- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

It might seem shocking to see prices for new homes approaching and exceeding $1,000,000 — even for town homes. As land prices climb and buyers choose expanded interior space, pricier homes are becoming more commonplace in the Washington area.

Architectural features such as arches and curving walls add elegance to new homes, as buyers become more sophisticated in their tastes. Yet today’s new-home designs are also tempered by the rising cost of energy.

“Home buyers want a house to flow, and the proportions have to be right, but at the same time people look at individual rooms and want to add as much function as they can to the space,” says Bill Sutton, an architect and principal with Sutton Yantis Associates Architects in Tysons Corner. “This is one of the reasons that the two-story family room is dead and buried. Someone could have a great remodeling business just closing off these two-story spaces.”

“Energy is back on the table,” Mr. Sutton says.

“People don’t need a lot of space that they aren’t going to use, and they don’t want to pay the high cost of heating all that empty space,” says Mr. Sutton. “In addition, people are more conscious of sound and are beginning to want these wide open floor plans closed in. The challenge is for architects to create homes that are interesting while meeting the concerns about energy and noise.”

SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES

At Mineral Springs Plantation near Fredericksburg, American Heritage Homes’ Clairmont model, priced from the mid-$700,000s, features a family room with a 14-foot-high ceiling with double-stacked windows and archways on the side of the room.

“We chose to do a 14-foot-tall ceiling rather than a two-story space because of the noise factor,” says Skip Causey, president of American Heritage Homes. “We added a half barrel vault, a tray ceiling with uplighting and a two-foot rounded corner, plus a two-story stone fireplace with built-in bookshelves on either side.”

In Beazer Homes USA Inc.’s Ashland single-family home model at Arora Hills in Montgomery County, priced from low $600,000s, the family room and breakfast area are visible to each other, but separated by an angled wall with a pantry to reduce the noise traveling between the kitchen and family room.

In Beazer Homes’ Garner single-family home model at Arora Hills, priced from the mid-$600,000s, the staircase to the upper and lower levels has been placed between the family room and breakfast area to create more separation between the spaces, although the breakfast bar in the kitchen still provides a view into the family room.

While energy and noise considerations influence the choices made by architects and buyers, both are also concerned with the attractiveness of the architecture.

“Style is an issue, too,” says Mr. Sutton. “We’re way past the standard brick Colonial in this area now. Maryland developments are ahead of Virginia in building Craftsman-style homes, which have an authentic American style.”

Mid-Atlantic Builders’ Firenze single family home, available at Beechtree, Fairwood and Timber Ridge in Maryland and priced from the mid-$600,000s to the $700,000s, is a 2005 replacement for a typical Colonial design.

“In the Firenze model, we’ve introduced round shapes into a square box, an idea which has been used in Europe for centuries,” says Stephen Paul, executive vice president for operations and chief design officer of Mid-Atlantic Builders. “We want to add emotional appeal to our homes. Since 9/11, people are staying home more and traveling less, so we want our buyers to feel safe and comfortable at home. At the same time, we want to introduce exciting elements to the home.”

In the Firenze model, a round vestibule is placed at the center of the home, with arches linking the living room and dining room to the foyer. At the back of the house, the family room features a rounded window with stacked windows.

Even the powder room includes an oval window, placed high to provide privacy from the home next door.

In the kitchen, the center island has been rounded, while the walls have been angled to provide additional window space. Upstairs, a rounded Juliette balcony overlooks the foyer, and a curving glass block wall encloses the shower.

Craftmark Homes Inc.’s Monticello model, priced from $2,500,000 at Evans Farm in McLean, features a curving staircase in the rounded foyer, which has a broad arched opening into the formal living room. The curving shape is echoed in the rounded wall of windows in the morning room off the kitchen, and buyers can also opt for a rounded wall of windows in the library.

Archways link the living and dining rooms with the foyer in Craftmark’s Sheffield model, priced from $1,000,000 at Occoquan Overlook in Virginia. An additional arch links the main foyer with the rear hall.

Southern-style architecture influenced the design of Winchester Homes Inc.’s Elmhurst model, available at Clarksburg Village from the upper $600,000s and from the $800,000s at Auburn Village in Sandy Spring. The Elmhurst is part of the company’s Charleston Collection.

“Inspired by Southern architecture, these homes are designed with flexible interior and a variety of exterior elevations accented with elegant door surrounds, symmetrical window layouts on the fronts and sides, columns and raised porches,” says Jim Pohlhaus, director of product development for Winchester Homes.

In Van Metre Homes’ Savannah Collection, available at Stone Ridge in Loudoun County priced from the low-to-mid $600,000s, the homes include front porches and optional sleeping porches over the garage.

