At HomeArama, which opens Saturday at Cheval in Mint Hill, all six of the showhouses feature open kitchens with eye-catching islands as centerpieces. In four of the six, cabinets are painted gray. Both the layouts and colors reflect today’s favorite family trends.

One lesson for visitors, who turn to the showcase for ideas and inspiration, is how different the kitchens look and feel. A subtle undertone in color, a subdued instead of sparkling backsplash, will personalize the heart of the home.

It’s like accessorizing a classic gray suit, so it serves you perfectly. “Absolutely,” said Diane Austin, who represents Cheval developer Keith Paris. “And the homes, the kitchens, the outside spaces, the … multigenerational spaces, are perfectly designed for how people live their lives today.”

HomeArama, the region’s largest showcase of furnished and decorated new homes, is hosted by the Home Builders Association of Charlotte. Builders this year are Evans Coghill Homes, Grandfather Homes, Classica Homes, Arthur Rutenberg Homes and Bellamy Homes.

Gray also is a dominant color throughout the showcase. (The master suite in the Grandfather home is Sherwin-Williams’ “Dorian Gray,” a fun play on the classic story.) Notice that some grays feel warm – call them honey grays – and others feel cool because of blue and green undertones. Another lesson if you’re going to work gray into your own decor.

Kitchen and great-room floors in all the homes are hardwood, and five of the six are prefinished, hand-scraped – and dark. Builders and designers say hardwood is the overwhelming choice in kitchens in today’s open plans to enhance the continuity of the open spaces.

There’s a lot of oversize ceramic tile in bathrooms, especially in striated and linen patterns. On some, the finishes are so warm and soft that you’ll want to reach out and touch them. Notice the different ways the popular 12-by-24-inch tiles are installed: The staggered, or running bond pattern, is considered more traditional; the straight lay, with corners touching as on a checkerboard, seems more contemporary. For tile of all sizes on walls and backsplashes, horizontal is more traditional, while vertical is more contemporary. (And you’ll discover both.)

Throughout the showcase, great-room doors open wide to inviting outdoor spaces. Really wide: Doors slide into pockets or fold accordion style to open entire walls.

Five of the homes are on a leafy street in Cheval, just south of downtown Mint Hill. The final house is a free shuttle ride away on the other side of the 423-acre equestrian community ( The shuttle also will tour pocket parks and the 50-acre Joli Cheval Equestrian Center.

The streetscape blends styles from lodge to bungalow, from Old World stucco to European country estate. In other words, it offers a mix like those on streets in Charlotte’s most cherished historic neighborhoods. That’s by design, said Austin, who’s president of Builder Developer Advisors Inc.

Homes range in size from almost 4,000 to more than 5,000 square feet. They’re priced from about $550,000 to $943,250. Highlights from each house:

Evans Coghill Homes, 5 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, 4,129 square feet. Price: $779,000.

The exterior is a study in earth tones, with stone combined with fiber cement shakes and siding painted gray. Even at its generous size, it has lots of cottage appeal.

A large skylight – solar-powered and remote-controlled – fills the great room with light.

There’s no bathtub in the master suite on the main floor, an arrangement you’ll notice in another of the showhouses. Instead, there’s an oversize spa shower. Perhaps half of Evans Coghill’s buyers choose that arrangement, said company partner Alan Banks.

Eight-foot doors on the main floor are common throughout HomeArama. In this house, they’re painted the color of the walls, to reduce the expanse of white trim.

Grandfather Homes, 4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, 5,325 square feet. Price: $925,000.

This lodge-like home features rustic pine siding from the mountains of North Carolina. It’s hand-sculpted to add even more appeal, said Grandfather’s Matt Ewers.

In the kitchen, the centerpiece is the island with a top of wormy chestnut stained dark walnut. It looks like fine furniture. The remaining countertops are made of quartzite that resembles Calcutta marble.

There’s a scullery tucked between the kitchen and dining room – complete with another sink, refrigerator and dishwasher.

