- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001

Fashionable clothes vary from season to season and year to year, and sometimes designers begin reviving styles from the past such as miniskirts and bell-bottom jeans. Home styles vary from year to year, too, but without such drastic adjustments as are often found in the clothing industry. Builders work with their architects to introduce new floor plans to attract new buyers and meet the perceived needs of today's customers, and they, too, can occasionally be tempted by the styles of a previous era.

While buyers shouldn't look for smaller bathrooms or avocado-green kitchens, they should expect a return to old-fashioned exterior designs that include front porches, dormer windows, gingerbread trim and white picket fences in some of the Washington area's neotraditional neighborhoods.

Neotraditional refers to a style that aims to renew a sense of community by building homes closer together with sidewalks to link each home to the next, with garages built behind the homes to improve the streetscape and the closeness of the homes.

At Primrose, a Miller and Smith development in Manassas, the builder wanted to attract some of the residents of nearby older neighborhoods, so the company designed a cottage-style home with a front courtyard and a garden.

According to Rhonda Ellisor, vice president of sales and marketing for Miller and Smith, "We will even be planting roses to climb on the picket fences to make sure these houses have that old-fashioned appeal."

These homes of about 2,000 square feet will go on the market in January, priced in the mid-$200,000s. Each will include a first-floor master suite and a two-car garage.

Nearby at Independence in Manassas, the U.S. Home Corp. is introducing several new single-family home designs, including two in the Americana Series priced from the mid-$200,000s with uniquely placed garages.

The Amherst model features an attached one-car garage placed to the side and pushed back almost behind the home, allowing for a longer driveway and a less visible garage door. The Bedford model has a similar design with a two-car garage turned on an angle and hidden further by the extension of the living room.

NVHomes' Dartmouth model, found at Lakelands in Gaithersburg priced from the mid- to upper-$500,000s, has a two-car garage set back from the front of the house, and one of its facade choices includes a front porch. Buyers can extend this porch to wrap around one side of the home, too.

A change found in the interior of some of today's home designs is a return to a more closed floor plan, without the expanse of open rooms and two-story spaces so popular in recent years.

At Vint Hill in Fauquier County, Miller and Smith will be building the "Turn of the Century Collection," homes with stone and siding exteriors rather than brick and porches, and 10-foot ceilings in most of the rooms. Inside, these homes will feature less-open floor plans with more separation between the kitchen and family room.

"The most unique feature in these homes will be a sort of 'surprise room,' the library, which is placed one-half a level down and separated from the rest of the main level by a stairwell," says Ms. Ellisor. The price range for the Vint Hill single-family homes will be from the mid-$200,000s to the mid-$300,000s.

Another feature now being introduced by several builders is the rear foyer or family foyer. This is usually found off the garage and offers an informal area where family members can leave backpacks and briefcases, mail and packages, rollerblades and razor scooters, coats and umbrellas out of the sight of guests in the more formal foyer. At Vint Hill, Miller and Smith labels this space the "command center," as it has a built-in desk for a computer as well as other storage space and is adjacent to the kitchen.

Stanley Martin has designed a family foyer into its Christopher model, a space with access to the garage nestled between the laundry room and a corridor with a pantry and butler's pantry leading into the kitchen. This model, available at the Manors at Fox Mill in Oakton priced from the low $700,000s and at the Ridings at Virginia Run in Centreville priced from the low $600,000s, includes a coat closet in the family foyer and such optional features as a built-in bench and storage cabinets.

Ryan Homes has expanded the garage entrance and storage spaces in its Balmoral model, available from the upper-$500,000s at Brookeville Crossing in Montgomery County. This 4,000-square-foot home has a built-in bench and closet in the mudroom off the garage, a large adjacent laundry room with a built-in counter, and three pantries, including a butler's pantry and two pantries in the kitchen.

While the family may be using a more casual entrance to the home, the main foyer in many upscale homes is becoming ever grander and larger. Several builders have pushed the main staircase toward the back of the home, allowing for a larger foyer, including a central reception area or rotunda. Centex Homes' Cambridge model, available from the low- to upper $600,000s at Lansdowne in Loudoun County, has a two-story foyer leading to an octagonal rotunda with a staircase curving along one side and a box ceiling on the second level.