American Heritage Homes’ new homes also reflect a Southern influence.

“When we were in the design phase of our homes at Mineral Springs Plantation, we pulled out books of old plantation home floor plans for inspiration,” says Mr. Causey.

The Providence model at Mineral Springs Plantation, priced from the low $800,000s, includes two front porches, and buyers can opt to add two more porches on the sides of an optional sunroom.

The Clairmont model at Mineral Springs Plantation includes a front porch that can be expanded to a two-level porch across the entire front of the home.

Beazer Homes’ Charleston model, available at Fawn Lake priced from the low $700,000s, includes two covered front porches.

Beazer Homes’ Chandler model, priced from the upper $600,000s at Arora Hills, has a standard front porch with an optional elevation including a covered front porch with a second porch above on the upper level.

Mitchell & Best Homebuilders LLC’s Wellington single-family home model, priced from $1,000,000, has two front porches and a rear porch with entrances to the rear foyer and the family room.

At Stone Lake in Howard County, Miller and Smith’s Wyndermere town home model includes a front terrace and a rear deck, with an additional second-floor deck at the back of the house accessed from the master suite.

Inside both town homes and single family homes, a prevalent change in architectural style is the relocation of the main staircase out of the foyer.

“Buyers want all the staircases out of the foyer to separate the public spaces of the home from the private ones,” says Mr. Paul.

In Mid-Atlantic’s Firenze model, the staircase has been placed away from the foyer and vestibule, between the family room and breakfast room, functioning as an elegant replacement for the traditional second, rear staircase.

In Craftmark Homes’ Sheffield model, the staircase has been located in a rear foyer connected by an archway to the main foyer and equally accessible from the back of the home as well as the front.

In American Heritage Homes’ Lexington model at Mineral Springs Plantation, priced from the mid-$700,000s, the staircase has been placed at the side of the home, between the library and the living room on the main level. On all three levels, a deep bay window provides the exterior wall of the staircase, filling the area with light.

The staircase has been centrally located in Winchester Home’s Elmhurst model, pushed back from the foyer into a separate hall.

In Beazer Homes’ Garner model, the stairs are in the back of the home.

Besides moving the stairs away from the foyer, architects are designing main levels with practical improvements such as additional closets and built-in niches for art or storage.

“We’re listening to our buyers, particularly the women, and we know they like nooks and crannies to be designed into the home,” says Mr. Causey. “In our Providence model, we have seven closets just on the first level. We also put his-and-hers offices on the first floor of this model, with a study in the back corner and what we called a ‘hobby room’ at the front with access to a porch.”

In Beazer Homes’ Charleston model, a walk-in pantry and a closet have been located near the garage entrance, along with a closet in the family entrance to the home, a foyer closet and another closet near the powder room.

In Mitchell & Best’s spacious Wellington model, closets have been placed in the family entrance, the laundry room and near the library, and two powder rooms have been placed on the main level.

Many architects have increased the size of the pantry either in the kitchen or adjacent to the kitchen to accommodate bulk items. Additional storage is being created in the kitchen island.

“The latest fashion in kitchens is to keep cooking off the center island and to make them even bigger,” says Mr. Sutton. “These islands and the new energy-efficient appliances demand a trade-off in space. If you want a giant piece of furniture with nothing on it as your center island, it can work in an 8,000-square-foot house, but try fitting one into a 3,000-square-foot-house.”

In Van Metre Homes’ Magnolia model at Stone Ridge, priced from the low to mid-$600,000s, a two-level center island has been placed at an angle across the kitchen and breakfast area, with the cooktop placed on an adjacent counter.

In Winchester Homes’ Elmhurst model, an L-shaped island includes plenty of work space, storage and seating on two sides for casual dining, doing homework or keeping the chef company.

“We added an oversized island with a wide curve but no cooktop to our Providence kitchen,” says Mr. Causey.

Breakfast areas are often expanding into larger spaces rather than as an extension of the kitchen.

In American Heritage Homes’ Clairmont model, the breakfast room and the sitting room off the first-floor master suite have each been pushed off the back of the house so they can function as two sunrooms with an optional deck in between. Each of these rooms has a cathedral ceiling and three sides of windows.

In Winchester Homes’ Elmhurst model, the breakfast area has been bumped out to allow two walls of windows.

While kitchens and breakfast areas are expanding on the main level, luxury baths are increasingly large upstairs.

Mid-Atlantic’s Firenze model features a corner soaking tub with a glass block window filling one adjacent wall, along with a large shower with another glass block exterior wall and a curving interior glass block wall. The shower is reached by a step-up and then a step-down, and it includes a seat. Adjacent to the bath is a dressing area that links the walk-in closet and sitting room and can be accessorized with a juice bar.

