Meeting homeowners' rising concerns for safety, structural integrity and energy conservation, Vision Homes has partnered with the Home Builders Association of Sarasota County to create the 2005 HBA Tech House, showcasing just how green high-tech can be.
The Tech House, set to be completed in August, features two 20-SEER air conditioning systems that work in combination with a fiber-mesh concrete slab, block walls injected with insulating foam and energy-efficient windows to use less power. A solar water-heating system and re-circulating hot-water pump provide heated water to any tap in the home within seconds, cutting back on the gallons wasted while waiting for comfortable temperatures.
Outside, the Florida-friendly landscape design includes efficient irrigation and carefully chosen plants that "enhance the property while using a fraction of the water," according to Chip Nemec of Vision Homes.
"We are incorporating many of the features and technology from the Tech House into homes currently under construction," he adds. "Most of the features are already available to existing homeowners."
The HBA Tech House is located at 7513 Trillium Blvd. For more information on public viewing, contact the Vision Homes sales office at 377-7773, ext. 100.
LIVE LIKE THE JETSONS
High-end also means high-tech in the latest Arthur Rutenberg homes, says Arthur Rutenberg Homes/M. Pete McNabb marketing director Steve Gaston. "The trend now is bigger homes packed with more amenities," he says.
Digital audio, video and security systems, lighting controls, outdoor kitchens, multi-zone HVACs and even home theaters are among the popular options in today's market. Of course, ubiquitous electronics make for a "very substantial added investment," Gaston says, but the latest technology can also improve resale value as well as environmental impact.
Though the high cost of new construction is ensuring more sophisticated homebuyers, Gaston says many customers rely almost exclusively on the builder to demonstrate the options, either through discussion with the buyer or by incorporating the newest electronics into their model homes.
Fight the bright Florida sun with solution-dyed fabrics, recommends Catherine Kerr of Catherine Kerr Interiors.
Because of their ability to withstand bleach and other commercial cleaners, "For years these fabrics could only be found in hospitals," Kerr says. Now, solution-dyed materials, which feature fibers that are manufactured to hold their color, are available for residential use in Sunshine State hues like pink, lime and, of course, orange.
Despite their commercial past, Kerr points out, solution-dyed fabrics are "soft and gorgeous." Plus, "you can even pour bleach on them," she says. "Now your outdoor drapes and furniture can sit in the Florida sun and not mildew or fade."
In the competition between engineered stone and natural granite countertops, which comes out on top? Mark Chadwick of Eurostone Marble and Granite says natural stone is tougher and more sanitary than its manmade competition.
Tests show granite countertops to be second only to stainless steel when it comes to eliminating bacteria during cleaning. Chadwick points out that granite's natural composition, which includes quartz, feldspar and mica, makes it highly scratch-resistant. "In fact, it's the hardest natural mineral available for countertops," he says.
Engineered stone, on the other hand, is at least 6 percent plastic, which makes it more susceptible to heat and germ-storing scratches, Chadwick says. Granite is "the natural choice," he says.
THE NEW POOL PARTY
Entertaining poolside has never been more popular, says Brian Phipps of A. Phipps Design, in part because contemporary options have made that area more inviting and flexible than ever before.
"The sky's the limit in today's pool and spa designs," says Phipps. "From the shape and style of the water feature, choices in fountains and waterfalls, to lighting that can change the color of the pool, you name it and it's being done."
But don't go overboard. Phipps advises that these areas be thoughtfully designed to complement the style of the home rather than compete with it.
CHERRY ON TOP
The Sarasota Collection in downtown Sarasota's Rosemary District recently acquired a factory in Peru that's creating custom-made furniture, cabinetry and built-ins made from wood grown in the company's own Peruvian forest.
Why Peru? "Peruvian cherry is very hard and the grains are beautiful," says co-owner Marcus Anast. Designs range from Chippendale to stark modern, from distressed-looking woods to wood laminates, and can be completed in about 12 weeks. "You don't have to spend $40,000 on a piece that's custom-made, but you're getting $40,000 quality," Anast says.
The South American factory is eco-friendly, too: For every tree felled, the Sarasota Collection plants 10 new trees.
GETTING A JUMP ON A NEW HOME
If the real estate boom didn't make it clear, Sarasota is currently a sellers' market, which means buyers need all the help they can get. That's why Amanda Stiff of Access Capital Group advises prospective homebuyers to get pre-approved-not just pre-qualified-by their mortgage lender.
Pre-approval can "help put your offer to purchase in front of all the others," she says. "It just might be the difference between closing on your dream home and losing it to a more qualified buyer."
HAVE A SEAT
For cutting-edge bathroom technology, check out the TOTO Washlet at Hill's Showcase of Designer Plumbing in Venice. The Washlet is a toilet and then some, boasting luxurious extras like a warm air drier, heated seat and even an air purifier. But the jewel of this throne is an extending, self-cleaning bidet nozzle that dispenses a cleansing stream of warm, aerated water. Plus, TOTO's patented SoftClose technology eliminates the loud noise when the seat or lid is shut. A selection of models provides variation in shape, price and features and includes the S300 Jasmin, C100 Chloe and travel Washlets.
JUST A LITTLE NORTH
Formerly located in Osprey, the south Sarasota Ethan Allen store recently doubled in size when it moved to a much larger space near Westfield Sarasota mall.
Store manager Ron LeBlanc says the new 18,000-square-foot facility, compared to the previous store's 9,000 square feet, allows twice the amount of furniture and home accents to be displayed, making it easier for customers to find and sample their future home decor.
Ethan Allen home furnishings and design team can now be found at 8001 S. Tamiami Trail.