Ryan Homes' Balmoral model has a unique T-shaped staircase pushed back to the center of the home, allowing the columned foyer more space.

The Dartmouth model, from NVHomes at Lakelands in Gaithersburg, features a two-story foyer leading back to a central staircase with two sets of stairs leading to the upper level. This home, priced from the mid- to upper $500,000s, also has a covered front porch with an optional wraparound porch.

Stanley Martin's Christopher model also has an expanded foyer and reception area with a staircase pushed back into the center of the home. Decorative columns line the reception area, which is open to the second level.

Edgemoore Homes' Lancaster model, priced from the high $500,000s at Carrington in Tysons Corner, features a series of arched entrances into the main-level rooms, a repeated architectural theme that unifies the home.

"Many builders are focusing now on the passageways from one room into the next, creating a more dramatic entrance to each room instead of just an opening," says Sue Martinez, director of sales and marketing for Edgemoore Homes. "Sometimes each room has an arch, but other times it can be transom windows or decorative columns which are a repeated theme."

Van Metre's new Hemingway model, available at Lansdowne priced from $549,900, has an angled front door leading into a two-story foyer that expands into a larger central two-story hall. This model also exemplifies two additional trends in new home designs: Flexibility of the floor plan and the expansion of outdoor living space, often including a master suite balcony.

The Hemingway allows its buyers to customize the home with a choice of a two-car or three-car garage, an optional library, an expanded morning room and an optional first-floor in-law suite instead of a den. Buyers can also choose to close over the two-story living room with a fifth bedroom.

The Hemingway features a large master bedroom balcony that rests above the portico entrance to the home, and buyers can add a screened porch to the side of the home as well as a two-level deck with space off the family room and master bedroom.

Centex Homes' Huntley model, available at Lansdowne priced from the low- to mid-$600,000s, has a large library with a walk-in closet that can be easily converted to a first-floor guest suite, including a full bath in place of the closet and a smaller closet along one wall. The similarly priced Cambridge model at Lansdowne can be modified with two separate bathrooms for the third and fourth bedrooms, rather than a shared bath, and offers buyers a choice between a second-level laundry room or computer room with a built-in desk.

The Bishop model, similarly priced at Lansdowne, has a two-story family room that can be converted to one level to allow for a "bonus" room upstairs, a space that can function as a fifth bedroom or as family living space for recreation or work.

Flexibility within a floor plan is available in nearly every price range these days. Ryan Homes' Bronte model, priced from the $350,000s at Quince Orchard Park in Gaithersburg, has plenty of upscale features and fixtures such as upgraded flooring and bathrooms, and has 2,400 square feet of living space designed to fit on a narrow lot. Buyers at this community are often choosing the optional three-bedroom floor plan rather than the traditional four bedrooms, as the bedrooms are larger and the families buying them are often empty nesters or small families.

Beazer Homes' Hayes floor plan, priced from the mid- to high $200,000s at the Meadows at Piedmont in Prince William County, has a standard design with four bedrooms and two full baths upstairs, but the secondary bedrooms can be converted into a home office/loft area and a sitting room to expand the master suite.

Edgemoore Homes' Lancaster model provides an example of an often-repeated design element in today's upscale homes, an exceptionally large and luxurious master suite. This master bedroom includes a private balcony, a juice bar with a refrigerator and a place for a coffee maker so that the owners have constant access to hot and cold beverages. Adjacent to the bedroom is a sitting room and a huge walk-in closet, along with a bath that includes a soaking tub and a "walk-through" shower in the center that has doors on either end, dual shower heads and a seat. More luxurious showers are the latest addition to upscale master baths.

Van Metre Homes' Hemingway model features a master suite that covers nearly half the second level, with a separate sitting room with decorative columns and a door to the balcony, an optional two-sided fireplace, a coffered ceiling in the bedroom, and a step-up to the dressing area, which has two walk-in closets, an optional wet bar, and a door into the luxurious bath with its oversize shower and corner soaking tub. An optional two-level deck at the rear of the home is accessible from the master suite.

