Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Sunset Home--I'm BLU

I headed up to the Sunset Idea Home in Healdsburg last Friday with work calming down and some free time creeping into the schedule.  We're lucky to have Sunset magazine down in the South Bay--the Idea Homes are all within easy range.  Is it the depressed housing market or was it just a missed opportunity?

The house is a 3500 sf BLU home on a nice half acre lot with great valley views from the second floor.  If you aren't a Dwell reader, the East Coast's BLU homes bought out Michelle Kaufmann's West Coast upscale modular home designs in '09.  One good insight:  The mid-century-ish floating stairs in the house met code with a half inch metal rod inserted in the open-air gap.  (In our market, many homebuyers with young children have second thoughts about homes with these stairs.)

In any event, I wasn't impressed by the construction details in this home (you'd think the contractor would be working hard not to cut corners when much of the Northern California housing leaders will be cycling through the house in the next few weeks).  Lots of exposed nail heads in exterior trim, warping Hardie board (fiber cement) siding, and so on.  (We housing professionals can be a bit obsessive on details--when I used to run the country's rural housing program, our Vermont state director told me to always focus on the fascia boards--if the paint were peeling, you'd question the attention to maintenance.)

But bigger for me, there seemed to be few ideas in the Idea House--other than the Big Idea that modular homes have come into their own.  The plumbing fixtures, surfaces, lighting and garage build-out were all great, but nothing you can't see in a three-year old copy of House Beautiful.  The Idea House was the first place I saw Lutron Maestro dimmers and switches, motion sensitive switches, "smart" windows that darken for privacy (say in a bathroom), and NanaWalls.  The Nest thermostat was last year's big idea as readers of this blog know, but the BLU house forewent coolness for boring Honeywell.  What's that about?

With the housing supply business on hold and marketing budgets super-tight, I understand.  But let's hope that lots of entrepreneurs have spent the past five years developing lots of cool new technologies for the home, and that firms will be rolling them out in the coming few years!

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