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Gather Inspiration From the 2017 Best in American Living Awards

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BALA Best in American Living Awards

Gather Inspiration From the 2017 Best in American Living Awards

These four Best in American Living Award winners point the way to market success with exquisite design and site sensitivity

By Susan Bady, Senior Editor January 10, 2018
Front elevation of BALA winner Waterleaf custom home in Michigan
No synthetic products were used on the exterior of this coastal Michigan custom home, only natural wood, stone, and copper. The home nestles into its wooded setting near the lake. Photo: Ashley Avila Photography


East Coast Vibe Animates Michigan Home

Silver Award for Best One-of-a-Kind Custom or Spec Home, 4,501 to 6,000 Square Feet

Michigan’s coastline features nearly every type of architecture, including homes with an East-Coast look. The difference with Waterleaf is that the East-Coast feel is distinctive, but not overdone. 

“That feel is attributable to the massing and exterior detailing,” says architect Robert Sears. “The shingles, brackets, window trim, and all of the other exterior features, when used judiciously, help tell the story without overselling it.”

Main living area of Waterleaf custom home

A change of ceiling height (left) creates a degree of separation between the kitchen and living areas. A switchback stair, open on three sides, is placed at the heart of the first-floor’s circulation. Photo: Ashley Avila Photography

The home’s natural cedar-shake siding, white trim, and cupola, plus the copper-accent roofing, decorative trusses, authentic stone, and gas lanterns, achieve an elegant look.That elegance is carried inside, with contemporary flair. Entry, kitchen, and living and dining areas are open to each other, with a switchback stair at the heart of the first-floor circulation system. 

Kitchen of Waterleaf custom home

Gently curved arches in the kitchen are repeated throughout the home. The breakfast nook, with its raised floor, is visible from the front door. Photo: Ashley Avila Photography

“The owners favored the careful placement and limited use of architectural features such as arch-top windows and doors, ceiling beams, and special moldings and trim,” Sears says. Builder Kevin Einfeld notes that Waterleaf was designed to age in place, thanks to the use of authentic materials. “All of these materials will look better with age as they work together to create a patina unique to the home,” he says. 

Project Name: Waterleaf

Location: Grand Rapids, Mich.

Designer/Architect: Sears Architects, Grand Rapids

Builder: BDR Custom Homes, Grand Rapids

Photographer: Ashley Avila Photography

Exterior of The Brownstones at Chevy Chase Lake

These updated brownstones have been a hit with young professionals and empty nesters alike. Photo: Thomas Arledge Photography

Reimagined Brownstones Resonate With D.C. Buyers

Platinum Award for Best Attached Home/Townhouse, Built for Sale

The Brownstones at Chevy Chase Lake is a fresh take on the classic brownstone that’s drawing young professionals and empty nesters who seek an urban, walkable lifestyle. Despite a slow market for luxury homes, nearly one-third of the available units have sold in the first year. 

The Brownstones are the only new elevator townhomes in this established neighborhood. In addition to two-car garages, they have spacious rooftop terraces with optional fireplaces, awnings, barbecue grills, and other features. 

Kitchen of home at The Brownstones at Chevy Chase Lake

The open kitchen features contemporary finishes, granite countertops, and Energy Star appliances. A private elevator offers access to all four levels of the home. Photo: Thomas Arledge Photography

Pictured is the 3,134-square-foot Bradley plan, which offers an open floor plan with 9 ½-foot main-level ceilings; up to five bedrooms; and the aforementioned fourth-level rooftop terrace, a signature feature with its cooking, dining, and lounging areas.

Tricked out roof terrace at The Brownstones at Chevy Chase Lake

This rooftop terrace is fully loaded with lounging and dining areas, stainless steel cabinetry, and granite countertops, plus a built-in gas grill and retractable awning. Photo: Thomas Arledge Photography

There are a total of 62 townhomes with brick exteriors, cast-stone accents, and oversized windows framing views of the surrounding woodlands. The project is just steps away from the Capital Crescent Trail as well as shops, restaurants, and a future light-rail system. 

Project: The Brownstones at Chevy Chase Lake

Location: Chevy Chase, Md.

Designer/Architect: KTGY Architecture + Planning, Tysons, Va.

Builder: EYA, Bethesda, Md.

Photographer: Thomas Arledge Photography

Exterior of Residence 3 at Sur 33 in San Diego

Bold, modern lines, brick, and artfully composed windows characterize the metropolitan aesthetic of Residence 3 at Sur 33. The garage is deeply recessed, significantly reducing its impact on the front elevation. Photo: Aron Photography

Smart Small-Lot Detached Solution

Gold Award for Best Single-Family Detached Home, 2,001 to 2,500 Square Feet

Finding clever solutions for small-lot detached product can be a challenge, but architect Mike Woodley makes it look easy. For Sur 33, which is part of the Del Sur master plan, Woodley’s answer was elevated living. The ground floor, with its two-car garage and flex room, serves as the access point for the rest of the home. The second floor opens to the main living areas and a spacious outdoor balcony. On the third floor, a bonus room separates the master suite from the secondary bedrooms while offering a retreat from the activity below. In addition to the second-floor balcony, there’s a rear courtyard to bring the indoors out. 

