Collaborative custom design at CastleHeights

By Sally Martino

After his divorce, Paul Carenza decided to stay in his 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home in Southington because he loved it.  The custom-built home had a spacious, open floor plan, architectural upgrades and furniture chosen to fit the space.

A few years ago, Carenza decided to explore his housing options. He was close to signing a deal for a new house when an appointment with his optometrist sent him in a different direction. His doctor suggested that Carenza visit Castle Heights of Cheshire, an active-adult community that, when completed, will number 88 homes on 64 sloping acres.

Carenza went directly from his eye exam to the community. I drove through with my eyes dilated and fell in love, he says. The proximity to I-84 and I-691 was a bonus for Carenza, a sales rep who covers New
and Fairfield counties, but the quality and scope of the building and materials were the initial attraction. A lot of the features that were extra in our former home the paver walkways, the sprinkler system, the interior columns and the wide moldings were standard at Castle Heights, he says.

The level of insulation and the natural gas-forced warm air heating system with built-in humidifier and central air conditioning also appealed to Carenza, who moved into his new home three years ago. The detached homes are Five-Star Energy Star-rated buildings that use about 50 percent less energy than a code-built home.

Besides an emphasis on energy-saving, By Carrier, the family-owned construction company in business for two generations, offers a five-year construction warranty. The company has built quality communities throughout Connecticut including the Farmington Valley, Newington, East Lyme and Watertown.

One of the distinguishing features of the CastleHeights community is the custom design. Buyers can cull ideas from the nine concept floor plans illustrated in the information packet, but the final plan is a collaboration between the buyer and George Santos, Castle Heightsbroker who handles sales, marketing and design. Here, we start with pencil and paper, Santos says. Between myself and the customer, we come up with ideas and a plan and then we go to Johnny Carrier, the architect.

The standard concept plans range from 2,000 to 2,900 square feet, although, in striving to meet the customer’s needs and desires, By Carrier has built a home as large as 4,500 square feet in the community. We don’t find that people (who buy here) are really downsizing, Santos says, adding that one couple left their 1,800-square-foot Cape for a 3,000-square-foot home at Castle Heights.

Most buyers attracted to the community are changing their lifestyle, Santos says. Most people here don’t want to sacrifice space, but they are changing the way the space is used. The open floor plan draws buyers who no longer feel the need for separate formal dining and living rooms. Instead, the first-floor living space flows from kitchen to dining area to great room. In the current model home, the dramatic entry foyer soars to an 18-foot-high ceiling and opens to the family room, which has a cathedral ceiling and a natural gas fireplace. Four columns separate the family room from the kitchen and dining room. This main living area also includes a Florida room, a half bath, laundry area and access to the oversized two-car garage.

Architectural details such as wainscoting in the dining room and foyer, a tray ceiling in the first-floor study and crown molding throughout the home add visual interest. The kitchen, which features an island, includes stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and a tile backsplash. A spacious master bedroom leads to an en-suite bathroom with a granite-and-tile European spa shower and a double-sink vanity.

The second floor reflects the layout most popular with buyers, Santos says two bedrooms and an open loft area. In the model home, a bridge hallway, open to the foyer on one side and the family room on the other, connects the two bedrooms and the full bath. There is ample storage, including linen and walk-in closets, throughout the home.

A full basement, which also offers access to the garage, can be finished for more living space. Santos says that, during construction, the lower level can be outfitted, including plumbing for a bathroom, to be finished at a later date.

Santos says that he goes the extra mile to ensure that buyers turn their ideas and needs into reality. I know it sounds corny, but they are not just my customers,they become my good friends, he says. When Santos was working on the plan for Carenza’s home, Carenza expressed concern that certain pieces of his furniture wouldn’t look as though they were made for the interior. Santos says he went to Carenza’s old house to measure the furniture and adjust the plan accordingly. Everything was as perfect as it could be, Carenza says. The furniture fit perfectly.

The community’s perks save time and energy for residents. I say that people have the best of both worlds here, Santos says. You have the freedom of not taking care of the yard and the snow, but if you want to plant a garden or flowers, you can.

The community boasts swaths of open space, including a one-mile nature walk along the Quinnipiac River. Houses offer privacy and room to breathe, says Santos,
because they are not on top of one another. While neighbors have organized pool nights, book groups and dinner clubs, residents can be as involved or as private as they wish.

About 80 percent of the homebuyers to date are under the age of 55, Santos says. The active adult community accepts children under the age of 21 but they can’t live in the development for more than 90 consecutive days, which caters to a college student’s schedule.

About 55 of the 88 planned homes have been sold to date. Construction time is generally about four months, although the By Carrier staff may extend the closing time for customers who must sell their current home first, Santos says.

The model home is open for viewing by appointment or during the open houses, every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Castle Heights is located at 171 Victoria Drive
in Cheshire.