a solar water heating system (from Velux).
My only reservation about the house was with the exterior — I think the important lessons about simplicity and strong indoor-outdoor connection could have been expressed on the street front. But overall it’s an exciting project that shows how to be green, gracious, and give good value. More idea houses and new product sightings from the Home Builder Show will be in my next post — so stay tuned.