Picture this: Aunt Bee is sitting on the front porch, listening to hymns on her iPod. She waves to Andy as he pulls his hybrid car into the garage. Emerging from the garage and into the house, Andy hangs up his coat and shakes his head as he stops to pick up Opie's Wii controller, which has mysteriously made its way from the media center to the drop zone. Andy walks over to the net nook to check in on Opie, who's playing a multiplayer online role-playing game on the computer. Andy puts the Wii stick down and turns on his high-definition TV, waiting for Barney and Gomer, who are coming over to watch NASCAR.
The Traditional, shingle-style Rivendell model at Towne Mill evokes quaint images of a bygone era, with updated features to suit today's buyers.
Photo credit: Creative Sources Photography
This scene mimics the feel developers Old Mill Realty and Wynne Jackson Towne Mill wanted to create at Towne Mill, the 431-acre master-planned community they've positioned as "Mayberry with a twist," blending the home town neighborliness of a bygone era with the updated features of today.
Homeowners can find Towne Mill in Canton, Ga., a town just outside of Atlanta known for its beautiful parks, historic architecture and rich cultural activities. It has experienced recent retail and commercial growth and is home to The Bluffs of Technology Park, an emerging employment center.
When complete, the community will include 758 homes in a variety of architectural styles ranging in price from the $190,000s to the $500,000s.Opportunities
"We knew that we wanted the homes to be charming," says Ronnie Raines, president of Raines Residential, one of the builders in Towne Mill.
More than 35 percent of the community's acreage is being preserved as natural green space, enabling residents to enjoy heavily wooded, rolling topography with meandering creeks and Blue Ridge Mountain views. There's even a waterfall behind Raines' Rivendell model.
"It looks like it's coming out of the side of the mountain, which is really soothing for customers," he says.
Raines wanted to build homes that were charming but with features rare in this market, particularly at this square footage (2,261) and price point (low- to mid-200,000s).
"We actually went into charette mode," he says. "From scratch, we sat down [and considered] the features that we wanted in the house, including some high ceilings, net nooks, drop zones and a private retreat space."
His market research revealed that his target buyers — a combination of first timers, young families and empty nesters — were more sophisticated and had an appreciation for design.
"They appreciated this house versus ... I hate to use the word cookie cutter, but I guess that's an appropriate name for it," says Raines. "This is more of a custom feeling home."
A child's play area was created in a flex space where there would normally be additional attic storage. Builder Ronnie Raines calls it a "Smurf Room," a place for tea parties or kids' games - whatever a child's imagination decides.
Finding the right architect for what eventually became the Rivendell model was crucial, but Raines knew just whom to call.
"Caldwell-Cline," says Raines. "They actually designed my personal home. I sought out the best architects that I could find in Atlanta, and that's who I think they are. ... We were able to talk to each other and get on the same page."
"Instead of excluding a group in a certain price point, Ronnie's objective was to still give them the amenities and the type of features you would find in a much larger home," says Calvin R. Cline, partner with Caldwell-Cline Architects and Designers in Marietta, Ga.
"We do a lot of custom homes in addition to spec homes for builders," says Roger L. Caldwell, also partner at Caldwell-Cline. "The biggest thing when I'm looking at a house like this is to be conservative on the square footage, but at the same time incorporate as many elements into the design that you would see in a larger custom home."
The floor plan was prototyped and revised several times to include everything they wanted. Raines says good communication between him and the design team made it possible to make refinements in the field.
"Niches were added," says Raines. "We ended up changing our window transoms in the family room to let in more light. We refined our drop zone and our net nook to be able to accommodate more of a place to come into. We had a storage bench there with a coat rack and an additional coat closet, cubby holes where you can put your laptop, your briefcase, and kids' backpacks. And it didn't interfere with the laundry room. You actually entered into that drop zone out of the garage."
The refinements also brought about an interesting flex space that was staged as a playroom for kids.
"It's what I refer to as a 'Smurf house' — what traditionally would have been an attic storage area," says Raines.
The family room is located next to the kitchen. The model is designed for family functionality.
This shingle-style home has a custom feel inside. Split walk-in closets and a vaulted ceiling grace the master bedroom while a family room directly below has an 11 foot high, non-vaulted ceiling. The higher-than-normal family room ceiling offers a dramatic approach for the master bedroom above: you have to climb a couple of additional steps to get above the family room to the master.
"It gives me a little drama in the family room," says Caldwell, "but it also separates the master bedroom a little bit from the other bedrooms."
Noise abatement measures have also been built into the master suite; it doesn't share a wall with other bedrooms, which enhances privacy.
Additional features in the home include a small butler's pantry between the kitchen and dining area as well as unexpected features that come standard, plus an upgraded trim package has been popular with buyers.
There's plenty of room to maneuver in the Rivendell's kitchen and breakfast nook.
The Rivendell is in two of the three pods Raines has at Towne Mill. And it is the best selling model, having sold 9 homes to date.
"[Raines] always tells us it's just a home run," says Cline. "He's had nothing but positive feedback on it."
The home also won a gold Professionalism Award from the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association Sales and Marketing Council in 2006 for Best Single Family Detached home priced $199,000—$299,000 for a builder of one to 30 homes a year.