2006 Homes Of The Year

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the courtyard of a home

Homes Of The Year: Overall Winner


Creative Freedom

Two garages that hold five cars and two golf carts? That's just the beginning. Given room to create, the architect, builder and sub-contractors made this custom house a home.

It's common for the owners of elegant custom-built houses to be involved in every inch of meticulous detail, but the Homes of the Year overall winners, Marshall and Dawn Mihlfeld, left much of the construction and design up to the experts. "We just live here," Dawn says, somewhat jokingly. "Everyone else created it."

The Mihlfelds were actually involved, and the house was custom-built to accommodate their wants and likes, but the creative freedom they allowed the architect, builder and subcontractors led to some of their favorite details.
The homeowners and architect Ron Hill of Euro World Design both said that during the building process, the builder and subcontractors became like family. The bond was such that the Mihlfelds were hesitant to be named in this story. They feel this four-bedroom house is more of a story of those who built it and designed it.

For the past 15 years, Hill has traveled Europe and says that by drawing from centuries-old styles, he can create a timeless look for homeowners in 417-land.  Lots of wood detailing, stone and brick go into his homes. Garage doors are decorated to mimic carriage-house doors, and courtyards are becoming increasingly popular.

The Mihlfelds' is a reassuring tale for those who are scared to build. Hesitant to take on the hassles of building, the Mihlfelds had been looking at homes on the market for nearly two years before they finally decided a custom creation would work best. They spent about eight months on the design of the home and then another 15 months building, but they say the process was well worth it. "Our architect is a genius," Dawn says. "I had the best building experience. I love my architect, I love my designer, and I love my builder."

The Necessities

When it came to the Mihlfelds' 7,800 square-foot Highland Springs home, garage space was of foremost importance. They ended up with his-and-hers garages on separate wings of the house that can park up to five cars and two golf carts between them-all without dominating the look of the house. Hill decided to split Marshall's garage off the office, so he could come right in the house and drop off his work materials. This garage houses Marshall's boats and recreational equipment. "It's a little mini-Bass Pro; anything you need is in there," Dawn says.
Dawn's garage is larger and holds the golf carts. It also has a temperature-controlled seasonal room where she can prepare and organize her holiday decorations. Most of Dawn's energy went into the furnishing and decoration of the home with the help of interior designer Joan Summers, who was in on the planning before there was hole in the ground. "It was overwhelming making the decisions," Dawn said. "I really wanted Ron to help, and my decorator helped a lot, too." The Mihlfeld house was also definitely the most pet-oriented of our Homes of the Year. "They run the house," Dawn says. Low windows were installed to ensure a view for the two dogs and two cats, as was an electric pet door. This clear plexiglass pet exit/entrance slides open when triggered by a magnet on the collars of each the four-legged friends. The door is located in the pet room, which is an extension of the laundry room and has beds and feeding dishes. Here and in the laundry room, the knobs, pulls and curtains are all dog-patterned. On the exterior of the house, builder Arlan Campbell of Arlan Homes placed an awning over the pet door for a little extra personalization. An invisible electric fence keeps the pets in the yard.

As music enthusiasts, the Mihlfelds have iPod docks in several spots throughout the house, access to their CD collection and satellite radio. The sound system is also hooked up to the piano, which sits in the music room just off the main entrance. The piano is programmed to play a series of songs from a catalogue. Campbell employs a family of Amish framers, Frame Crafters, that completed the cone-shaped ceiling in the music room.

the dining roomFirst Impressions

To get to the main entrance, you pass over a brick circle driveway and walk through a Tim Burrows designed black iron gate (very Tim Burton-esque, according to Dawn) that opens to the court yard. And, there you are presented with the Lamar Jamerson-constructed 42-inch wide Honduran mahogany front door with radius windows.

There is an indirect light tray with crown molding in the 12-foot foyer. The barrel-ceiling walkway leading from the foyer to the living room has inlets that show off the first of many seemingly free-standing built-in cabinets by Hatfield Cabinetry Inc.. You also see the transition from slate-like ceramic flooring to the African walnut wood floors that continue through the kitchen, hearth and dining rooms. A radius front hallway curves around to connect the front entrance to the formal dining area.

 "We like a big, open floor plan," Dawn says.  "We wanted to be able to have a peripheral view of the golf course. We also made living room and kitchen adjustments, so that I could cook and my husband could talk to me while he watched TV."

The living area was designed so that the 16-foot, floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace was not competing with the television.

The Heart of the Home

The house is accented in warm, dark colors to help create depth. All the walls are textured and then glazed in one of four colors that are variations of golds and tans.

The kitchen is done in cherry wood cabinetry with granite counters and stainless steel appliances. A large two-level island can seat six, and the corbels set underneath are one of Dawn's favorite features. A timber ceiling treatment helps creates a cozy feel. A walk-in pantry in the hall just off the kitchen helps Dawn stay organized as does the beverage refrigerator.

All of the stone on the fireplaces and the exterior of the home is a true stone. "To me, you can see if it's a faux stone," Dawn says. "You'll notice, and you'll have it the rest of your lives. You want the best products you can get."
Although the house has a two-bedroom upstairs and a finished basement that includes game, workout and hobby rooms, the homeowners wanted to be able to enjoy the home on one level. A pool table is in a recessed area off the hearth room, which is adjacent to the guest suite.

Places to Sleep

Each year the Mihlfelds host a golfer from the Highland Springs Price Cutter Charity Championship golf tournament, and partially for this reason, they created a guest suite. The kitchen and the hearth room are separated by a see-through fireplace that is made of stone and alder. Guests can view the television in this area without feeling like they are imposing on Dawn and Marshall's space and can easily retreat to their private room and bath. Because of the darker colors in the guest bedroom, the oversized white crown molding that accents the larger-than-normal doors throughout the house, becomes more apparent. 
"I thought the house would be too big, but it's laid out so well," Dawn says. At eight-feet, the ceiling is set lower in the master bedroom to provide a cozier feel. On the other side of the two-way fireplace is a sitting area with white cabinetry. The office is Marshall's; this room is Dawn's. The travertine and granite shower in the master bathroom is also on Dawn's list of favorites. Dawn refers to the tile-layers by first name as she praises the tile frame around the mirrors and explains that the metal in the middle of the tiles is bronze verde, which is made to look like the green of tarnished copper.

The Great Outdoors

The exterior stone and cedar siding is set off by all-copper guttering. Brick edging lines all of the stone on the exterior. The outdoor room, which over looks the 16th hole and 15th green, has a grill and cooking area that is also accented with wood.
As the house came together inside and out, the Mihlfelds began to love their home more and more. There are so many things that they continue to discover they love about their new abode, and much of it is because of the skill and the expertise of those who made the project a home.

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