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Packing a Whole Lot More Into Less

Architects who see the house will marvel at the detailing around the windows and doors. The trim around the doors is inset so that the wall, the trim and the door are all in the same plane. The window frames are inset with no trim at all. The result is a tailored look that requires a highly skilled craftsman to execute.

But home buyers and builders who study the house long enough to see beyond the stunning visuals will note a dearth of pedestrian features such as closets. The only ones are in the secondary bedrooms. There is no coat closet by the front entry, none in the bonus room, which may limit its usefulness, and, most surprisingly, no closet in the master bedroom. All the hanging clothes storage is incorporated into about 10 linear feet of cabinetry along one wall.

Almost any buyer considering this house, which would cost about $740,000 if it were outfitted like Builder's LivingHome and only about $580,000 if more standard finishes were used, would insist on additional storage. This could be accomplished without increasing the floor area simply by enclosing the 10-foot-wide outdoor decks on each floor, and enclosing the stairs to capture the space below it.

"We know we did not get enough closets," Steve Glenn, president of LivingHomes, acknowledged.

Many homeowners would also object to having a powder room and laundry closet that open into a room instead of a hallway, and most would want the carport enclosed so that they could use the garage for storage. Most likely they would also want a bigger garage to accommodate two cars.

The house was built by LivingHomes, a young company from Santa Monica, Calif. That firm has focused on the tiny segment at the high end of the home-building market that includes buyers who want edgy design and extreme green. When the house is finally placed on a permanent site, it will qualify for the U.S. Green Building Council's highest rating, a platinum score on its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system.

(For more about this house, see

Housing Innovation

The NextGen show house is the opposite of edgy. The house, erected in the parking lot of the convention center, aimed to demonstrate innovative products and the possibilities for "zero-lot-line" construction, when a house sits right on the edge of its lot. As with Builder's house, this one is green, has many materials with recycled content and is energy efficient.

The architectural styling is traditional and the look comfortingly familiar, although most of the materials are not what they seem. The brown shingles on the peaked roof appear to be wood, but they're actually fireproof, lightweight, pressed steel covered with stone chips. Likewise, the lapped siding looks like wood, but is made of fiber cement.

The interior is similarly traditional in its look, but some of the materials are the real deal. The paneled doors throughout the house are stained birch and much heavier than those used by most production home builders -- you can feel the difference whether you're opening a closet or the front door.

NextGen, a division of, commissions houses for trade fairs that showcase building materials and construction techniques. In addition to the Urban Living house, it had another house on display a few miles away. The Urban Living house was built by Genesis, a division of Champion, the manufactured-home builder.

The basic house, which its builders call their Bunbury model, was introduced in 2007 and has been constructed around the country. It's a modest 1,914 square feet. The price if outfitted like the house on display in Las Vegas would be about $250,000. If more standard finishes were used, the cost would be about $150,000.

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