Kitchen and living area of Residence 3 at S

At the second floor, a tri-level stair composed of metal and glass frames the kitchen and dining areas. Photo: Aron Photography

While Residence 3 is designed for an interior lot, it can flex to adapt to edge-lot conditions, in which the garage is accessed at the rear. This establishes an urban edge with front doors and a large courtyard facing the street. “Unlike other small-lot, single-family designs, these homes feature full driveways and rear yards,” Woodley says.

The interiors have a metropolitan aesthetic, with brick and playfully composed glass, creating the perfect transition from the traditional master plan to its urban core. “Rather than typical high-density solutions, this home is evidence of what can occur when a design challenge is fully embraced,” Woodley says. 

The homes are being sold at a rate of three per month to young professionals, couples, and empty nesters. 

Project: Sur 33, Residence 3

Location: San Diego

Designer/Architect: Woodley Architectural Group, Littleton, Colo.

Builder: CalAtlantic Homes, San Diego

Photographer: Aron Photography

Second-floor entertaining space of Residence 3 at Sur 33

Living is elevated above the street at Sur 33, The second-floor balcony offers opportunities for outdoor living, essentially extending the great room beyond its interior walls. Photo: Aron Photography

Mixed-Use Project Aids Downtown Rebirth

Multifamily Community of the Year/Platinum Award for Best Mixed-Use Community

Exterior of Malden Station mixed-use community in Fullerton, Calif.

Developed on the site of a former citrus-packing house in downtown Fullerton, Calif., Malden Station is contributing to the city's revitalization with 200 new apartments and street-level retail. Access to public transportation is across the street. Photo: Chet Frohlich, Photographer

In downtown Fullerton, Calif., on the site of a former citrus-packing house, Malden Station is the latest success story in the city’s wave of revitalization. The rail-adjacent, mixed-use community backs up to the former Santa Fe Railway and is near a regional transportation center, a Greyhound Bus station, and a Metrolink train station. It’s also adjacent to a lively restaurant and entertainment district. 

The design, by Architects Orange, was inspired by other buildings in the downtown area, particularly a single-story urban art studio across the street. “We picked up on that vibe,” says architect Ed Cadavona, a partner with the firm. “Malden Station evokes the evolution of the city in three phases: the red brick of its industrial past, siding for its trendy present, and acrylic paneling for its lively future.”

Recreational areas for residents at Malden Station

Mirroring the young, edgy, and artistic culture of Fullerton, Malden Station offers such urban amenities as a clubroom, pool, spa, gym, and lounge: Photo: Chet Frohlich, Photographer

The building includes 200 apartments and 5,100 square feet of nonresidential space. At press time, the apartments were 95 percent leased. Five percent of the multifamily units are available to very low-income renters. On-site amenities include a clubroom, pool, spa, gym, and lounge.

“The project really makes a statement,” Cadavona says. “It has a nice front face, and train riders can enjoy murals on the back of the building that reference Fullerton’s agricultural past.” 

The BALA judges concurred, praising Malden Station’s nice street presence, including “elements that look like they’re a lot of fun. Bold colors and murals on the wall give it a sense of  character. [It will have] a great impact on the community.” PB

Project: Malden Station

Location: Fullerton, Calif.

Designer/Architect: Architects Orange, Orange, Calif.

Builder: CW Driver, Anaheim, Calif.

Developer: Pinnacle, Irvine, Calif.

Photographer: Chet Frohlich Photography 

2017 BALA Judges

Susan Bady, Senior Editor, Professional Builder and Custom Builder, Arlington Heights, Ill.

Kathy Browning, MIRM, CMP, CGP, Owner, Design Consultants, Virginia Beach, Va. 

Wes Carroll, Founder, Upright Builders, Cary, N.C.

Steven Dewan, NCARB, Senior Principal, Bassenian Lagoni Architects Architecture, Planning, Interiors, Newport Beach, Calif.

Karen Kassik-Michelsohn, Designer, Michelsohn & Daughter Construction, Anchorage, Alaska

Thomas Kopf, ASLA, RLA, Principal, DTJ Design, Atlanta

Victor Mirontschuk, FAIA, Chairman, EDI International, New York

Jim Sattler, Principal, Sattler Custom Homes, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Click images below for slideshow. 

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Written By
Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas

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