The sophisticated, spa-like New American Home
Phil Kean's inventive show home bridges indoor and outdoor living
spaces, punctuating them with fire features for a cozy but visually arresting
By Jeffrey Lee
Entering The New American Home feels like
stepping into vacation.
Open the front door and it feels like you're
in a four-star resort, with two spiraling fire features lining each side of the
entranceway. Take a few steps forward into the central courtyard and you're on
a palm-treed putting green; if you need to practice your swing, the simulator's
to your right.
Keep going through the great room and you'll
think you're in a private pool club, with a bubbling spa surrounded by a serene
infinity pool overlooking a scenic lake. Finish your visit with a stop by the
master bathroom, where rain showers and body sprays rival the experience of a
If it all sounds a bit indulgent, well, that's
the point. The 8,753-square-foot home in Orlando's Lake Nona Golf & Country
Club community was designed by the Phil Kean Design Group as a show house, a
real-world demonstration of architecture, lifestyle, and product trends to
inspire visitors at the International Builders Show.
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One of the most evident trends on display is
the bridging of indoor and outdoor space. While forging smart connections
between these spaces has been a popular trend throughout the
country, The New American Home
takes it to the extreme.
The outdoor putting green courtyard and
swimming pool courtyard serve as centerpieces to a series of pod-style living
spaces that surround them. Extensive walls of automated pocketing glass can
easily slide away to bring the outdoors in.
Propane-fueled fire pits and indoor and outdoor fireplaces throughout
the home serve as both decorative art and comfy gathering spots to punctuate
the rooms. "We used fire for both the aesthetic and cozy factor," says Phil
Kean, whose design firm is based in Winter Park, Florida. "When you have a big
modern house, you need to have some elements that are cozy, and the fireplaces
added a sense of coziness to the house."
"When you have a big modern house,
you need to have some elements that are cozy, and the fireplaces added a sense of coziness to the house."
One favorite of Kean's, a four-sided linear
fireplace in the room separating the courtyards, was "a show-stopper," Kean
says. "It was custom designed for the space and it turned out beautiful." The two spiraling flames near the front door put out little heat so
they can be kept on even during the Florida summer. "What's cool about that
particular product is you can do it horizontal or upside down," he says. "It's
really a fun fire feature."
Though the home is only one story, a large
roof terrace includes seating areas surrounding fire pits and overlooking views
of a golf course, three lakes, and magnificent sunsets. A resort-size bar and Wolf propane grill
comprise one of the home's two outdoor kitchens. "I call it the everyday grill
and the party grill," Kean says. "The one grill is a bit smaller and close to
the kitchen itself. The other one's on the roof, and you could do a whole event
Clean Fuel, Clean Indoor Air
Like many communities in Florida, Lake Nona
lacks access to natural gas. For Kean, it was clear from the start that the
home would use propane rather than resorting to all-electric. "I pretty much
expect that all my clients here in Florida generally like at least some of
their products in gas," Kean says. "Very rarely do I have an all-electric
For the fireplaces, using gas instead of wood was critical to
achieving ambitious indoor air quality goals. The home achieved Emerald status
in the National Green Building Standard ICC-700 and was also certified in the
indoor-environment-focused Wellness Within Your Walls standard.
"We chose gas [fireplaces] because
we would bring in air and expel the exhaust without it ever mixing in with the living spaces."
"We chose gas because we would bring in air
and expel the exhaust without it ever mixing in with the living spaces," Kean
says. Plus, low-maintenance propane fireplaces are a natural fit for a vacation
home, he adds. "It's clean. You turn it off and you're done with it. You don't
have to clean up after it. Whereas a wood fireplace would have soot and ash
that would float through the space."
An even larger component of the home's Emerald
achievement is its energy performance. The home has a HERS Index of 0, or 54
without the 16 kW of solar photovoltaics on the roof, meaning it is 46 percent
more efficient than the construction of the average new home. An airtight
thermal shell with triple-insulated walls helped reduce energy requirements.
And each of the home's "pods" can be turned on or off, depending on who's
staying there, boosting efficiency.
Relaxation and Resilience
Water heating was another key energy feature. A
synchronized system of nine propane-fueled, 95 percent efficient Bosch tankless water heaters was ideal for a house that might be used as a
second or vacation home. "There was no reason to keep water heated," Kean says.
"You only heat water when you need it, which is a nice feature."
Body sprays and rainshowers were an essential
element in creating the home's spa-like feeling, Kean says, but they also
require a lot of hot water. The coordinated tankless units were a better option
to meet that demand than electric hybrid storage tanks, says Drew Smith,
president of Two Trails,
the energy and sustainability consultant for the home.
"We would have had to put four of those tanks
in the garage and deal with the water temperature lost throughout the house,"
Smith says. "It's valuable footprint. We don't like to take up that space where
it could potentially be a spot for a workbench or a storage cabinet in the
garage." Instead, the team was able to locate the tankless units in exterior
locations closer to where the water would be used.
The pool and spa also use propane heating,
which provides more control and faster heating than solar water heaters, Kean
says. That added control is appealing in a vacation home, where the owners may
want to quickly bring the spa up to temperature upon their arrival.
Resilience is a key feature in a region that's
subjected to frequent tropical storms and hurricanes that can disrupt the power
grid — and especially for a home with a $6 million price tag (furnished). A
propane standby generator from Kohler ensures the home's power will remain on
in any weather. "It's great to have backup generators," Kean says. "In this
particular case, it's expected. People expect not to be inconvenienced."
The security of a resilient home is just one
final relaxing touch in a home that's full of glamorous yet tranquil amenities.
What more could you expect from stepping into a vacation?