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Pro Builder commissioned a trio of homes to be presented as an immersive online experience, affording the opportunity to test concepts related to flexibility, privacy, wellness, security, and stress relief for post-COVID realities.
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Renderings: RM Design Studio
This article first appeared in the February 2021 issue of Pro Builder.

Over the course of a year, a global health crisis caused almost everyone to rethink almost everything, and certainly what we expect from our homes.

Working, learning, and trying to stay fit from home became a necessity for most, challenging not only long-held habits but also our patience. (“Homes weren’t designed for us to live in them 24 hours a day. We don’t work well like that,” says architect Dan Swift of BSB Design.) We put the onus on housing to adapt to new needs, be our bastion of health, and to keep us safe—a lot to ask.

So, for our annual Show Village, Pro Builder commissioned a trio of homes to be presented as an immersive online experience, affording the opportunity to test concepts related to flexibility, privacy, wellness, security, and stress relief for post-COVID realities, working with leading residential architects, a top-notch consumer research firm, an innovative home builder, and a next-generation rendering and virtual experience provider to deliver it. Not only that, these homes showcase new products and systems that demonstrate technological innovations in their performance and also in how the virtual experience is rendered.


Building a Virtual Home ... and the Future

When we learned that the annual International Builders’ Show (IBS) was going virtual in 2021 due to the ongoing health crisis, we pivoted Show Village, our perennial outdoor exhibit at IBS, into an online experience presenting immersive tours of three homes that reflect how we live today.

To do that, we turned to RM Design Studio, in Chicago, a leading architectural rendering and virtual experience provider, to, in essence, build the homes from computer-aided designs and digital objects (everything from lighting and appliances to flooring and windows) provided by the project team and product partners. The results are remarkable; every image in this article and on the tours is a rendering, not a photograph. No joke.

As important as meeting our needs for a realistic online experience, the value of virtual technology to present photo-realistic spaces—and how they flow together—is becoming increasingly critical to consumers, developers, and municipal authorities who seek (and increasingly expect) comprehensive visualization of a project. “Even designers can’t truly articulate how a space feels or a building looks with two-dimensional drawings,” says Bob Masulis, RM Design Studio’s founder and president. “Our technology allows you to build it and show it before you break ground,” thus inspiring confidence, approval, and even investment before anything goes vertical.

It helps that Masulis is a licensed architect and has been doing this kind of work for three decades, incorporating new technologies along the way—most recently a virtual tour guide. “Having someone in the house to explain where you are and to point out key design features and products adds to the value of this platform,” he says. “It’s a big leap forward.” —Rich Binsacca, Editorial Director

The New New Home

When the alarm rings at 7 a.m., Julie, age 43, is finishing up her yoga session in the glass-enclosed fitness center located near her and her husband’s bedroom suite while Matt, 57, takes a quick shower and then starts a load of wash in the handy laundry room just off the suite’s walk-in closet. He heads down the hall to wake Noah, their 10-year-old son, who grudgingly makes his way downstairs to the kitchen. Charlotte, age 7, hears her brother getting up and bounces out of bed to race past him on the open staircase that’s already filling the home with daylight.

woodley modern farmhouse show home
The home’s modern farmhouse design perfectly suits consumer demand for more privacy, as a frosted glass “gate” opens first to an interior courtyard. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

It’s a sunny morning, so Julie and Matt put the cereal bowls and fruit platter on a tray, open a telescoping glass door to the backyard, and set up breakfast at the covered outdoor dining table. As the family chats about their schedule for the day, Lauren (Matt’s 22-year-old daughter from his first marriage), joins them after having her coffee and a light breakfast in the kitchenette of the guest house where she’s living (and working) during the pandemic.

woodley show village exterior
An even more generous (and equally private) backyard with all of the elements for outdoor living. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

After breakfast, Julie gets Charlotte set up for remote learning at an alcove in her room while Noah logs onto his laptop for his school day in his own bedroom’s remote learning niche. Once the kids are settled, Julie goes down the hall to a narrow but light-filled office. She opens the two awning windows along one side of the space, logs onto her computer, and starts opening the documents she needs to underwrite a mortgage loan application.

Matt takes his turn in the fitness center with a 30-minute Mirror workout, cleans up, and starts making calls from the backyard lounge area to managers and supervisors at his manufacturing business to check on projects. When he needs to conduct a video chat, he uses another well-scaled home office/playroom that’s tucked under the stairs near the kitchen for some privacy ... stopping to pick up a couple of Charlotte’s Lego pieces and put them back in the built-in bin that helps keep the multifunctional space tidy.

