You can't learn much in the dark. I learned this lesson once again at the International Builders Show in Orlando last month when I visited the New American Home for the second time in broad daylight. When I saw it the night before, I could discern a highly unusual exterior, a stark aesthetic and an unconventional floor plan. But all the things that make this house a winner -- its colors, materials, details and the salubrious effect of interiors drenched in daylight -- were invisible. As was the charming neighborhood. It is an historic district where many of the houses are more than 100 years old. The streets are lined with ancient-looking trees draped in Spanish moss and an eclectic mix of charming Craftsman-styled bungalows, nondescript cottages and surreal, small-scale Tara wannabes with towering columns and Canary Island date palms. The area is close to Lake Eola and a 10-minute walk from downtown Orlando, itself a startling surprise with many high-rise condos and office towers. Wh...
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