Designing A Product for the
Next Empty-Nest Generation
Designing A Product for the <br>Next Empty-Nest Generation

At McKenzie Collection, we pride ourselves on staying on the cutting edge in the main-level living industry. Our goal is to build homes that exceed the expectations of our buyers, offering the most up-to-date choices in building materials, design and specifications.

With the debut of Mill Ridge Farms at Brooks Park — our first new community since the building industry rebound — we decided the time was right for a fresh look for our product line. To accomplish this, we followed the example of some of the national industry leaders and assembled a team of professionals – a kitchen designer, an interior designer, an architect, realtors, salespeople and subcontractors – and came up with some dynamic ideas for our next line of homes.

Step 1: Assemble a team of design experts

“Collaboration is the key to successful projects,” says Kristin Okeley, owner of Kitchens by Design (KBD), the kitchen designer for the team. “The energy and the experience we all bring to the table makes the process and final outcome that much more brilliant. Working together opens up so much possibility and it’s really exciting to see each of our ideas layer together.”

Team architect Gary Nance, president of Gary Nance Design, says the team design approach is new to the Indianapolis market.  “We will be leading this new design trend,” he predicts. Okeley says she has not been approached by any other local builders to work in this fashion, but was excited when we invited her to be part of this process because teams are an integral part of her business model at KBD. “The synergy is undeniable and essential to why we have grown so much,” she says.

Step 2: Seek out feedback from key industry advisors

The design team created four plans (each with two elevations), preliminary pricing and specifications that were then shared with a focus group of some of Indianapolis’ top realtors. The feedback from realtors helped us determine if the features in our homes were what customers were seeking as well as determining if our price point kept us competitive.

“As agents, we hear comments and opinions all day long,” explains Sylvia Nagy, president of The Nagy Group at Prudential Indiana Realty Group. “The buyers are very vocal about what they like and the value it offers them. By meeting collectively, the main issues can come to the forefront and help the builder hit the most important features for today’s buyer.”

Nagy says buyers are looking for open floor plans and rooms that offer flexible uses (i.e. a dining room that could be another bedroom, den or even a hangout room for grandkids.) She says customers want rooms that are light and bright and are spacious enough to fit their furniture. Another suggestion Nagy made – raising door heights to 8’ from the standard 6’ 8” to take advantage of 10’ ceilings – was a valuable insight that also ended up in our final design.

Step 3: Identify and incorporate ideal details

We were able to take the feedback we received from these varying viewpoints and use it to create a product line that we feel is one of the best we’ve offered. In keeping with the motif of the Brooks Park development, the new elevations feature a unique “horse-country” style and the interiors are full of cutting-edge ideas and design concepts. Our floor plans are open, our standard specifications are upgraded and full of new color and material choices, and the architectural detail inside and out is impressive. We’ve incorporated more universal design features into our standard plans—such as no-threshold showers, wider doorways and task lighting in the kitchen—and are offering new flooring ideas, new countertop materials and more flexibility in our room options.

My goal is to design a floor plan that flows smoothly and has great sight lines and ample daylight with custom details,” explains Nance. “The exterior elevations need to be timeless in a design and have the right architectural proportions.”

Nance is also excited about the interior spaces. “The living and kitchen areas are designed differently than anyone has seen in this market,” he says. Our living-area rooms offer multiple uses while our kitchen spaces, designed by Okeley, offer innovative twists on the standard upper and lower cabinet kitchen design, incorporating shelves and windows to create interest and efficiency.

“When I look at a plan, I look for flow of energy from one space to the next, “ explains Okeley. “Certain things feel better than others when it comes to that energy…it’s not something people see but more what they feel.”

Step 4: Open the door for homeowners

Another great benefit to customers in the Brooks Park community is that they will receive assistance from Okeley with their interior design as well as their kitchen design. She will be able to help customers with color and material selections, as well as window treatments and accessories. Nagy predicts this will be a big selling point for customers. “I love the designer help,” she says. “Having professional guidance there should help the whole process.”

Although using a integrated team process to create a new product line takes more time and effort than traditional in-house design, we feel confident that the extra work is worth it.  We have a product that’s been refined through many different channels and perspectives and the best ideas have come through. We have a great partnership with our industry professionals and subcontractors and plan to use a similar process to create products for several of our upcoming communities as well.

Our hope is that customers will look at our new home line and easily be able to envision themselves living there. We invite you to come see our new look and share in the excitement of the future of the McKenzie Collection!

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