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A House Designed for Millennials

A House Designed for Millennials
Enjoy seamless indoor-outdoor living.
For more than 15 years, I built cutting-edge show homes for the industry as the editor of Builder magazine. We built some pretty cool stuff: live/work homes in a downtown Atlanta neighborhood where nothing new had been built in 100 years; a LEED-platinum modular house that we dropped on the floor of the International Builders Show; and one of the earliest net-zero energy homes.

Some of the coolest concepts we dreamed up never got built. Fifteen years ago, we considered doing a Gen X demonstration home with two manufactured housing modules that met in a kind of train wreck, forming the letter V with a courtyard in the middle, and Internet access for gaming everywhere. 

One year we talked about doing a Chi House. The architect planned to draw it in one fell swoop, never lifting pencil from paper, channeling the energy from the site into the home design. We planned garden with a hot tub for meditation after work, and a kitchen nook bathed in warm morning light. 

One of the coolest homes we did build, though, was a 2,400-square-foot, very versatile home for so-called Millennials or Gen Y buyers (the cohort born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) in Orlando in 2012. This may have been my favorite of all the homes we built because it identified viable new living arrangements for a new generation, and unlike some of the homes we built, it was also attainable.

It contained one of the earliest disappearing window walls in production housing. You walked through a short entry vestibule to the main living area, and you looked right through the home, to the pool deck, and out into the Orlando night. The architect Mike Woodley and I sat on a couch in the family room and watched the delighted expression of visitors as they entered the space and discovered that a corner of the roof was suspended on a post in the pool.
 
The home was designed to work for people who didn’t have a lot of money, who may have to work from home or take in a border to make ends meet. An office off the entry, equipped with sliding barn doors, could open to the main living space when no one was around, and close for peace and quiet when the rest of the family came home.
 
Woodley designed a versatile driveway courtyard. It could accommodate beer pong during early years of marriage, and children on big wheels during the following stage, and half-court basketball after that. The driveway gate could be closed to create a big hardscape play space. I don’t know why more builders don’t think about turning driveways into playgrounds, or garages into tennis practice spaces. One of the secondary bedrooms facing the courtyard would be the perfect room for a brother who was out of work, or maybe had just graduated from college and was looking for work. An outside door from the bedroom into the courtyard meant he could come and go as he pleased. He would have to share a hall bath, though. Sorry.

An ample family room connected to the kitchen provided the informal living that this cohort craves. But the floor plan also included an “away” room, if you needed to get away and do yoga or practice the guitar, or if you wanted to isolate your child’s latest Lego creation. It could be converted into a bedroom later. An optional cabana, joined to the main home by a trellised causeway – which the building department decided didn’t make it an ancillary dwelling unit – would be great for long-term visitors or more serious work-from-home space.

The house was so cool that you wouldn’t want to spend much time in the master bedroom, which was purposely undersized. That was the one thing that the builder wanted to change about the plan.

The master bath, instead of a soaking tub, featured a large shower with a spot to towel off.

Our Gen Y home wouldn’t work for every young buyer. But the floor plan reflected the kind of creative thinking that builders and designers need to do to attract a cohort that will dictate industry fortunes for the next decade or longer. [Photos and floor plan courtesy Builder Magazine.]

Boyce Thompson is the former Editorial Director of Builder Magazine, and the author of The New New Home.

To see a collection of plans with open great rooms combining kitchen and living areas click here.

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