Future house joins gadgets, practicality

`Flex' rooms change with family

baseboards have central `dustpans'

Viewing at White Marsh

August 15, 1999|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Forget about your PC, is your house Y2K compatible?

Don't panic: your doorbell won't stop ringing when you ring out 1999 and your refrigerator probably won't mark the new year by ruining your milk.

Still, Better Homes and Gardens has designed a model home to meet whatever challenges the new millennium might bring for American families, from old-age adjustments to age-old security concerns.

Featuring Intel's PC technology and convenience at every turn, the "Blueprint 2000" home includes video phones, central vacuum "dustpans" in the baseboards, lattices that never need painting, rain-sensing roof windows, built-in pet-feeding and recycling centers and a high-tech security system that can be monitored, with the heating, air conditioning and lighting, from any TV in the house.

But despite the high-tech advances incorporated into the home, senior building and remodeling editor William L. Nolan said it is the home's flexibility that is most "revolutionary."

"We know our readers expect Better Homes and Gardens to be down to earth and practical, not just space-agey," he said. "We didn't want it to look too techy or too sterile, we wanted it to look like a real home for real people."

Better Homes and Gardens' Blueprint 2000 home, which will be featured as the "Home of the Year" in the magazine's November issue, was built in Chapel Hill, N.C. But interested visionaries can see it by visiting the magazine's Web site (www.bhg.com).

The home also can be seen next weekend in a first-of-its-kind 3D video tour in a specially designed theater at the 1999 Better Homes and Gardens Home & Family Mall Show at White Marsh Mall.

The 3,000-square-foot house has eight rooms and 3 1/2 baths plus a studio apartment above the garage and a workshop. The builder, Brian Dixon of Dixon/Kirby & Co. in Cary, N.C., said the house with all of its amenities would cost $1.2 million in today's marketplace.

"We designed it for all life stages," said Joan McCloskey, Better Homes and Gardens' executive building editor. "We designed it for people who want to stay in it through all their family stages."

A 17-by-12-foot room at the front of the house is designated as a "flex" room. Nolan said this room could be used as a nursery or a playroom when children are young. Because it is at the front of the house and connected to the home's computer network, it could be used as a home office. Or, since it has a full bath and can be monitored with the home's security system, it could be used as a room for an aging parent.

The same concept can be applied to the studio apartment. With a full bath and kitchenette, and a private entrance, this space could be used by a "boomerang kid" who moves home after college. Eventually, it could be quarters for a live-in nurse.

Additionally, the entire house has a "universal design" that makes it wheelchair accessible, and, except for two bedrooms and the apartment, it is predominantly on one level. "All of these things happen to families and a lot of houses don't address them, but this one does," Nolan said.

But not everything in the house is purely practical. "We know our readers want to indulge themselves with a bit of pampering when they come home," Nolan said.

For that reason, the master bath was expanded to include two vanities and a two-person shower (also handicapped-accessible). Little luxuries, such as heated tiles and a coffee bar, also were added to the bathroom.

The house was also designed with high ceilings and multiple windows in every room and "eco-friendly" building materials that extend inside and out to create a continuous, open feel. And, the house was decorated in "spa" or "rain-washed" colors chosen for their relaxing quality.

"We were looking into the future and seeing people who wanted to escape from the confusion and the humdrum," Nolan said.

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