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`New American' and `NEST' homes - for fledgling families. Open floor plans, wrap-around rooms give feeling of openness

By Marilyn HoffmanStaff Writer of The Christian Science Monitor / February 26, 1988



Dallas

IF it is space efficiency that two-career couples want in a home, the 1988 NEST house deserves an ``A'' for accomplishment. Barry A. Berkus, of Santa Barbara, Calif., was architect for the 1,700-square-foot NEST (New Expanding Shelter Technology) demonstration model for the National Association of Home Builders convention here.

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He declared that to make a small house ``live big'' you must design multiple uses into every space, and allow no niche to go unused. The house illustrates compact living at its best, and dozens of easy-upkeep features.

The Berkus architectural plan, he says, has ``folksy antecedents,'' recollecting rural architecture in many regions of the United States. It's even painted barn red. And its deep old-fashioned front porch may signal a trend of its own. The house is, he contends, a ``rethinking of a family ranch-type home with three bedrooms and two baths, planned to accommodate Americans as they live today.''

The house is factory built by Shelter Corp., of Charleston, S.C., and is constructed in modulars that can be easily transported by highway. The plan can be modified and adapted to fit different floor plan and elevation requirements.

To visually extend space, or ``make the house live like twice its size,'' Berkus added a total of 1,310 square feet of decks and porch to the house.

By wrapping all the rooms around one 780-square-foot central deck, he connected each room to a more airy sense of indoor-outdoor space, and gave far more room for informal warm-weather entertaining.

He added a glass solarium to serve as a family dining area, and made the heart of the house the combined family room and kitchen, with its own fireplace and built-in media entertainment center.

The free-flowing interior spaces are furnished in a casual contemporary style and light neutral colors by Chicago interior designer Gene Dreyfus, of Childs/Dreyfus. The style is designed to suit the needs of a working husband and wife and their young child.

``Mentally, I have removed the names of rooms and let family living requirements dictate the use of space,'' Mr. Dreyfus explains. ``The third bedroom, for instance, can function as a playroom, a guest room, or an at-home office.''

Today's families are ``nesting'' far more, reports NEST marketing consultant Elise Platt. ``Families, especially young ones, are spending much more time together, and paying much more attention to traditional values.''

Her research, she says, indicates that for many young families, the highly efficient kitchen has become the ``command center'' of the home. Research also shows that working parents want a well-organized work-center space where they can do the laundry, pay the bills, and also keep an eye (via a shuttered breakthrough) on youngsters in the playroom next door.

The demonstration NEST house program began five years ago as an annual opportunity to merge diverse resources, talents, and technologies in a model home. Each house has shown the flexible possibilities of factory-built components, as well as new design ideas and products.

It is an ongoing cooperative effort sponsored by a consortium of manufacturers and the Housing Information Center, a nonprofit research and development institute serving the needs of today's homebuilders.

The pacesetter ``New American Home,'' also featured at the Home Builders show, was designed to serve a young two-income family (two incomes totaling about $75,000), ``making its first move up from the initial starter house.''

This 2,450-square-foot house was designed by the firm of Richardson Nagy Martin of Newport Beach, Calif., with an open floor plan, three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and three fireplaces. It encompasses many of the desirable features indicated in a 1987 Home Buyer Survey, including brick siding, upgraded landscaping, hardwood flooring, built-in shelving, a big pantry, and excellent security system.

The feeling inside is one of wide open space. There are no walls separating living spaces.

Like the NEST house, this home also gains visual space with doors to a trellised patio from the living room, bedroom, bathroom, and breakfast nook - and huge windows that contribute to the perception of openness.

New York interior designers Allen Scruggs and Douglas Myers chose to decorate in a simple manner, which reinforces the architectural interest and complexity. They selected two shades of white paint for the walls, and bleached hardwood floors. They mixed primitive art objects, modern abstract art, and traditional art - as well as modern furnishings and European and Oriental antiques. The principal natural fiber is linen.

The designers used no large storage pieces since they built in storage behind the drywall. The dining room table is actually four tables that can be used together or separated for small-scale dining or games.

The New American Home is a joint project of the National Council of the Housing Industry, and Home and Builder magazine.