At lunchtime, Matt and the kids eat at the kitchen island and go over the afternoon to-do’s while Julie makes a run to the grocery store. She enters the house through the garage into the clean room, where she removes her shoes, washes her hands, and stores the groceries in the adjacent pantry before making her way to the kitchen.

new new home open floor plan
The home’s kitchen-dining-living area features two entrances: an all-glass front door or a floor-to-ceiling, multipanel window wall. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

When Lauren returns from her own errands, she enters through a frosted-glass front door into an interior courtyard, complete with a pool and seating area anchored on one end by the guest house. After a rigorous swim and a change of clothes, she joins Matt and Julie in the main home’s kitchen to help prep for a casual, socially distanced outdoor get-together with their next-door neighbors. The glass doors across the kitchen and dining area are fully opened, and so are the glass doors that link the pool courtyard to the living area, creating a pleasant cross-breeze through the house. Noah and Charlotte play on the grass with the neighbor’s kids, while the adults gather near the grill and outdoor dining and seating area to chat, tease Matt about his barbecue skills, and enjoy cocktails expertly prepared by Lauren, a budding mixologist.

As the evening winds down, Lauren makes her way back to the guest house to watch a movie and check her social media as the rest of the family prepares for a night’s rest. While Julie soaks in the freestanding tub under a high window in her well-appointed bathroom, Matt tucks the kids into bed.

home office design woodley
One of two offices in the home’s 2,500-square-foot floor plan, the upstairs version is appropriately scaled and appointed for private at-home work, with ample natural light and storage to control clutter. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

On-Demand Webinar: Tour The New New Home

Project Details + Partners

The New New Home

Size: 2,500 square feet (two levels + guest house)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 3 1/2

Target Market: First move-up (young families)

Architect: Michael Woodley, AIA, Woodley Architectural Group, Littleton, Colo.

Consumer Research: John Burns Real Estate Consulting, Irvine, Calif.

new new home design floor plan
The New New Home main level floor plan


Broan-NuTone: Indoor air quality system

DaVinci Roofscapes: Roofing

Kitchenaid: Appliances

Mitsubishi: Total home comfort system

Tamlyn: Interior and exterior trim; housewrap

Titebond: Construction adhesives

Wellborn Cabinet: Cabinets

Western Window Systems: Windows and patio doors

show village new home floor plan
The New New Home upper level floor plan

The Thoughtful Home

When George, 50, pulls into his garage after a long day as a hospital administrator, he steps into a space with ample room to shed his shoes and jacket and take a nibble of cheese and grapes and get a cup of filtered water from the adjacent morning kitchen before heading through the laundry room to the bathroom of his and his wife’s bedroom suite—a moment to himself to change into comfortable clothes, wash his hands, and mentally shed his work day all before greeting his family in the kitchen.

the thoughtful home pro builder
The home’s front façade belies its 5,158 square feet of living space on two levels, a stacked plan with a walk-out lower level. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

Knowing her husband’s routine, Donna, 48, finishes a Zoom meeting with her public relations staff in the small office within the “relax” room, where earlier she curled up in a comfortable chair to read reports before the meeting. As George makes his way into the kitchen, he sees some abandoned schoolwork on the island and notices that the family room, dining area, and even the screened porch and outdoor deck are empty.

thoughtful home design show village
Before entering the kitchen, family members returning from work or school shed the day through a generous owner’s entry from the garage, where a bit of nourishment and a mental and physical transition prepare them for time at home with family. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

He makes his way downstairs and pushes on the bookshelf, a clever in-swing door that opens to the secret room, where he finds his 12-year-old son, Josh, and 15-year-old daughter, Erica, engrossed in a video game. With an unacknowledged wave, he re-closes the door and makes his way to the downstairs living area, opens the glass door off the exercise room to the patio to allow in some fresh air, and jumps on the Peloton bike in the exercise area for a quick 20-minute workout. One of the family dogs emerges from the adjacent pet room to “supervise.”

As the family gathers for dinner, Donna lights the fireplace in the dining room and the kids set the table. Phones are turned off and placed on the island, so the family can enjoy a peaceful meal while they chat about how they’re looking forward to Grandma coming for another extended stay and how she’ll once again enjoy the private suite, including a separate living area and kitchenette, on the lower level. Donna reassures the kids that during her mother’s stay they can still hang out with friends in the secret room, the lower-level family room, the patio, or even Erica’s room, which is equipped with robotic furniture that transforms that space at the touch of a button.

bsb architecture foyer pro builder

After dinner, Donna and Josh go to the screened porch to play Scrabble while George watches highlights of a golf tournament in the relax room. Erica heads to a pocket office that shares space with the pet room to finish an assignment and text with some friends.

