South Park Magazine

Keeping it real

Baxter Village.
Baxter Village. DIEDRA LAIRD

Last year's HomeArama, featuring “right-sized” homes instead of faux castles, was a hit. Organizers say visitors enjoyed the houses with more open floor plans and fewer extraneous rooms than the event featured during the peak of the housing boom. Visitors appreciated the elegant but understated, family-friendly decor — and the price tags that didn't soar into seven figures.

Those homes seemed designed for real families.

This year's showcase builds on that, with some important additions: The five homes are crafted by different builders, not a single company like last year, ensuring more architectural diversity. And four of the five homes have already been sold, so they are, indeed, for real families. Real moms and dads with real kids and real budgets.

“But you're still going to see lots of pop and pizzazz, and get good ideas,” says Kerri Robusto of Baxter Village in Fort Mill. “You'll still see great houses and great design.”

HomeArama opens Oct. 8 at Baxter Village. Participating builders are Cyras Custom Homes, David Weekley, Evans-Coghill, New Old Homes and SH Studio Designer Collection by True Custom Homes.

Plans call for architectural styles that include farmhouse, French country, Gothic and English manor. Homes will be priced from about $525,000 to $625,000.

Comparisons to last year's showcase are inevitable and, in this case, not coincidental. Robusto visited the 2010 showcase, featuring five houses by the former Simonini Builders, and was inspired. Baxter was opening a new phase that would be perfect for hosting a similar showcase. She pitched the idea to key builders and to the Home Builders Association of Charlotte, which hosts HomeArama.

The new phase is the River District, which stretches south to the Catawba River from the older areas of Baxter Village. It's what Robusto calls a “BYOB” – the bring-your- own-builder section. “It has large lots, all wooded,” she says. “We'd been hearing from people who said, ‘I love Baxter, but really wanted to build my own dream house.’... Well, now they can.”

Trails in the new phase connect to existing neighborhoods in Baxter Village, and extend to a park and viewing platform on the river. The River District contains 52 building lots. Almost 1,300 families already call Baxter home, Robusto says, and there's 250,000 square feet of office and retail plus a school, library and YMCA.

The featured homes are close to each other, allowing for an easy walk. Parking will be available at Piedmont Urgent Care, and a free shuttle will be provided.

The builders see the same opportunity to create a successful HomeArama in the growing village.

They've been retooling their companies and their plan portfolios, “right-sizing” and “smart-sizing” their homes for the top of the market. Instead of spending millions, the builders say, wealthy buyers these days are choosing homes that cost less than $1 million. HomeArama offers the builders an opportunity to show how they're incorporating high-end custom touches into more realistically priced homes.

Troy Ludemann of New Old Homes, for instance, used to build homes costing $2 million to $3 million. Now, he's targeting the $400,000 to $800,000 range. “They're still custom... No plan is like any other plan... And they'll include custom cabinetry and unique details.” They'll just be, say, 3,700 square feet instead of twice that size.

Cyras Custom Homes used to be a HomeArama regular. Pavan Kumar of Cyras says the most expensive home the company built for the showcase topped $3.6 million. Now, he's crafting homes starting in the $500,000s. “We want to show that you can customize at any price.” These new homes should be judged not by size and price, he says, but by quality.

So, how will these showcase homes differ from the largest models in years past? The builders, like Simonini last year, say they eliminate spaces that families don’t use anyway.

Grand foyers shrink. Long hallways are incorporated into more open floor plans. Two- and three-story ceilings come down a little closer for practicality. Specialized rooms like theaters give way to more versatile family spaces. There might be a formal dining room, since lots of families still want those, but it's likely to be designed to use more than just twice a year.

Kumar says HomeArama visitors can expect to see innovative “flex” space. Say, a room that can be used as living room, office or additional bedroom. The powder room might become a full bath, allowing it to serve as a guest suite.

The Cyras home hasn't sold – but the four others have, and that will influence what visitors see, too.

Ludemann says he approached a prospective client who had been planning to build. The client agreed to go ahead – and the Lowcountry, farmhouse-style home will be featured in HomeArama. Ludemann says he'll include board and batten siding and exposed rafter tails on the exterior, and extensive beadboard inside. “We're trying to recreate houses... so that you wouldn't know if they were a year old or 100 years old,” he says.

Alan Banks of Evans-Coghill says his company is building for a family with two teenagers. “It's a real family with two high-school kids and two parents who work full time.” There'll be no formal dining area, but a much larger family living space. A large, 400-square-foot back porch ensures plenty of outdoor elbow room for everybody.

Robusto and the builders agree that the needs of real families will shape the look of the homes. Expect fewer over-the-top wall finishes. Instead, look for more neutral palettes with splashes of vivid color provided by furnishings. Lighting will be functional as well as stylish. Family cooks will have strong opinions about kitchen design. And delicate inlaid hardwood floors for families with teenagers? Well, maybe not.

David Weekley Homes 755 Harvest Pointe DrivePlan: The Walling (Victorian Elevation)Heated square feet: 3036Price: $570,000/$188 per square footHome and Interior Designer: David Weekley Homes

David Weekley is making their first appearance in HomeArama. The Home Builders Association of Charlotte’s MAME (Major Achievement in Marketing Excellence) committee judges voted David Weekley Homes 2010 “Builder of the Year.”

