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Packing a Whole Lot More Into Less

The Bunbury is long and narrow -- 60 by 15 feet -- but it feels surprisingly spacious inside because, as in Builder's house, the main living area and the three bedrooms run the full width of the house.

The floor plan is very simple: each floor has two rooms, one at each end. There are a few surprises, though. The second floor has a central loft area with natural light streaming in from both sides. The space could be used as a home office, or as in the model, a place for watching television.

With years of experience designing houses for the average homeowner, Genesis has mastered the prosaic details. Every bedroom has a closet; one is a walk-in. The entry foyer has a coat closet; there's a computer workstation by the kitchen; the first floor master bath, which doubles as a powder room, is accessible from the hall; and the laundry closet opens onto a hallway, not a room.

But NextGen missed an opportunity here. It could have made this simple house a standout simply by demonstrating the ways that deft use of color can bring an interior together and by highlighting the real wood beams in the coffered ceiling in the living room area. Instead, all the walls and furnishings are muted earth tones and the all-white coffered ceiling just another detail.

In its defense, the intent was to showcase new materials and small houses in this post-McMansion era, not to make waves.

Builder magazine, however, was much more ambitious. "This show home is intended as a wake-up call to the home building industry, as in wake up and realize that you need to be building dramatically different homes, if you want to survive the downturn," editor Boyce Thompson wrote in an e-mail. "That may not mean building modular homes, or putting grass on the roof, though I do believe we'll see way more of that in the future. But it does mean building smaller homes with a lighter carbon footprint. Green building is here to stay whether builders like it or not.

"Also, for many production builders, their biggest competition are themselves -- homes they built two or three years ago, and that buyers can now buy through foreclosure for 30 percent less. If you don't offer something different, you are toast."

(For more about the NextGen house, see http://www.nextgenhome.com; click on "IBS Urban Living.")


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