Geothermal heating, a 4D media room, $11,000 tub among this year’s VESTA Home Show highlights

This article originally appeared in the Commercial Appeal on Oct. 5, 2012

The spectacular walk-through showers wowed the best-of-show judges who toured the five new homes before Saturday’s opening of the 2012 Fall VESTA Home Show at St. James Place in Germantown.

So did the stand-alone tubs — square ones, curvy ones, even an $11,000 one with copper on the outside and stainless steel on the inside. Each bathing vessel commanded center stage in vast master bathrooms, as if they were sculptures in a gallery.

Many of the eight judges gushed over the outside patio “rooms” that offered so many ways to cook food, sit comfortably, and stay cool in the heat or warm in the cold.

The judges scribbled notes about the expansive island bars, those modern portals between the kitchen and family/living rooms and an enduring trend if there ever was one.

But judges responded loudest to a 4D media room in the last house they examined, named La Montagne in the VESTA show that runs Saturday through Oct. 28.

“Oh my gosh!” exclaimed Carol Lott, president of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors. “This is so cool; I want one.”

She was moved not so much by the 160-inch screen as by her theater seat. As a clip from “Avatar” played on screen, her reclining, D-Box chair responded in sync with the movie action. The chair swayed from side to side, rose up, dropped down, shook and vibrated.

The judges’ picks won’t be announced until a VESTA preview party Friday night, but it’s likely that La Montagne, built by David Moore, will be compete for “Best Entertainment/Media Room.” Other categories are best exterior elevation, best landscaping, best first impression, best interior decoration, best kitchen, best master suite, best special feature, best home design, best of show and best energy efficiency.

Joining Lott on the judging panel were Amy Speropoulos of Channel 5, Ann Bell of Community Mortgage, Karen Kassen of Kitchens Unlimited, Mike Omar of Morgreen Nursery & Landscape, Jill Hertz of Jill Hertz Interiors, Carson Looney of LRK Architects, and John Stamps of Stamps Real Estate.

The judges took their jobs seriously and weren’t just cheerleaders for the houses, most of which could be described as European eclectic in style.

For example, Looney, the architect, criticized a front exterior that he felt was busy with too many types of materials.

Hertz, the interior designer, winced over a kitchen island bar so wide it interfered with opening the refrigerator on one side and the oven on the other side.

But for every negative the judges seemed to gush with many more positives.

“I think the color palette was excellent, up-to-date and neutral,” Hertz said of the interior of the home called Votre Maison.

“The cooking area is just great,” Omar, the outdoor specialist, said of the outside kitchen at Beau Grandiose Domain. “People are getting away from outdoor fireplaces” and opting for types of fire pits instead, he said.

“I like that the (kitchen) sink faces the living area,” said Kassen, the kitchen expert. “It promotes interaction.”

A big wow factor among the judges at Le Vieux Chene, built by Jon Ruch, were the sliding barn doors that could separate the dining room from the kitchen.

The house also featured a swinging bed on the back patio and a swinging chair in an upstairs family room.

But what really set Le Vieux apart is that it has geothermal heating and cooling. The house draws heat from the earth in the winter and draws cool from it during the summer. The utility bills for the 5,000-plus square-foot home should average just $120, Ruch told the judges.

At Mon Reve, Omar told builder Darin Halford, “I like the fire pit. They are in right now as opposed to fire places.”

Hertz loved the home’s natural light. “It feels good. It’s nice and airy.”

Looney credited the home’s narrow depth, allowing the windows on the south and north side to pour lots of light inside.

Kitchen island bars may be ubiquitous among new homes, but Mon Reve’s is distinctive. A ribbon of LED lighting is buried under the side edge of the bar’s white granite, which is translucent.

The home’s floor plan was a hit with judges. At some other homes, the master bedroom is just off the family room, but not here. “There are multiple areas of the house you can retreat to,” Looney said.

“I think the design of this house is best,” Kassen said.

At each house, Looney snapped away with his digital camera. He’ll use the photos for training, he said.

2012 Fall VESTA Home Show

Where: St. James Place, off Forest Hill-Irene just north of Winchester in Germantown

When: Saturday through Oct. 28 (closed Mondays). 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 to 7 p.m. Sundays

Tickets:$12 general admission; $10 for seniors 65 and older and $5 for youth 7 to 14.

Parking: Free parking on site

Host: Memphis Area Home Builders Association

Charity: A portion of the proceeds will go to the Down Syndrome Association of Memphis


Image courtesy of the Commercial Appeal