It's a Friday afternoon earlier this month during the Southeast Building Conference. Home builder Roland "Jim" Krantz is shaking hands, accepting congratulations and answering questions from conference attendees who are wandering in and out of his latest project -- the 2007 New Southern Home.
People are everywhere, sitting on an upstairs veranda that overlooks Lake Anderson, leaning over the piano as it plays Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville" and camping out upstairs in the library.
They're making comments such as, "I'm glad it wasn't another Mediterranean home," and "We're tired of the dark-cherry cabinets [in other show homes]. We liked the fresh look."
Krantz spreads his arms wide and grins like a proud papa showing off his newborn. In just seven months, he has constructed a demonstration home -- a centerpiece for this Orlando conference -- that incorporates the latest technologies, innovative products and creative interior design.
Within its 12,200 square feet are six bedrooms, 11 baths and an assortment of work/play spaces including an office, a craft room, a media room, a recreation room and a library. Also on this nearly four-acre property in Conway is a workshop, a carriage house and space for six cars.
The home's classic, shingle-style architecture is so unusual in Florida, it's like a breath of fresh, cool Northern air.
It feels like a triumph for Krantz, who had never built a show home and readily admits such a project comes with plenty of headaches.
So what exactly does it take to put together, in seven months, a house built with 27 truckloads of concrete, more than three miles of trim, and enough paint to create a 2-inch-wide line 76 miles long?
Vision, cooperation, flexibility and teamwork for starters.
Long in the making
Krantz broke ground on Dec. 5, but the planning, scheduling, organizing and strategizing started about a year and a half before.
"We didn't know exactly what we were getting ourselves into," Krantz says. "I don't think anybody who builds a show house does."
Construction, he says, is the easy part. Putting together a project team and selecting products is more of a challenge.
"It took me awhile to find the right people for the team," Krantz says. "It sure would've been a lot easier if I`d had them the whole way. You have to have a team that gets it [your vision], and if they don't, you have to let them go."
They also have to be flexible enough to roll with the changes, he says.
Residential designer Chris Gooden, for example, already had designed the house when an insulated-concrete-form vendor, Greenblock, approached Krantz.
"At the last minute, we decided to . . . use their product," Krantz says. "I had to bring myself up to speed on how it works. We had to redesign the first floor. But we loved the product, and it worked out well."
Selecting products isn't always easy, Krantz says.
"Just because it's the newest and most-innovative [product] doesn't mean it's good," he says.
Krantz picked products that complemented the style of the house, and then evaluated them for, among other attributes, their eco-friendly qualities.
A home with smarts
Krantz had other goals for his first show home. He wanted a "smart house," meaning, for example, the homeowners could control the lighting system and the pool's chemical levels from anywhere using the Internet. And he wanted the home's style to be "fresh and new, cozy and homey."
So he combined a Northern look with a Southern lifestyle. The result: a rambling coastal home with an open, flowing floor plan oriented toward the outdoors. He calls it the "Southern Cottage."
Although shingle-style houses historically come from the New England's coasts, much of the inspiration for this home came from the builder's roots in Michigan's lower peninsula, Gooden says.
"It doesn't fit any style you see in the Florida area at all," Gooden says. "It's unique to the area. It lives like a Florida house, but it doesn't look like it."
Krantz says his entire family, especially his parents, were involved with the project. His mother, Margaret Krantz, he says, was "adamant that it feel like a home . . . rather than a museum."
To achieve a cottage look, the house incorporates a variety of window designs and soaring ceilings that angle this way and that, creating alcoves and Harry Potter-type nooks and crannies. Even the dog has a home under the stairs near the mudroom.
Bob Gaume, general manager of Saxon-Clark, designed the interior. Gaume initially set out to decorate the home in typical Florida show-home design, he says, "with lavish drapes and heavy furniture."
"We always do the wow factor in a show home," he says. "Then the Krantzes told me they didn't want that. They wanted comfortable and clean. They wanted to be able to sit down and read a book in any room and feel comfortable. They wanted it to feel like you're being hugged when you open up the front door. I went back to square one."
Gaume approached the house as if it were the Krantzes' private residence instead of a show home. He used Margaret Krantz's favorite color, blue, and added complementary colors to create a casual, pared-down style, with minimal window treatments and understated furnishings that enhance rather than compete with the architecture.
"This house is so different for Florida," says Gaume, who equates the look to a home in the Hamptons. "When you pull up and see it for the first time, you don't expect that home here. It seems fresh and new.
"The Krantzes thought out of the box on this [show house]. I think you're going to see more of that look down here. Definitely, I think this house will be copied on a smaller scale."
An educational edifice
Krantz also set out to construct a house that would have less of a negative impact on the environment during and after its construction. But how can an 18,378-square-foot house (under roof) dare to be called environmentally friendly?
Residential designer Chris Gooden explains: "This house isn't built to be the prototypical green house. This is a showcase of many ideas of green thoughts and technologies. The house is educational. It's not going to be repeated . . . but instead show as many of the products and processes as we could.
"Perhaps it's a sacrifice [environmentally] making it so large, and green snobs will turn their nose up at it, but it opens the eyes of the greater population to the opportunities to enhance the design of their [smaller] home."
Sometimes vendors can't -- or don't want to -- be part of the project, Krantz says, because it often requires a financial sacrifice. Many of the products are donated and others are offered at a discount. In return, the vendors' products gain exposure.
That partnership can make home building more-complicated.
"We definitely wanted the house to feel warm, and we didn't want it to get too, too big," Krantz says. "But we needed lots of opportunity to showcase lots of different products, so it grew."
Everyone who builds a house faces challenges, but not everyone has to figure out where to place four ovens, four wine fridges, two espresso machines and five refrigerators. That explains how a pair of ovens might end up in a laundry room, for example.
"We thought it was a little weird at first, but it has a practical application," says Krantz, who adds that the laundry room, which sits between the garage and the kitchen, can serve as a staging spot during parties.
Show-home builders, Krantz says, have to find solutions that work for them, the sponsors, those who tour the house -- and eventually a buyer. When the house goes on the market, it is expected to be listed at more than $5 million.