Centex Homes has four new designs at Lansdowne, priced from the low-to-high $600,000s, each with a luxurious master suite. The Kincaid model features a master suite that covers the entire rear extension of the home, with a sitting area at one end, an optional three-sided fireplace, a spacious bedroom with a "bump-out" allowing for extra windows, a juice bar, a dressing area with a seat, a double-size walk-in closet, and a large luxury bath with a separate area that includes two vanities with sinks, an oversize shower with a sink and a soaking tub.

The Cambridge model, with a dramatic octagonal master bedroom, has a sitting area with an optional fireplace and a multitude of windows, a juice bar and a double-size walk-in closet with a seat. The master bath includes a cathedral ceiling, a dressing area with a vanity, another dual sink vanity, an oversize shower with a seat and a large soaking tub.

Even in more affordably priced homes, the master bedrooms are often expanded and include luxury details, including oversize walk-in closets and sometimes two walk-in closets.

Stanley Martin's Maybeck model, priced from the upper-$200,000s at Belmont Bay in Prince William County, has an optional floor plan with a master suite that extends across the depth of an entire level. The master suite in this model includes a large bedroom, a sitting area with decorative columns and an optional built-in fireplace, two walk-in closets with a dressing area between, a linen closet, and a luxurious bath that includes a shower with a seat and a soaking tub.

The Maybeck and the similarly priced Eastlake model by Stanley Martin are available as single-family homes, town homes and "duets," which are pairs of homes sharing one wall.

The Eastlake's floor plan offers a master bedroom on the main level and an optional second master suite on the second level.

Besides the expanded master suites, builders are offering buyers more options for extending main level living areas. Centex Homes has found many buyers choosing to add a side conservatory and a rear sunroom to their upscale homes.

The Huntley model, available from the low- to upper $600,000s at Lansdowne, has a library with an optional conservatory, and an optional sunroom off the breakfast area. The two-story great room has an optional two-story bay window that floods the home with light. This floor plan also has a large "keeping room" open to the kitchen and breakfast area, with an optional corner fireplace, which allows the entire rear section of the main level to be open for an easy flow of space when entertaining casually.

Ryan Homes' Balmoral model, which has 4,000 square feet of finished living space, can be expanded to up to 6,500 finished square feet with a sunroom addition off the living room and study, a morning room off the breakfast area and an expanded family room. A three-car garage is optional, as well, and the master suite can include a separate sitting area if the morning-room addition is chosen.

Expansion possibilities are available in a variety of price ranges, not just the luxury-home market.

Beazer Homes' Tyler model at Piedmont Meadows, priced from the mid- to high $200,000s, offers the possibility of expanding on nearly every side. The main level can include extensions of the den and family room along with a morning-room addition off the kitchen. Upstairs, the master suite can be extended with a larger bedroom and luxury bath. The Piedmont Meadows homes, which range in size from 1,750 to 2,200 square feet, are centrally located in this planned community and include golf course views.

Traditionally, town homes and small single-family homes offer buyers less living space and fewer rooms, but even in these types of homes builders are accommodating the desire of today's buyers for both formal and informal living space.

Beazer Homes' Carlton model, available at the Knolls at Piedmont, priced from the mid-$200,000s, has between 1,750 and 1,865 finished square feet. This model features a side entry into the foyer, with a formal living room at the front of the home, a formal dining room on the other side of the foyer, a separate family room on the main level and an eat-in kitchen.

Centex Homes is building "two-over-two" town-home-style condominiums with one-car garages at Westcott Ridge in Fairfax, priced from the $190,000s to the $230,000s. The Hanover model features a formal living room and formal dining room on its lower level along with a separate family room, a kitchen, and a separate breakfast room that could be converted to a den. The Wesley model at Westcott Ridge includes a formal dining room, a formal living room, and a central great room along with a kitchen and master suite on its upper level.

No matter the price range, new-home designs are constantly being modified so that builders can attract new buyers by offering them the most flexibility and luxury possible for the money.

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