Be sure to look up in the master suite. The bedroom ceiling is covered in wood trim installed in a herringbone pattern. The shower in the master bath is fully automatic – and water spills into the tub from the ceiling.

Classica Homes, 5 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, 4,582 square feet. Price: $751,077.

The exterior of this home, the first of two Classica homes on the tour, is tan stucco that complements the classic European style. A two-way fireplace is tucked between the dining room and great room.

In the master suite, find another “two-way” configuration: The bath features vanities placed back-to-back against a wall that divides the room. On one side, a vanity and shower; on the other side, vanity and tub. Much more private than the typical configuration.

The master bedroom extends from the house and has windows on three sides. “That fills the room with light,” said Classica’s Bill Saint.

Arthur Rutenberg Homes, 4 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, 3,965 square feet. Price: $825,000.

The stone facade and rocking-chair front porch add welcoming touches to the exterior.

Inside, the dominant colors in the house, which has been open as a Rutenberg model, are lime greens and clear blues. Blue mosaic tiles sparkle from the fireplace surround in the great room, the backsplash in the kitchen – and the wet bar tucked between those two spaces.

The master suite on the main floor offers both a tub and large shower – and an imposing walk-in closet.

Upstairs there’s a vaulted bonus room at the top of the curved staircase. The central flex space on the second floor is finished as a kids’ study area, with homework space and chalkboard walls. Adjacent unfinished attic space stretches for 28 feet. All that versatile space could be used for office, playroom or exercise room, said Rutenberg’s Mitch Genda.

Bellamy Homes, 5 bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, 4,464 square feet. Price: $943,250.

There’s lots of stained and natural wood on this house, inside and out. “We were going for the equestrian look, in keeping with the theme of the neighborhood,” said Bellamy’s Frank Hereda.

The house has more flourishes, more over-the-top touches than the other homes. For instance, there’s the “leathered” granite on the countertops. It’s textured like a favorite old leather club chair.

This is the only house that doesn’t have painted kitchen cabinets. Instead, they’re alder stained to a medium hue, allowing grain to peek through. The island cabinetry is maple, stained almost charcoal.

Upstairs in the master suite a clawfoot soaking tub sits in the center of the master bathroom, tucked against a stone accent wall. Above the tub there’s a stone mosaic barrel ceiling.

Classica Homes, 6 bedrooms, 5 1/2 baths, 4,317 square feet. Price: $550,000.

This Classica home offers the company’s elegantly friendly style, with a twist: It’s laid out as a “flex-gen” home, with a suite to accommodate multiple-generation living.

On the main floor, Classica carved out about 500 square feet for bedroom, bathroom, living room and efficiency kitchen. There’s not a stove, but everything else is here for independent living. It’s close to the family spaces, but private.

Walls in the suite are soundproofed. The ceiling is, too (because grandkids might play overhead). There are separate heating and cooling controls.

A wide door opening is framed inside the wall that separates the suite from the entry hall. That’s so the suite can be opened up to the house as family needs change, Classica’s Bill Saint said.

The houses feature energy-saving and technical touches that you might miss. For instance:

• At the Evans Coghill house, when those doors are thrown open, the owner can screen in the porch at the touch of a button. Roll-up screens drop via remote control.

• Evans Coghill and Bellamy homes are equipped with a remote controlled, solar-powered skylight. The skylights also feature rain sensors, to close automatically when weather threatens.

•  Solar light tubes from Velux spill natural light into secondary bathrooms in the Grandfather house. The touch brightens the rooms, and provides natural light for putting on makeup. Master shower controls are fully digital with a touch screen.

• Also in the Grandfather house, water heaters in the attic and crawlspace are linked together with a small recirculating pump to provide instant hot water at all outlets.

• In the Rutenberg house, kitchen cabinets are made without formaldehyde glues and finished with water-based paint. There’s no off gassing. Recessed lighting throughout is energy-saving LED.

Charlotte Observer. (2013, November 11). HomeArama open through Nov. 24 at Cheval in Mint Hill. Author: Allen Norwood. Retrieved from