Home buyers want more time, not more space. They don’t pine for more luxuries and more of the good life. They want time to enjoy what they have now.
This was the central finding from focus groups convened by Builder magazine to develop the concept for its show house at the 2007 International Builders Show in Orlando, Fla., last month.
Concluding that salvation for these woebegone, time-crunched homeowners lay in technology, Builder brought in the latest gizmos and gadgets for its InSnyc Home. But judging by the results, it appears that technology can save only so many hours, and we have already reached that point.
The time-saving devices in this 6,600-square-foot house would astound our great-great grandmothers who were keeping house 100 years ago, but today most households in America, including, I assume, the woebegone focus-group members, already own them — washer, dryer, dishwasher, gas or electric range, microwave oven, refrigerator and freezer.
To have more time to do the things they really want to do, the owners of this house will have to resort to the same solution that their great-great grandmothers did: hire help.
But the InSync Home does conclusively demonstrate that the latest in-home technology can smooth out the rough edges of your life and calm you down. For example, in this house you’ll never squabble over music choices with your spouse or children. The Colorado vNet integrated technology network can play six different playlists at the same time, and these can be accessed from 16 touch pads located throughout the house. The possible combinations for each playlist are endless — a central server can store as many as 1,250 albums. You can upload your own CDs and never again hassle with broken CD cases or sort through 50 cases to find the CD that was misplaced. And you’ll never be embarrassed if you don’t recognize a familiar sound — the touchpad screen displays the artist’s photo, track time, recording date and liner highlights.
At the end of the day when you’re falling asleep on your feet, you won’t have to go through the house turning off lights — they can also be controlled from the touch pad.
And you’ll never have to fiddle with the shower to get it just right for your aching muscles. You can program six different water temperatures to match your mood as you are massaged by 22 spray nozzles.
Clearly, these gizmos and gadgets will make life here more pleasant. But I predict that the primary draw for prospective buyers will be the understated elegance of the traditional Mediterranean styling and the size. Designed by architect Mike Keesee and Interior Designer Don Saxon of Orlando, this six-bedroom, two-story house with multiple places to hang out is made for large-scale entertaining and good old-fashioned house parties. The traditional styling conveys a sense that it has been a gathering place for years.
With two full floors and plenty of public spaces indoors, as well as a 600-square-foot lanai (a covered verandah) that overlooks the large swimming pool area and a studio apartment over the three-car garage, there’s plenty of room for guests to spread out and engage in multiple activities at the same time. Just as important from the hosts’ point of view, they can periodically recharge their batteries in a master suite that’s so private they can be in it and not be aware that anyone else is in the house.
It’s the perfect set-up for a multiple-generation family that is scattered across the country and wants to spend time together every year renewing familial bonds. With everyone congregated in one spot, the parents, siblings and in-laws can catch up; the grandchildren can spend time with their aunts, uncles and grandparents; and the grandchildren can establish relationships with each other.
When the entire clan is there, the daily routine might find some of the adults in the first-floor family room, living room or the lanai, some younger kids in the swimming pool with their parents, and older children on the second floor in the game room playing pool or in the entertainment room with their Game Boys (playing on a 61-inch, rear-projection DLP unit will be a big draw). The girl cousins might be with the boys or playing by themselves in one of the second-floor bedrooms. When the grandparents get overwhelmed, they can retire to their master suite for a rejuvenating nap. If one of the adult children or in-laws gets similarly overwhelmed, there are plenty of spots they can get some needed downtime. Family members might pitch in to cook meals in the enormous and well-appointed kitchen, but it’s more likely that the buyers of this $4 million house will have full-time help.
The style of the house is very common in central Florida, but even a cursory look when you pull up in front tells you that this is not your typical Mediterranean McMansion. The red brick windows inject some whimsy; the historically accurate Corinthian capitals on the columned arcade provide ballast; and the cast bronze putti (a Cupid) in the water fountain by the front door tells you that some things in this house will be over the top. If you enter from the garage, you’re primed to expect the unusual by the travertine marble steps that lead into a rear foyer.
The interior, in fact, has too many interesting and arresting details to list them all, but my notes on the master suite convey the general ambience here:
Unusual: The floor of the home office is leather.
Over the top: The circular foyer to the master bedroom area has a domed ceiling with a painted mural of clouds and flying putti, similar to those found in Italian Renaissance palazzos.
Unexpected: A second foyer to the master bathroom with a barrel-vaulted ceiling.
Playful: A cast-brass, lizard-shaped toilet paper holder.
Indulgent: A fireplace next to the soaking tub.
Practical: Two small windows high up in the soaking tub niche solve the privacy issue but still bring in gobs of sunlight.
Surprising: A Kohler toilet that looks like a giant hat box when the lid is down.
Elegant: The tumbled marble bathroom floor with an inlaid circular medallion.
Big: The overall dimensions of the bathroom appear to be nearly the same as the living room’s 16 by 16 feet.
If there is any downside to the InSync Home, it is the absence of any intimate spaces where you could cozy up for a one-on-one conversation. The rooms are large and all the furniture is oversized. The huge kitchen will look empty without at least five or six people in it. The long dining table with its 10 oversized dining chairs is a perfect fit in the formal dining room, but a small party of four people would feel awkward. The table in the breakfast nook looked right only because its four chairs were huge. One person in an ordinary dining chair would feel lost.
I don’t think this will be a problem for the eventual owners of this house, however. Whoever buys it wants to be surrounded by friends and family. When only the missus and mister are there, they can eat out for dinner, skip lunch and have breakfast in bed.
Questions or queries? Katherine Salant can be contacted at www.katherinesalant.com.