Best of the Best: Winners of the 2017 Best in American Living Awards

A rectangular-shaped living room, painted white and filled with white furniture and decor items.

This year’s Best in American Living Awards Home of the Year, the Swann Wynd Bridge House in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga., was designed by Rhinehart Pulliam & Company, developed by Serenbe Development and built by Bynum Custom Home. Photo by Emily Jenkins Followill Photographer and Gabriel Benzur Photographer.

This winter, as they do each year, The National Association of Home Builders recognized best-in-class designers in their Best of American Living Awards program. The awards went to top entries in home and community design and interior design.

While the awards were for 2016’s best submissions, they reflect upcoming trends, with an eye toward designs that will influence choices for 2017’s homes.

The predominant theme among the winners is international influence, with judges seeing entries styled with sophisticated elements often found in Europe, like dark doors and window frames, board-and-batten exteriors, natural wood beams and ceilings and space-saving storage options.

Home of the Year

Among the most coveted awards is Home of the Year, which this year was taken by the team that created the 
Swann Wynd Bridge House in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga. Designed by Rhinehart Pulliam & Company, developed by Serenbe Development and built by Bynum Custom Homes, the house complements its neighborhood at a modest size of 2,475 sq. ft. Too often, new homes dwarf their neighbors, but in this case, the architects were conscientious of the community. Judges commented on the “beautiful, unusually rustic mix of materials,” a design approach we highlighted in our story, Interior Design Trends for 2017. The rustic/modern mix extends to the outdoors as well, where a traditional English garden rambles beside tall manicured hedges.

Multi-Family Community of the Year 

Winfield Gate of Houston, Texas, took home the prize for Multi-Family Community of the Year. Designed to echo Winfield House, the American ambassador’s neo-Georgian residence in London, the building’s 20 townhomes offer urban living at its finest. The building, designed by Preston Wood & Associates and built and developed by Winfield Gate Partners, has a lush central courtyard and is only 10 minutes from downtown. Perhaps the community’s biggest accomplishment is that it appears timeless, like it has been there for a century. Homeowners and visitors can experience the comforts of modern design and lifestyle features without giving up the classic qualities of a building that feels historic.

Single-Family Community 


Heritage Sands in Dennis Port, Mass., was this year’s pick for best Single-Family Community. Designers Union Studio Architecture & Community Design created a light and airy oceanfront neighborhood that shows off classic Cape Cod characteristics borrowed from colonial-era England. The builder, Keiser Homes, incorporated modular elements and practical, energy-efficient technologies. The friendly, expansive porches are a nod to the seasonal cottages that once occupied the site. 

One of a Kind Spec Home

One of the most interesting regional winners was a single-family home named 
Carolina, located in Robbinsville, N.C. Florida architect Phil Keane designed the house on a mere 600-square-foot footprint to minimize the impact on the surrounding woodlands and address a difficult, sloped site. To achieve the space the homeowners needed, he looked up: the home’s three stories boast two bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, a large top-level loft, big balconies and a two-car garage. Builder Ken LaRoe used recycled wood, and in a particularly innovative twist, repurposed bowling alley lanes as countertops. The project also won an American Residential Design Awards from the American Institute of Building Design.

Room of the Year

If one winner most reflected trends in interior design, it was the aptly named “
Fifty Shades of Grey” master suite in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Wetherlys Interiors used the warmth of wood flooring finishes and the sheen of metallics to bring the grey suite to life. While the combined bedroom and bathroom are tranquil, they are also animated by rich upholstery, antiqued mirrors and lots of texture. The bed and bathtub are designed as focal points, commanding the eye upon entry of the space. A fun, convenient feature that makes the suite a true escape: a breakfast bar.

The Game Changer

For the first time, the BALA judges recognized a “Game Changer” noted for spurring innovative ideas: 
Centriq Technology, Inc. was recognized for its home management platform that creates a personalized, digital user manual for any home. The app transforms every home into a smart home by providing the homeowner with product user manuals, maintenance schedules, troubleshooting guides, spec sheets, sources for parts and supplies for maintenance and repair and how-to videos for every part of the home from appliances and fixtures to electrical and plumbing. The app even offers how-to videos from experts. 

For new home construction, builders or sellers can add other home-specific information, like receipts, paint colors, the location of pipes and wiring, warranties, inspection reports and contact information for service providers or subcontractors who have worked on the home. The app is an incredible asset for new homeowners still finding their footing in their home, as well as homeowners with a few years under their belt looking to maintain their homes.

Sarah Ristorcelli is a freelance writer and editor for leading print and online publications. Formerly editor in chief of Garden Design, she has also written and edited for Cottage Living, Modern magazine and Orlando Arts. You can find her on Google+.

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