The 2014 New American Home demonstration house in Henderson, Nevada, sponsored by Builder magazine, debuted during the big home builder show (IBS) in Las Vegas last month. I expected over-the-topness. At 7,440 sq. ft. — including a three-room master suite, “VIP” guest suite, in-law “carriage suite,” casita-office, outdoor bar and grill, lap pool, and extensive roof decks — it wasn’t as
as lavish as some, but did not disappoint. Design-wise, it’s “Desert Modern.” Aging in place was a priority — hence the secondary ground floor master suite and an elevator to the “carriage suite.”As I have mentioned before, despite the name, or brand, this sort of house is not a prototype for a new way of living but a vehicle for promoting the latest home products, materials, and construction techniques. Indeed, it’s a high wire act — think Cirque de Soleil-style juggling with
Dupont Zodiac quartz counters (shown above) and the latest dual flush toilets from Kohler. The kitchen/great room has two islands: one for food prep, one for eating/entertaining. Zig-zags on floor and range hood look a little too
airport/runway-influenced for my taste but help unite the various activity zones within the large open space, and by extension with the outdoors. I admire the way architect Jeffrey Berkus and Element Building Co., along with interior designer Marc-Michaels, managed to pull everything into a coherent whole that celebrates indoor-outdoor living at the desert’s edge. As Jeff said at the press reception, he designed the house on his late architect father Barry Berkus’ famous principle of “going toward the light.”
You can see how that principle is carried out in the floor plan: every major room opens to courtyard, terrace, or deck — and at the covered patio near the dining room it’s difficult to tell what’s inside or outside thanks to all the sliding doors.
But the second floor master bedroom is the real “topper” and takes “hotel suite upgrade” to a new level. The dramatic, sleekly horizontal, see-through gas
combining “organic moments with very glamorous moments.” I’d call it more like Donnie and Marie — a little bit country ‘n a little bit rocks and bed rolls.
Other noteworthy features include the trellis-topped outdoor wet bar/grill
which actually seemed relatively understated in comparison to the bedrooms, and the elevator entry to the in-law or “carriage” unit. The front door to this suite is up a flight of stairs, but the secondary entry is via elevator. When the two-door elevator by Garaventa Lift (doors are opposite each other) is at the in-law unit level both doors open and it functions as the foyer — the only direct entrance from the house proper on the second floor. I thought it had a Harry Potter feel — like a very small Room of Requirement in a suburban Hogwarts. A little unsettling but very practical as long as the power stays on.
Speaking of resource management, a lot was said at the opening about the energy-efficiency of this house and that it is the “greenest house in the program’s history.” Such claims must be interpreted generously since it is such a large house to begin with; nevertheless extensive overhangs, high efficiency windows, “open and closed-cell spray foam insulation,” tankless water heaters, a 16 kilowatt photo voltaic array providing half of the home’s electrical needs, plus furnishings and materials selected for minimal off-gassing indicate a strong eco-oriented approach. If builders and developers adapt some of the ideas here the house will have more than proven its worth. (All photos courtesy Trent Bell Photography).