TOWN HOMES

Luxurious master baths are found in many town homes today, as well as in single-family homes.

Centex Homes’ Hayden town home model, priced from the low to mid-$500,000s at Hidden Creek in Gaithersburg, features a large master bath with a tub, dual-sink vanity and separate shower.

In Brookfield Homes’ Berkley town home model at Morris Farm in Virginia, priced from the upper $400,000s, the master bath includes a tub, a separate shower with a seat and dual-sink vanity.

M/I Homes Inc.’s Avondale town home model, priced from the upper $500,000s at Hidden Creek in Gaithersburg, features a master suite that covers the entire second floor, including a bath with a tub, a dual-sink vanity and a large corner shower.

K. Hovnanian Homes’ Capitol Hill town home model, priced from the low $400,000s at MetroPlace in Prince George’s County, includes a soaking tub and separate shower in the master bath, along with dual-sink vanity.

The two-level Glover Park and McArthur Park town home models by K. Hovnanian at MetroPlace, while smaller than the other models, still include a master bath.

In Craftstar Homes’ Kensington town home model at Clarksburg Village in Maryland and at River Oaks in Woodbridge, priced from the upper $400,000s, the master bath has a combined shower and tub with a dual-sink vanity. Buyers can choose to eliminate a small closet to expand this bath with a larger tub and separate shower.

Adding a larger master bath as a standard feature is just the beginning of the transformation of town homes into living spaces with the size and number of rooms as a single-family home. Most town homes have three finished levels to increase the living space. Some have four finished levels.

Van Metre Homes’ Hampton town home model at Stone Ridge and Broadlands in Loudoun County, priced from the low $500,000s, has three finished levels with a recreation room on the lower level, a family room, dining room and living room on the main level, and an expanded master suite on the top floor with two walk-in closets and a bath.

Brookfield Homes’ Conway town home model at Morris Farm, priced from the upper $400,000s, includes a sitting area in the master suite in addition to the walk-in closet and bath.

The Addington model, similarly priced at Morris Farm, has a family room, bumped out breakfast area, formal dining room and separate living room on the main level, plus a recreation room on the lower level for more living space.

K. Hovnanian’s Woodley Park model, priced from $700,000s at Fairfax Gateway in Fairfax, the lower level is finished with a recreation room and full bath, and the main level includes a family room with access to a deck, a center-island kitchen, a dining room and a living room.

Buyers can opt to close off part of the living room for a library. The upper level includes a laundry room, a master suite with a walk-in closet and bath, plus two more bedrooms and another full bath. The optional loft can be finished with a walk-in closet and bath.

Centex Homes’ Austin model at Danbury Station in Southwest Washington, priced from the low $300,000s, includes three finished levels and a one-car garage, with a lower-level recreation room, open living and dining areas and a kitchen and breakfast area on the main level, and two bedrooms with two private baths upstairs.

Beazer Homes’ Wellington town home model at Arora Hills includes almost 2,300 finished square feet, with an expanded kitchen, breakfast area and family room at the back of the home, a separate dining room and separate living room, all on the main level.

Craftstar’s Kensington model has four finished levels with a detached two-car garage. The lower level has a recreation room, the main level includes a dining room, separate living room and a family room open to the kitchen, while the third level has three bedrooms and two full baths, including the master suite. The loft level has a master suite with a bath, a sitting area and three walk-in closets, or a study or loft bedroom with a bath and two walk-in closets, depending on the plan chosen.

At the Glen at Hidden Creek in Gaithersburg, M/I Homes is building town homes priced from the upper $500,000s to the mid-$600,000s, each with four finished levels. The Emory town home model has a library, foyer, parlor and courtyard on the lower level and a breakfast area, center-island kitchen and sunroom on the main level along with a formal dining room, formal living room and two decks.

The second level includes an expanded master suite with a private deck, three walk-in closets, a bedroom with a tray ceiling, and a bath.

This level also has a large sitting room shared with the second bedroom, a laundry room and a second full bath. The upper level includes a third bedroom and bath and a loft.

Mitchell & Best’s Windsor town home model, available at Maple Lawn in Howard County, is priced from $1,019,900 and has almost 6,000 finished square feet.

The basement level includes a full bath and optional finished rooms.

The first level has a formal living room, formal dining room, a powder room, family room open to the kitchen, a separate informal dining room and a two-car garage.

The second level features a master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet and bath, a second bedroom with a walk-in closet and private bath, plus a laundry room.

The finished third level includes a studio or billiard room and a bedroom with a walk-in closet and full bath.

Buyers can add another bedroom with a bath over the garage.


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