Urban Farmhouse and Roman Villa
While at the International Builder Show in Orlando I toured two new demonstration homes that were built in established neighborhoods. One, designed by architect Ed Binkley for Southern Traditions Development as Green Builder Media’s Vision House,
sits on a long narrow lot not far from downtown. I think it expressed a green sensibility very well in the use of eco-friendly materials like fiber cement siding and ICF construction (insulating concrete forms using Arxx blocks, example below: reinforcing bars are added, then concrete).
However, energy-efficient materials alone do not make a house green. The key for me is how this design thoughtfully maximizes the tight infill site (house photo above by Andy Frame courtesy Green Builder magazine) and deftly incorporates outdoor space. It does an excellent job.
and the semi-detached rear garage/studio shaping a small courtyard, it allows the house to live larger than it is. The welcoming and usable front stoop, simple gable profile, and backyard garage are all elements found in New Urbanist communities like Seaside, Florida or I’on, South Carolina — as well as the late 19th and early 20th century neighborhoods that New Urbanists emulate.
The innovative twist here is the lanai connecting house and garage: it’s a private summer living room and barbecue center. The roof deck is accessible from the upstairs master suite. The lanai opens to the family room beside the handsome island kitchen (Andy Frame photo, below). Ed Binkley calls his design an “urban farmhouse,” and that seems an apt description. Various details play up the rustic theme,
such as railings fabricated from hog wire fencing (I also like the bright, well-situated and multi-functional laundry/study just off the stairway) and
a trough sink for the kids’ bathroom (Interior design by Patricia Gaylor).
This house reminded me of designs in our inventory that would also work well on in-fill sites, like Plan 443-9,
which includes a carport beside the front porch or Plan 464-1 — suitable for a corner lot with wrap-around verandas. The other Orlando demonstration house told a very different story. Part of a long running program called The New American Home, it’s all about showing the latest products to builders. This year, to ensure completion in a tough economic climate, the organizers found willing clients (most demonstration houses are built before finding a buyer). The very large classically-inspired house was built on two lots near a lake — also not far from downtown Orlando.
A real estate columnist friend remarked, as we stepped off the media bus: “It looks like Embassy Row.” To my mind it recalls major classical monuments,
like the New Pavilion by Karl Friedrich Schinkel at Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin of 1824 (shown above) or possibly the Huntington Library in Pasadena. The designer of the New American Home is classically trained portrait artist and polymath Michael Curtis, who knows a lot about Greek and Roman precedents in architecture and sculpture and offers a range of scholarly American classic home designs as part of our Signature Plans Studio, like Union Springs 492-4,
with its stately portico.
The New American Home was designed to reflect the client’s requirements (for health reasons all the building materials had to be hypoallergenic; hence the concrete and stone for walls and columns) as well as to showcase builder products — it’s not meant as an exemplar for future home designs, despite its name. So I overlooked the size and scale and concentrated on the very carefully articulated and beautiful architectural details, like the columns
with rustic stone as the backdrop, and used as sheathing for the base of the serving island. Now you might note the two flat screens — perhaps a case of product placement acceding to the law of symmetry — not necessary but certainly enthusiastic. You can watch the Super Bowl while I channel surf.
In any case the grand rooms, high ceilings, and pool courtyard (photo by James Wilson via Residential Architect) were fun to experience — like touring a very well preserved Roman villa, or was it the eastern wing of the Malibu Getty Museum.