Home for a downsized economy unveiled

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The notice on the Web site for the International Builders Show, being held in Las Vegas this week, pretty much says it all:

"As a result of tight credit and a soft market for high-end homes in Las Vegas, The New American Home 2010 will not be completed in time for tours during the International Builders' Show (IBS). It is the first time in the 27-year history of the program that the home will not be completed on time."

Into that softer market comes the latest dwelling from minimalist designer Marianne Cusato dubbed, appropriately it seems, "The New Economy Home." Unveiled at the show Tuesday morning with a virtual tour, the three-bedroom, three-bath home is 1,800 square feet -- including an "adaptable" room intended to flex over time, from a family room to an office, a fourth bedroom or a separate apartment.

Walking WalletPop through the tour, Cusato said the house's theme begins with its wide front porch: "Keep it simple," she said. "Put the budget where you can touch and feel it. Where you can actually experience it, in a way that makes it really livable."

At last year's International Builders' Show, "everybody was in shellshock" because of the radical downturn, Cusato said. "This year we're hoping that with this house we can start a dialogue about where are we and where are we headed."

Past WalletPop posts about smaller homes drew plenty of dialogue, along with some howls from those who love their larger ones. One stream of commentors declared downsizing "un-American." But Boyce Thompson, editorial director of Builder Magazine, thinks the future supply of homes will almost certainly include fewer McMansions.

"We're not likely to see a return anytime soon to median new home sizes at the peak of the boom," Boyce told WalletPop. "Why? Because much of the inflation in home sizes was driven by ready access to cheap financing. The worldwide financial collapse took a pin to that balloon."
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