BHG's Better Living House

You told us what you wanted in America's home, and we listened. Take a tour of the Better Homes and Gardens' Better Living House.

Amazing Heights

America's home has a modest-size floor plan that's just under 3,000 square feet, but its horizontal design makes it appear larger. The building envelope is made of Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), which are extremely airtight and help save energy costs. Plus, they are fully insulated and help muffle sound -- an important feature for an open floor plan.

The Front Porch Is Back

Many of you asked for a front porch that's a true living space, so we made it a deliberate part of our design. Screens with horizontal slats connect the space to the outdoors while adding a sense of enclosure. That dual function gives you the option to observe street life from a removed vantage point, or to engage neighbors and passersby.

A Living Room for Living

Our home features a laid-back living area that's elegant yet casual, with the flexibility to accommodate a variety of roles, from entertaining space to impromptu dining room to private haven. The footprint is modest, yet the two-story-high ceiling creates a spectacular sense of openness.

Kitchen: Top Priority

Kitchens win hands-down when you prioritize your home improvement dollars. We took that to heart, creating a layout that puts your favorite room at the heart of our house, plus providing a neat connection to the rear porch to enhance the indoor-outdoor connection.

An Open Floor Plan

One of the biggest kitchen trends today is openness to family rooms and other living spaces. We took that one step further, removing all barriers between our kitchen and the surrounding rooms; the living-dining room and the family room flow seamlessly into the kitchen.

Indoor/Outdoor Connections

The covered porch just outside the kitchen connects to the outdoors with accordion-style screen doors. The doors divide the porch from the pea-gravel patio, and when they're open, the two areas blend into one fluid space.

Family Room Fun

For a novel, affordable wall treatment in the family room, we took inspiration from a swatch of the chair fabric. We enlarged the orb pattern, sketched it on the wall with chalk, and filled it in with paint.

Family Room Function

Proving that innovative design can be beautiful as well as functional, the coffee table has a hinged base that allows it to be raised and lowered, making it flexible enough for dining, entertaining, and homework. Generous windows invite the outdoors in.

Off-the-Shelf Bath

Our treatment of the materials in the master bath suggests posh pampering, although they're actually standard products used in innovative ways. Ordinary sheet mirrors over the vanity rise all the way to the ceiling for dramatic effect. The vanity is home-center cabinetry that we dressed up with silver paint, which further infuses easygoing glamour.

Low-Cost Style

We chose builder-grade marble from The Home Depot for the bathroom flooring. Instead of stopping there, we carried the marble up the walls to add to the sense of luxury without much increase in cost. It's a blueprint for sophisticated style with no need to cut corners.

Flexible Spaces

We conceived the two upstairs bedrooms as flexible spaces that can play any role you wish. Shutters behind the bed in the girl's room open to the living room stairwell, allowing the space to share in its ample sunlight. We softened the room with inexpensive Indian saris for a stylish, exotic touch that didn't bust our budget.

Raised Patio

Our house is built in a flood plain, so we used a retaining wall that supports an outdoor patio without intruding into the flood plain. We turned the wall into an eye-catching feature by laying timbers in a horizontal pattern in step with the lines of the house. Inexpensive but stylish metal trellises covered with climbing foliage soften its appearance.

First-Floor Plan

The first-floor plan features an open living/dining/kitchen, a family-friendly, easily accessible space. The two-car garage is located on the side of the house, with a close connection to the kitchen through a mudroom. Many Americans work from home, so this house has a home office with a separate entrance.

Second-Floor Plan

The second-floor plan provides two children's bedrooms with a shared bath. The parents have their own master suite, complete with a large, walk-in closet.

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