Celebration Cottage

Traditional neighborhood design is a hot item these days, but one of the problems that will pop up, if you decide to take the TND plunge, is a shortage of house plans to fit alley-loaded lots.

By Bill Lurz, Senior Editor | June 20, 2000

Traditional neighborhood design is a hot item these days, but one of the problems that will pop up, if you decide to take the TND plunge, is a shortage of house plans to fit alley-loaded lots. It's a whole new ballgame for designers as well as builders. Don Hempel, president of South Florida-based Issa Homes, faced that dilemma when Issa began building in Disney's landmark Orlando TND, Celebration, two years ago.

Shown here is Issa's third Celebration model, which opened in April, just in time for this year's Central Florida Parade Of Homes. In this case, three's definitely a charm, setting a new standard for mixing the charm of historic architectural styling and detailing with a rear-loaded floor plan that really lives well in 2000. The parade judges seemed to agree. They voted the 3145 square-foot Dorchester, base-priced at $387,900, best in its price category and also grand award winner as best production-built home.


The white columns, porch railings and window trim on the Dorchester model are not wood, but rather an extruded PVC product called "Perm-O-Plank" that builder Don Hempel raves about: "It holds paint well, and maintenance is virtually nil." Inside, hardwood flooring and granite countertops make the nook, family room and kitchen shine.


Hempel challenged his architects to capture the nostalgic exterior Disney wanted to fit the streetscape and also give him a floor plan with real sales appeal to Florida buyers. "We wanted a modern Florida floor plan, a U-shaped single story, around a pool, with master suite on one side and secondary bedrooms and family room in the other wing," he says. "That basic plan dominates Florida's high-end market, but it was totally absent from Celebration. We don't want to re-invent the wheel."

Hempel took a drastic approach to get what he wanted. He engaged Affinity/Kinik Architects of Boca Raton, an experienced Florida firm, to design the floor plan and interior of the home. Then he went to TND design mavens Looney Ricks Kiss Architects of Memphis, Tenn., to design the elevations. The resulting coastal cottage, fitted to a 70 x 130-foot Celebration lot, does both firms proud.


Off the wide front porch, you enter into a foyer with a front office or den on one side, dining room on the other, and a stunning living room straight ahead. The living room's 12-foot ceiling is coffered to 13-1/2 feet, opening a view through to the pool. This through-view is exactly how most Florida homes greet visitors.


Off the foyer, the 147 square-foot formal office allows the home owner to greet visitors in style. If more room is needed to get real work done, space above the garage offers another 304.5 square feet.


Kitchen, nook and family room form a large casual living space on one wing, and here Issa adds a different twist that really works in this neotraditional community. Instead of the usual lanai you'd find in a typical Florida luxury home, a covered back porch faces the pool and exterior living space.

The standard approach in Celebration calls for a detached garage, with granny flat above, at the rear of the lot. Once again, Hempel chose to be be different. His garage is attached. "We think buyers still prefer an attached garage," he says.

"Our experience is that buyers want the granny flat to extend their own family's living space, rather than to rent out, which is allowed in Celebration. We believe people will use it for a second office or guest suite. For that role, attaching the space to the house works better. We've already had one buyer purchase a Dorchester that duplicates the model exactly."

Issa got its foot in the door at Celebration as a production builder, competing against Giants David Weekley Homes and Morrison Homes, even though Issa built only 46 houses in 1999 for $23.7 million in revenue. "Disney wanted us because of our experience doing custom changes," says Hempel. "We'll change anything."

Right now, Issa is changing the competitive balance in Celebration. Hempel expects to jump from 30 sales in the Disney community last year to 52 in 2000.

He just might make it.


Related Categories

PB-Sales,PB-New Home Sales