The charming front porch gives this home great curb appeal. First floor ceilings are 10’ and the height makes the home feel open and spacious. A gracious first floor owner’s suite and bath give the owners privacy and space to relax. Owners can step outside their bedroom and enjoy their morning coffee on the screened porch. A large family room features a unique corner fireplace.

Upstairs features three bedrooms, a sunroom, a retreat and the option for a bonus room over the garage.

––– SH Studio Designer Collection by True Custom 763 Harvest Pointe DrivePlan: The Taylor (Classical Elevation)Heated square feet: 4336Price: $589,900/$136 per square footHome and Interior Designer: SH Studio, exclusively for True Custom

SH Studio, a division of nationally recognized design firm Soucie Horner, developed the Designer Collection for True Custom. The firm brings fresh, new home designs to the Charlotte market.

The Artisan design theme showcases the inherent beauty of materials and space. Clean, crisp lines enhance the tailored refinement of each room. The two story great room is open to the gourmet kitchen, making entertaining easy and fun for the entire family. The downstairs master suite offers owners luxury and a perfect retreat to unwind from the day’s activities. Upstairs, the kids have their own retreat – a private place to study or relax on weekends. True Custom is a division of True Homes – a Charlotte based home builder.


Evans Coghill Homes 779 Harvest Pointe DrivePlan: The River Cottage (American Farmhouse Edition)Heated square feet: 3192Price: $535,000/$168 per square footArchitect: Hougland ArchitectureInterior Designer: Forrester and Kinney Interiors

A family friendly plan perfectly designed for a family with teenagers or with boomerang kids, the home offers separate living areas for parents and children. When the family gets together to relax, the outdoor living area includes a cozy screened porch with dining area, sitting area and a fireplace.

The casual dining room off the family room replaces a formal dining room. The open kitchen with quartz countertops and Thermador induction cooktop lets family members prepare meals and catch up on the day’s events. Celadon, with black glaze, kitchen cabinets offer a dramatic touch. The garden tub in the master suite has been removed from the home and is replaced with a large spa shower. In addition, the master suite includes his and hers laptop stations and the upstairs features wi-fi. The home has neutral colors, simple lines, and furnishings targeted toward a family with older children.


New Old Homes 795 Harvest Pointe DrivePlan: The Oldfield House (American Farmhouse Elevation)Heated square feet: 3612Price: $520,000/$144 per square footHome Designer: Robert T. Foster Design StudioInterior Designer and Decorator: Mary Ludemann/Nest Furnishings

With no wasted space, every area is designed for a specific purpose. The family enters through a mudroom with built-in lockers, a large closet, and sliding white boards for daily activity reminders. The kitchen is open and airy. A screened porch off the large family room has a fireplace for cool days and nights. A relaxed keeping room off the kitchen replaces a formal living room. The downstairs guest suite offers privacy to visiting relatives and friends. His/her pocket offices lead to a separate staircase to the second floor. To join the past with the present, the master bathroom features 13’ ceilings with exposed beams, a clawfoot tub, and custom vanities. The master suite is conveniently located upstairs to be near the children’s suites. A bonus room for family activities is located over the two-car-garage. ––– New Old Homes Harvest Pointe DrivePlan: The Stonehill House (Victorian Elevation)Heated square feet: 5161Price: $825,000/$160 per square footHome Designer: Robert T. Foster Design StudioInterior Designer and Decorator: Mary Ludemann/Ethan Allen

Beautiful stonework highlights the exterior of this house with three covered terraces. Outdoor living space includes an infinity pool with Solar Powered Pump System, and a rockslide and spa overlooks a bank of towering hardwoods. The home has four fireplaces, including one in the master suite. The master suite and the children’s rooms open to a covered terrace. The third level features a large billiard room. A well-equipped kitchen opens to the family room and has a casual dining area. This home will hold a NAHB Green Certification as well as Energy Star.


Cyras Custom Homes Harvest Pointe DrivePlan: The Saratago (Gothic Revival Elevation)Heated square feet: 4160Price: $619,900/$149 per square footHome Designer: Elite Design GroupInterior Designer: Eclectic Interiors

The Gothic Revival brick home combines new trends and traditional finishes and features for today’s modern family. A spacious great room with a fireplace is large enough to accommodate family members and friends. The gourmet kitchen looks onto the great room and creates an even larger space for entertaining.

Special features for today’s family include a drop zone/mudroom with a storage closet and a pantry. A three-car-garage gives lots of space for family cars and storage. The full bath on the first floor replaces a powder bath, creating options for a study or a bedroom. Upstairs, a large master suite with his and hers wardrobes and an elegant bath keeps the parents close to the children’s rooms. A private guest suite with a large bath can accommodate guests and give them privacy away from the family bedrooms.


HomeArama will run from Oct. 8 through Oct. 23 at Baxter Village in Fort Mill. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Gates close at 7 p.m.; event closed Monday.

Tickets are $15 for adults and teens, $13 for seniors 62 and older, free for children 12 and under. Discount tickets available at participating Harris Teeter stores.

Take I-77 to exit 85, turn west on S.C. 160, left onto Market Street, left at the traffic light onto Sutton Road. At Sixth Baxter Crossing, turn left; parking behind Piedmont Urgent Care. Free shuttle to showcase site.

Learn more — and follow construction as the dates near — at More details also available at

On the web:www.davidweekleyhomes.com