When it comes to building custom homes, Russell Burton, managing
member, Burton Custom LLC, Littleton, Colo., thinks big. Although it is the
smallest home in Denver's 2005 Parade of Homes, at "only" 5700 sq.
ft., the Retreat, shown left, proves that choosing good details can have mammoth
buyer appeal. He adds that, "parade homes showcase what custom builders do
Burton says that parade homes are great exposure for custom
builders because potential clients can get a good feel of each builder's
quality, innovation and capabilities. "In the luxury home market, builders
expand their client base mostly through word of mouth," he says. By
building in the Denver parade, Burton feels his company advertises its strengths
through its product.
He says they have generated tremendous response from his past
parade homes. In doing so, he has found there is little need for any
"formal" advertising. "We definitely get most of our business
through word of mouth," he says, "I build parade homes because they're
great marketing tools."
Although custom home builders must invest at least a year into
the process, Burton believes it is well worth the effort. "The Retreat is
the third parade home I've built," he says, adding that parade homes are a
great way of establishing a builder in the marketplace.
As with past parade homes, Burton feels a key factor of his
success with parade homes is that he designs the homes with livability and
comfort in mind. "We first try to create a home that's livable and turn it
into a parade home," he says, rather than designing the home around the
bells and whistles. "We've received a lot of positive feedback from both
the public and our peers who see our homes as very comfortable and
livable," he claims.
Burton says there is the challenge of integrating enough of
the right product, but not too much. He says that it is easy to be impressed by
all of the gadgetry, but he believes that a simpler approach is better. For
example, vendors approached Burton on an outdoor kitchen area complete with
built-in sinks, grills and other accessories. "We thought it was a nice
concept," he says, "but we passed on it - we sometimes have to fight
the urge to get too fancy."
The 2005 Denver Parade of Homes is located at Pradera, a
master-planned community situated in Douglas County, Colo. Pradera also offers
its residents a private golf course, clubhouse, tennis courts and pool.
"The parade of homes amplifies every detail of a
builder's skills," says the Retreat's designer, Amy Crowe, senior designer,
Concepts Unlimited, Denver. She adds that parade homes generate an amazing
amount of publicity through comments made by visitors to their friends.
Not only do parade homes generate exposure to potential
clients, Burton claims that parade homes help to establish relationships between
local architects and designers and the builder. "We have gotten many
clients and built new, lasting relationships with other vendors as a result of
building the parade homes," he says.
Burton believes that another plus of the parade is that it
helps builders become more efficient time managers. "Because the home must
be completed by the time the judging begins," he says, "it has helped
our company become more proficient with site-specific deadlines."
When Burton teamed up with Crowe and architect Marty
Beauchamp, associate principal, Knudson Gloss Architects, Boulder, Colo., the
first thing they all envisioned was the concept of "living well."
Burton's client niche is the successful, active adult. When
planning the Retreat, he enlisted the help of salespeople who deal directly with
custom home buyers. "We work closely with preferred building
communities," he says, "they give us great market data on what these
buyers want." Features such as a main floor master suite, entertaining
spaces and outdoor living are in high demand.
With these aspects in mind, Burton wanted the Retreat to feel
like a spa, with lower maintenance features. "We wanted to design something
that combined fun, soothing relaxation and comfort," says Crowe.
"We wanted the Retreat to be as functional as
possible," says Burton, "we wanted to include flexible spaces in a
casual atmosphere in which it was easy to entertain guests." He felt
entertaining spaces were very desirable among his clientele. He adds that the
Retreat mimics the aspects of Pradera that cater to active lifestyles.
The lower level of the home incorporates an exercise room,
massage area, steam room and sauna. It features additional access via a hidden
spiral staircase in the master closet. Bordering the exercise room is a spa
located on the side patio of the home, offering privacy to its occupants.
"Once homeowners have exercised, all of the 'spa' comforts are right
there," says Crowe.
Designed in Colorado contemporary style, the Retreat's open
floor plan allows the home to flow from space to space. Furthermore, it
integrates the outdoors as part of its living space.
"Because outdoor living is a high priority with buyers,
we've tried to optimize outdoor spaces," he says. The Retreat features four
separate outdoor spaces that enhance the home's livability: a covered deck from
the kitchen, a loggia on the main floor, a patio off of the lower level and a
front courtyard. These areas, says Beauchamp, "allow dwellers to enjoy
different times of the day outside around the home."
As far as the inside was concerned, "We wanted to
incorporate rooms that people will use," says Beauchamp, "We're seeing
priority going away from the formal living room Ã¢â‚¬â€ we find clients would rather
have a study - and adding that remaining square footage to the great
room/sitting area because that is where most of the family's time is spent.
Yet the Retreat offers some unique characteristics, as well. A
chef's room, located off the kitchen is a private office area where home chefs
can plan menus or simply have privacy. It is wired for computer access to store
recipes and menus for later viewing via a screen in the kitchen area. Also, dual
refrigerator/freezer units flank the granite-topped island because, says Crowe,
"you can never have enough refrigeration space."
Another unique highlight is the master bathroom. Sandblasted
glass shower doors offer privacy. The bathtub features a disappearing edge with
a trough. Dual decorative waterfalls, on both ends of the tub, incorporate river
rock backing with glass. Water recirculates through this system to simulate the
soothing sound of a stream or river and, "enhances the room's humidity and
purifies the air," says Crowe. The tub fills from a ceiling-mounted faucet
adding even more visual interest to the room.
Burton feels that his clients have a strong attachment to
their outdoor surroundings, which is why so many "natural" elements
are incorporated into the Retreat. Not only in colors and textures, but also in
the exteriors and water features found around and in the home.
In addition to the split face river rock in the bathrooms,
granite countertops complement the stately, yet casual interiors. "The
colors within the home are nature-oriented, very warm - bordeaux, pumpkin and
olive as well as neutral colors," says Crowe, "the tones are similar,
but the textures change drastically - it keeps the home from looking
mundane." Deep hickory cabinets add to the warm surroundings.
The Retreat's exterior incorporates natural elements, as well.
Natural stone and a stucco finish are contrasted with a deep crimson red on the
windows and front door. "The goal was to make it blend into the
surroundings - we wanted to complement it and not take away from the
location," says Crowe. Copper accents, wood bracketing in the gables and
trellises over the hot tub and entryway complete this natural feel.
Low maintenance was also a factor in the Retreat's design.
"Our clients want to be able to have a nice home without using the weekend
to work on it," says Burton. Crowe adds, "for example, kids could play
outside and come in the house without worrying about damaging the floors."
To reduce maintenance needs on the grounds of the home, Burton
hired landscape designer Chad Harvey, Colorado Green Grass, Parker, Co., to
create a xeriscape garden that incorporated lower maintenance plants. Other
positives of xeriscape gardens, claims Harvey, are reduced watering costs and
After the parade, Burton follows up by contacting those people
who have shown an interest in their product. "When you build in a
parade," he says, "people see what you can do and understand the
building process - that's the best advertising we could have."
What advice would Burton give to other custom builders
contemplating building in a parade? "I would tell custom builders to jump
in both feet if you have the opportunity to build in a parade," he says,
"parades push the company to a higher level of excellence."