Later, George easily extracts a roller bag from the couple’s walk-in closet to pack for a conference. Donna uses her smartphone to set the thermostat in their bedroom to the optimal temperature and initiate the window shades to ensure complete darkness for a restful, rejuvenating night’s sleep. When George rises at 4 a.m. to catch his flight, he easily slips out of bed and into the bathroom and adjacent dressing area, then into the laundry room and owner’s entry to grab his car keys, device charger, and jacket—all without disturbing Donna.

ibsx nahb show village
The primary suite bathroom is a comfortable, rejuvenating respite. Located on the main floor, it has direct access to and from the owner’s entry, enabling a mental and physical transition from work to home. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

On-Demand Webinar: Tour The Thoughtful Home

Project Details + Partners

The Thoughtful Home

Size: 5,158 square feet (main level and walk-out lower level)

Bedrooms: 5

Bathrooms: 4 1/2

Target Market: Luxury; mature families or multigenerational households

Architect: Dan Swift, AIA, BSB Design, West Des Moines, Iowa

thoughtful home pro builder main floor
The Thoughtful Home main floor plan


Air King: Indoor air quality system

California Closets: Closet storage

Cultured Stone: Stone veneer

DaVinci Roofscapes: Roofing

Deckorators: Decking systems

Docking Drawer: Electronics storage

DuPont: Housewrap + flashing

In-O-Vate: Dryer vents

JennAir: Appliances

Kichler Lighting: Lighting

Moen: Plumbing fixtures + fittings

Savaria: Elevator

Titebond: Construction adhesives

Trane: Total home comfort system

UFP Edge: Wall finishes

Watergen: Drinking water system

Wood-Mode: Cabinetry

thoughtful home lower floor plan
The Thoughtful Home lower floor plan

The Healthy + Clean Home

David, 50, runs a tech company from an office on the ground floor of his home, between the staircase and the living area where he enjoys both privacy and plenty of natural light. His wife, Jessica, 48, works as a nurse in an allergist’s office and understands deeply the importance of clean air in the home and the environment. David just likes the way his home feels: always the right temperature, the air always clean; he rarely finds himself congested or with sore eyes, thanks to an automated, whole-house humidifier that regulates healthy indoor moisture during dry Denver winters. He’s not sure how the system that keeps the indoor air fresh and flowing actually works, but he appreciates not suffering from the sinus infections he endured in their old house. A Denver native, he also knows about radon, and is comforted to know the house has a system that monitors and automatically adjusts to vent the odorless, invisible gas out of the basement.

Healthy home thrive builders
The home’s Craftsman elevation is both a comfortable and familiar style for buyers. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

The couple, along with their 17-year-old son, Jacob, and 15-year-old daughter, Emily, live an active life of hiking and mountain biking in the warmer months and snowboarding and skiing in the winter. When Jessica gets home from work, she notices right away that Jacob and Emily have stored their backpacks in the cabinets in the family entrance off the garage and tucked their hiking books in the shoe storage area there as well, before they traipsed into the kitchen or upstairs. Following their lead, she kicks off her work shoes and hangs her jacket, plugs her laptop and phone into the charging station, stops off in the pantry to store the paper towels and groceries she picked up on the way home, and heads into the adjacent powder room to wash her hands.

Show Village interior kitchen design
The modern, open floor plan serves their needs for family time and entertaining. Less obvious is a commitment to the highest healthy home standards and other “clean home” features that help to keep the family safe. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

When Jessica walks into the kitchen, she sees Emily relaxing on the sofa and Jacob playing with their dog, Beau, on the grass outside. As Jessica prepares dinner, she waves a hand under the touchless faucet at the sink to clean up after prepping the chicken to pan-fry on the induction cooktop. Another faucet generates instant boiling water for the pasta, saving energy and water.

At dinnertime, as a rainstorm passes over, the family gathers around the dining table but leaves the glass doors open to the covered back porch to enjoy the sound of the squall. Later, while Jacob and Emily do the dishes, Jessica and David talk over plans for the weekend by the electric fireplace in the family room.

Later, Emily heads upstairs to take a bubble bath in her en suite bathroom before attacking her homework, while Jacob and David play a video game in the family room, the latter reminding his son to please shower in his own en suite bath to wash off soccer practice and to toss his gear in the laundry room before he turns in. Jessica also enjoys some personal time: a long, hot shower in the spa-like bathroom of the couple’s bedroom suite, then into some casual clothes from the generous walk-in closet before settling in with a good book.

Thrive Builders show village home
The home’s main floor plan is efficient but welcoming, turning the staircase away from the entry and shielding the study. An unfinished lower level can be finished as a rec room and extra bedroom suite. | Rendering: RM Design Studio

Project Details + Partners

The Healthy + Clean Home

Size: 2,378 square feet (3,169 square feet with finished basement)

Bedrooms: 3

Bathrooms: 3 1/2

Target Market: Second move-up buyers (mature families)

Designer/Builder: Thrive Home Builders, Denver

healthy home floor plan main
The Healthy + Clean Home main floor plan


Broan-NuTone: Indoor air quality system

Georgia-Pacific ForceField: Weather barrier system

Mitsubishi: Total home comfort system

Moen: Plumbing fixtures + fittings

Nisus: Termite and mold control

Titebond: Construction adhesives

VERSATEX: Trim + porch ceilings

Wellborn Cabinet: Cabinets

Whirlpool: Appliances

healthy home floor plan upper
The Healthy + Clean Home upper floor plan