House Review: Luxury Homes

Scale, functionality, finishes, and attention to detail distinguish the best-executed luxury homes 

By Larry W. Garnett, FAIBD, House Review Lead Designer | October 3, 2016

Ranging from a traditional Shingle-style home to a striking modern villa, each of these homes incorporates the special, and sometimes unusual, requests of their owners, along with hardworking floor plans and practical features. As with all successful design, regardless of the overall size, it’s the special attention to details and finishes that makes these residences so appealing. Take some extra time to analyze the exterior scale and use of materials, along with the interior craftsmanship and indoor/outdoor transitional spaces. We think you’ll agree that our House Review Team has gathered some outstanding examples of what today’s buyer craves in a luxury home.

(Click images to enlarge)


Canyon Residence

Lehrer Architects LA
Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA

Width: 100 feet 
Depth: 185 feet
Living area: 13,250 sf

This project was conceived as a timeless, comfortable, and elegant agrarian villa in the modern tradition, its design driven by the owners’ love of landscape design and innovative home construction. The result blurs boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces, through abundant natural light and glass, as well as walkable skylights overhead that help the home merge with its site with nature. Horizontal and vertical view slots are featured throughout the house, and sight lines extend to the entire property from every vantage point. The steel-frame structure is clad in smooth white stucco, and expanses of sliding glass open up the house to the garden and surrounding woods. There’s no artificial air conditioning; natural ventilation cools the home, which is also known as Net Zero Villa. The floor has a radiant heating system. 

First floor
A. Formal entry and main hall
B. Formal living room
C. Kitchen
D. Tool museum
E. Workshop
F. Sculpture studio

Second floor
G. Office
H. Guest suite
I. Glass walkway and main stair
J. Master bath
K. Master suite

L. Walkable skylight 
M. Exercise room
N. Roof patio
O. Cigar benches
P. Sun deck
Q. Photovoltaic panels


Custom Home On The St. Johns River

The Evans Group 
Donald F. Evans, AIA

Width: 156 feet, 6 inches 
Depth: 97 feet, 8 inches
Living area: 7,382 sf

This custom home was designed for a discerning couple on an amazing piece of property with a huge 100-year-old oak tree, on the St. Johns River in Florida. The program included providing abundant space for entertaining, a separate area in the home for the wife’s 100-year-old father, and work space for both members of the couple as they enjoy semi-retirement. The home takes advantage of the incredible site, with views to the outside from almost every room.

A. Front elevation with distinctive style and detailing
B. Grand foyer entry with sweeping grand staircase and baby grand piano
C. Grand room framing panoramic views of the pool and St. Johns River beyond through the curved folding glass wall system 
D. Leisure room with bar, fireplace, and cornerless folding glass wall 
E. Gourmet kitchen with prep island, serving island, and adjacent curved café 
F. Second-floor fun zone with captain’s quarters, game room, home theater, view deck, and bath—all accessible by elevator
G. Rear elevation and outdoor space with kitchen and bar; living room with fireplace; covered ramada; sun deck; pool; large yard down to the dock; big, old tree; and the St. Johns River 


The Preswick

GMD Design Group
Scott Gardner, AIA
Donnie McGrath

Width: 110 feet
Depth: 75 feet
Living area: 4,371 sf (1st floor: 3,167 sf; 2nd floor: 1,204 sf)

This luxury home was designed for a special corner lot where high visibility demands that the front of the house faces the corner rather than either street. The home was designed on a 45-degree angle with flanking wings to accommodate a side-loaded garage and to provide rear yard space both well-defined and private. The entry offers sight lines through the home, plus a view of a curved stair leading up to a library. Main living areas are connected, creating an airy, open plan oriented to the home’s outdoor living area.

A. Street and corner lot necessitate a 45-degree angle
B. Side loaded two-car garage
C. Entry, flanked by dining, den, and stair
D. Connected main living spaces
E. Home is oriented to rear-yard outdoor living
F. Master suite, separated from main living spaces, for privacy
G. Intermediate level rotunda library
H. Second-floor stair landing, open to front and rear of home
I. Bonus room over garage



Todd Hallett, AIA, CAPS
TK Design & Associates

Width: 172 feet, 2 inches
Depth: 77 feet, 2 inches
Living area: 16,640 sf (lower level: 6,724 sf; first level: 5,486 sf; second level: 4,430 sf)

Large, well-appointed, with the highest-quality materials, this house is designed to overlook a steep bluff in stunning surroundings. The double-height living room and generous outdoor living space maximize the vistas, with a plan that’s open yet defined, thanks to varied ceiling treatments. The guest suite has a full kitchen for friends, relatives, or in-laws who are visiting. A three-story stair is open from the second floor to the lower level, offering a dramatic focal point. Special features abound, including a wine grotto, a study with two-story bookshelves and a catwalk, an indoor pool and basketball court, and a home theater with its own concession area.

A. Well-appointed guest suite
B. Three-story open staircase
C. Two-story living room with oversize fireplace
D. Outdoor living takes advantage of soaring views
E. Main living triangle is open and spacious yet defined
F. Six-car garage offers storage and has a porte-cochère 
G. Generous formal dining space is large enough to seat 20
H. Large study has a spiral stair, offering an alternate passage to the second floor
I. Master bath is a spa-style haven
J. Two-story study has a catwalk lined with bookshelves
K. All bedrooms are suites
L. A bonus area offers quiet space for doing homework
M. An upper family room provides a place for the kids to relax with friends
N. The home theater has a concession stand
O. The spacious kitchen is set up for large-scale, full-service entertaining
P. Generous open space is perfect for entertaining
Q. Lower level has an indoor pool equipped with locker rooms and a full bath
R. An underground tunnel leads to a lower-level basketball court
S. Wine grotto has a barreled-ceiling entrance



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