The Parade of Homes is supposed to be about opulence, but this year I found that harder to take than usual. Green built practices are catching on, but slowly. And the immense size of these homes, built on land that was previously cornfield or pasture, is not green at all.
The biggest, theoretically most impressive homes are at the Blackhawk site on the far west side. Take the Hart DeNoble Builders home, with six bedrooms, five full- and two half-baths, three-car garage (what? Just three?) and 7,296 finished square feet. It's a Green-built home. But a house this big has to do an awful lot of catching up to do to really be ecologically sound. Temple Construction's Blackhawk home has a five-car garage! I just didn't want to even look at these kinds of houses.
I headed instead to the middle-of-the-road site, the somewhat less lavish Southbridge, outside of Waunakee. It's still plenty upscale, in my book. These ten homes are in the 2,500-4,000-square foot range. I look at these houses and wonder just how anyone manages to keep them clean. My overwhelming feeling on touring them was not "wow, I want one!" -- which is, I guess, the purpose of the Parade of Homes -- but an urge to redecorate my own house. Or at the very least, vacuum.
Size aside, many design trends are the same across the board. There is usually what would constitute s second home in the lower level -- bedrooms, fitness room, home theater, wet bar or even a second kitchen. "Transitional" -- with lots of gables -- is still the most popular exterior look. And architectural details from a variety of periods are thrown in, both inside and out, often without much thought to how those details go together.
For curb appeal, Design Shelters' Carolina Low Country Traditional House wins for elegance and architectural coherence. The house has a grace and proportion to it lacking in the others. Pulvermacher Construction's Georgian Style Plantation Ranch house, which certainly stands out from the other transitional-style homes, is unfortunately a victim of too many architectural details from styles not actually Georgian -- I see Gothic, saltbox, and Craftsman, just to name a few.
Most of what I found to like were little details. I particularly fell for the nifty, finished garage floor at the Premier Builders home (see the photo gallery at right). There's some interesting Craftsman-style detailing, including small windows in otherwise dark corners. Walls textured to look like old plaster are quite popular. The garage design itself at the Pulvermacher Construction house is a nice Craftsman/carriage house look, even though it doesn't match the Georgian portico.
There's still time to make it out to the third Parade site, Wolf Hollow, in Windsor, where Hauden and Scholl Custom Homes had the courage to build a 1,700 square-foot house.
The Parade of Homes runs through June 24.