On the Parade of Homes, orange is the new red


With 110 models on the 2016 Parade of Homes, it can be hard to remember what’s what and who’s who.


No matter how well the house is built, when it comes to getting shoppers to remember it, the interior designers and “model merchandisers” are key players.

Neal Communities' Ovation model in Windwood, Venice. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 2-22-2016.

Neal Communities' Ovation model in Windwood, Venice. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 2-22-2016.

The house designers also play important roles in creating “memory points,” such as the grand staircase in the entry of Lee Wetherington Homes’ Stillwater model near Riverview High School, or the courtyard inside the front door of Todd Johnston Homes’ Casa Bella model on Prospect Street in Sarasota.


“Typically, we gear our models toward a particular buyer,” said Kathy Forinash, design gallery director for Neal Communities. In Neal’s Windwood community off Laurel Road near Nokomis, the Ovation model is a Parade of Homes entry, and it is not likely to be forgotten.

Decorated with bright orange accents on neutral backgrounds (including a lot of gray), it was designed with younger buyers in mind.

“This one was a family buyer,” Forinish said. “We go a little more extreme with our colors because that is what the young people like. They are a little more daring with their colors than our empty-nester buyers.

“You remember that model as the orange model. We used touches of it, and even pulled it into the blends in our brick wall.”

In the foyer, there’s a bookshelf with ceramic dachshund bookends — the books held up by the front end and the back end of the dog. They’re orange.

The bathroom has orange wallpaper. The dining-room chairs are orange. The easy chair in the living room is white with orange stitching. The sectional sofa is gray — but the pillows are orange.

OK, so maybe the intended buyer is a Gator family. Certainly not a Seminole family.

Next door, the Applause, which is not in the Parade of Homes, is decorated with aquas and blues. It is designed for empty-nesters.

“We use very neutral walls with medium wood floors throughout the entire house,” Forinash said of both models. “Where we bring in the color is with our drapery panels, pillows and art. Those are easy to interchange. Many of our buyers go that route, picking neutrals for counter tops, and white kitchen cabinets that can go with any color.”

Neal Communities' Ovation model in Windwood, Venice. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 2-22-2016.

Neal Communities' Ovation model in Windwood, Venice. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 2-22-2016.

While Forinash is responsible for fixtures and finishes — she says quartz counter tops are dominating the market — in the Neal models, Charlene Neal is in charge of décor. The wife of company president Pat Neal goes to market in Atlanta two or three times a year and brings back the latest trends in color, fabrics and furnishings.

Forinash said the art of blending finishes and fixtures with colors and furnishings in a model is called programming.

“When we program the model, we actually put a buyer in the house. This guy likes to golf; this guy likes to fish; this couple likes to travel,” Forinish said. “You will find pieces of that programming throughout the home, so when buyers walk in, they feel that they could live there. That is the whole idea.

“We mix up the colors a lot because we want our houses to feel different. We want to have people walk in and remember the model, and they remember it by that color palette.”

At the recent International Builders Show in Las Vegas, Forinash said, she did not see vendors selling granite counters.

“Everything was quartz. They are coming up with so many new ideas, and can duplicate the real thing so easily that you are getting a much better product with quartz.”

Silestone and Zodiac are well-known quartz counter makers, the latter product used by Neal.

“Everything is much cleaner in design now; not a lot of frills,” Forinash said. “Very clean. Color palettes are more muted, a little cooler.”

Except, of course, in the orange model.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: February 26, 2016
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