SPANNING TIME: The house physically and figuratively bridges two eras of Orlando's downtown  housing history. To the north lies a historic grid of century-old, single-story  homes; brick roads; and roundabouts that regulate traffic speeds (photos #3 and #4). A block to the south, views from the shore of Lake Eola (shown  here) portray the city's ongoing condo boom and urban revitalization.

SPANNING TIME: The house physically and figuratively bridges two eras of Orlando's downtown housing history. To the north lies a historic grid of century-old, single-story homes; brick roads; and roundabouts that regulate traffic speeds (photos #3 and #4). A block to the south, views from the shore of Lake Eola (shown here) portray the city's ongoing condo boom and urban revitalization.

Neighborhoods used to be built this way. Back in the day, at the turn of the previous century, there were no developers, no master plans, and no model-home complexes with a choice of six floor plans. Houses would go up individually on roomy lots, respectful of the regional style and the scale of what had been built next door or down the street, but each still unique. And once there was enough critical mass to support a corner market or a small office building within the context of the surrounding houses, they were built too.

The result was a community of spontaneous diversity and rich character, an impossible model to truly replicate in the scripted environment of modern residential development, including even the best TNDs.

But every once in a while, there's an opportunity to revisit the old school. A large lot in a long-established enclave is subdivided, perhaps, or a house is torn down or moved. The door opens a crack to put a new and unique, yet respectful, stamp on a treasured neighborhood.

That's the backstory of The New American Home 2007, the 24th in a series of idea houses co-sponsored by BUILDER and the NAHB's National Council of the Housing Industry (NCHI)/Supplier 100 and built in conjunction with the annual International Builders' Show. Set on a prime piece of ground on the southern edge of the Lake Eola historic district in downtown Orlando, Fla., with a view of the city's signature water feature, the three-story, 5,283-square-foot house is a legitimate and welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Labeled a contemporary Craftsman by architect Ed Binkley, the house is an authentic update of that comfortable and familiar style. Elements such as exposed timber brackets, stucco and clapboard siding, a pitched-roof detached garage, and a brick stoop remind one of other houses in the neighborhood, while its stacked cantilevered balconies and modern lines give a nod to the new urban lifestyle going on in the high-rise condos popping up around Lake Eola. “It's a microcosm of the city's redevelopment,” says Maylen Dominguez Arlen, new development coordinator for Homes by Carmen Dominguez, the builder. “It's in the character of a historic area that's still fairly young” compared with other urban markets, and therefore still open to a diversity that will add to the neighborhood's overall appeal, longevity, and vibrancy.

The New American Home 2007 features three conditioned levels of living space, albeit arranged in a way that's more urban loft than suburban cottage. There are also spaces on either end of that trio to create a five-level plan. A staircase serves each level except the roof, while an elevator accesses the three main living spaces. Here's how (and why) it lays out, from top to bottom:

ROOF LEVEL: Accessible by a ladder from the balcony or through a domed roof window in the kitchen niche, the flat roof level houses the bulk of the cooling equipment as well as a photovoltaic array and solar hot water collector. It also conceals planters and a perimeter gutter that channels stormwater runoff and serves as an irrigation system.

THIRD LEVEL: This loftlike space houses the kitchen, living, and eating areas for the family and guests. The area enjoys the benefit of unblocked natural light through large banks of windows on three sides of the living area. A neat little niche and powder room make up the rest of the footage.

SECOND LEVEL: Privacy rules on this level, where the master suite occupies the entire floor. A hallway separates the suite from the public stairs, gaining light from the balcony beyond and the level below, as well as from windows on the northwest corner. The second level of the garage, meanwhile, houses an in-law suite with private access from the street.

STREET LEVEL: In this upside-down arrangement, the main level is reserved for occasional-use spaces, including a pair of secondary bedrooms (sharing a bath), a home theater, a wet bar, and a mud/laundry room—none of which is adversely affected by the relatively low levels of daylight that sneak into the space through mature trees and neighboring buildings. A home-office alcove off the foyer provides easy access to the street should clients stop by.

SHALLOW BASEMENT: Built a bit deeper than most crawls but also limited by the site's water table, the shallow basement accommodates and provides easier access to the pumps serving the ingenious stormwater management system and cistern under the garage slab. Otherwise, the area is unfinished and closed off from the conditioned space at the base of the stairs, where there's a long-term wine storage area along the walls.

PROJECT TEAM

Builder: Homes by Carmen Dominguez, Orlando, Fla.; Architect: Bloodgood Sharp Buster, Des Moines, Iowa (Oviedo, Fla., office); Interior designer: Robb & Stucky Interiors, Altamonte Springs, Fla.; Landscape architect: Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin, Orlando; Consultants: Electronic Systems Design (low-voltage systems integrator), Orlando; Florida Solar Energy Center (solar/PV design), Cocoa, Fla.; IBACOS Consortium (energy and resource efficiency; Building America Program, U.S. Department of Energy), Pittsburgh; Stormwater Management Academy, College of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Central Florida (rain-water retention and recycling), Orlando; Sponsors: BUILDER, Washington; the National Council of the Housing Industry/Supplier 100, Washington