Are we nearing the end of the stream of reality TV–ready homes with all-white kitchens and gray tones everywhere? If this year’s New American Home® is any indication, then you can bet on it.
The annual show home constructed to display the most exciting new amenities, styles, and technology is a big departure from the luxury residences of the previous few years.
Instead of a sprawling house in the suburbs with seamless indoor-outdoor living and a drool-worthy infinity pool, this year’s three-story home is in the downtown Winter Park, FL, corridor. It has a more industrial, urban vibe with bright, colorful interiors—no all-white vistas to be found.
The boxy, 5,536-square-foot house built on the site of a former office building and a parking lot is not for sale at this time. It was revealed this week as part of the annual International Builders’ Show, which took place virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
So what are our favorite elements of 2021’s New American Home? Let’s dive in.
We love: The playful kitchen
The showstopper of the three-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home is easily the kitchen. It’s positioned on the open third floor to allow more natural light into the space. And instead of crisp white everything, this kitchen mixes darker walnut woods with brighter colors and an assortment of finishes. It connects to an outdoor terrace outfitted with bright orange pops of color.
The floor-to-ceiling walnut and glass china cabinet is a gorgeous way to show off dishware. The terrazzo-patterned quartz island brought the different elements of the kitchen together.
“It just seems … people went through a period where their houses were either white or gray and they didn’t have a lot of the warm tones,” says the architect of the project, Phil Kean, of the Phil Kean Design Group in Orlando, FL.
The group also constructed the home and did the interior design.
“We’re going to see people warming up their facades and their houses,” Kean adds. “A lot of people spent the last year at home, and color really helps the spirit.”
We love: The warm wood
We also admire the darker, walnut wood used throughout the home—in the flooring, the kitchen cabinets, the floating staircase, and more. The same wood in the kitchen was also laid down in the bedrooms, providing continuity throughout the home.
It’s a welcome departure from the gray-toned flooring that’s become ubiquitous over the past few years.
“Some woods have too much yellow to them, and some woods have too much red in them,” says Kean. Walnut is “a really good wood for having those midrange tones, and it goes with everything.”
We love: The gridded windows
We’re also fans of the New American Home’s oversize, gridded windows. Reminiscent of industrial warehouses, these beauties bathe the property in natural light. Transoms above the windows add interest and let in even more light.
“On clear nights, you can see the fireworks from the theme parks,” Kean says of the top-floor windows.
We love: The eco-friendly features
The various environmentally friendly features are also impressive. Solar panels were installed on the roof, helping the home to generate its own power. It’s also Energy Star–certified and EPA Indoor airPLUS–qualified.
The home also features a system that monitors the air quality inside the home and brings in fresh air when needed. That could come in handy in the middle of a pandemic!
“It’s set up to be a super energy-efficient home,” says Kean. “We generate more energy than we use in a day.”
This year’s home also includes an art gallery entrance, a room specifically for pet dog(s), and a three-car garage. The second floor is devoted to the master bedroom, master bath with a walk-in closet, and exercise room. The top level boasts a great room and music room with 14-foot-tall ceilings.
While there’s so much to love about the New American Home, there are also a few things we could live without.
We could do without: The bedroom’s padded leather wall
We love that the designers behind this home took some bold chances. But we ultimately aren’t fans of the padded brown leather wall in this bedroom.
The tufted accent wall is intended to be an extension of the headboard. Unfortunately, we think it makes the bedroom feel heavy. The work nook at one end of the room—although a luxury in the time of COVID-19—gives the room a hotel vibe. And hey, maybe hotel living is a dream come true for you, but we were hoping for something a little warmer and more personal.
We could do without: The glass staircase handrails
The floating walnut staircase—complete with lighting underneath each tread—is splendid, but we have issues with the glass handrail that frames it. Although the glass keeps things feeling open and contemporary, we think it cheapens the look.
Plus, we’re dubious about the functionality (safety first!). This staircase could be better served with a handrail or other material that’s not attempting to be invisible.
We could do without: The lack of outdoor space
The New American Home in years past has flaunted its outdoor spaces: luxurious terraces with fire pits, infinity pools, and breathtaking views. For many of them, the outdoor space was the star of the show. That isn’t the case here; in fact, this home doesn’t come with much outdoor space at all.
To be fair, the team behind the New American Home did as much as it could with what they had—there’s a balcony or terrace on each floor. And this home was designed for a more urban environment, where walkability is key. But with folks cooped up due to COVID-19, a big backyard has practically become a pandemic survival essential—and we’re feeling the void in this home.