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Innovative Products and Smart Solutions | 2021 Cottage Community

Custom builder Jerry Effren set out to build the TOH Cottage Community using the highest-quality, lowest-maintenance building materials available, for easy care and ease of living. Read on to learn more about them.​

Smarter Siding

Norwalk Cottages, Idea House 2021, Reveal Erin Little

​Effren opted for an exceptionally durable engineered siding that looks like wood, but it’s weather-, termite- and rot-resistant and requires very little maintenance. He selected a smooth finish vertical siding (above left) and a cedar-textured lap siding (above right) for a contemporary cottage look.

Siding: LP SmartSide

Dimensional look, extra protection

Norwalk Cottages, Idea House 2021, Reveal Erin Little

On the roof, architectural shingles feature an enhanced shadow effect for a genuine wood-shake look. They’re constructed for faster and more accurate installation and superior wind-uplift performance, critical in the northeast, where hurricane-force winds are not entirely uncommon. ​

Shingles: Timberline HDZ Shingles in Charcoal by GAF

Protected Gutters—and Safer Homeowners ​

Norwalk Cottages, Idea House 2021, Reveal Erin Little

Clogged gutters can lead to a variety of issues, from leaks and mold to soffit rot. Not to mention that climbing up a ladder to clean those gutters presents a real safety hazard. These professionally-installed stainless-steel micro mesh gutter guards will allow water to pass through while keeping fallen leaves freely and other debris out—so the homeowners will never have to climb a ladder again. ​

Gutter guards: All Weather Armour

Strong steel doors​

Norwalk Cottages, Idea House 2021, Reveal Erin Little

Single-car garages separate the units. These doors feature the traditional symmetry of wood stile-and-rail doors but are made of three-layer steel. The core is filled with polyurethane foam insulation to keep the space warmer in winter and cooler in summer. ​

Garage doors: Clopay

Outdoor enhancements

Idea House 2021, Norwalk Cottages, Reveal Tim Lee

Out back, a maintenance-free fence separates the units and provides privacy. And this inviting pergola provides a shaded gathering spot for the units to share. The fence and pergola are both made of cellular PVC, so they won’t need restaining, repairing or replacing for years to come.​

Fence, pergola: Walpole Outdoors

Easy—and attractive—egress

Idea House 2021, Norwalk Cottages, Reveal Erin Little

The property slopes downward toward the back, allowing for additional usable living space and storage in the basement. Terraced-step design egress window wells make it easy to escape in case of emergency, and they can be filled with plants or flowers to create a nice view for the lower-level spaces. ​

Window wells: The BILCO Company

Larger-item access

Norwalk Cottages, Idea House 2021, Reveal Erin Little

A double basement door provides code-compliant egress and easy access to bikes, gear, and seasonal items. Heavy gauge steel construction and sturdy concealed hinges ensure all-weather operation. ​

Basement door: The BILCO Company

Controlled comfort

Idea House 2021, Norwalk Cottages, Reveal Tim Lee

Each cottage features two compressors to power separate first and second-floor air-conditioning zones. These variable speed air conditioning units are impressively quiet and efficient, providing multi-stage, precision control, and automatically adjusting the temperature while maintaining speeds to avoid temperature swings. Wi-fi-enabled thermostats are easily operable from a smartphone, tablet, or computer, which makes adjusting the temperature a breeze from just about anywhere.​

HVAC: Trane

Screened-in serenity

Idea House 2021, Norwalk Cottages, Reveal Erin Little

On the main level just off the living room, each unit features a lovely screened-in porch that’s perfect for dining alfresco. A pair of skylights overhead bring in sky views and natural light, and a ceiling fan keeps the fresh air circulating. The floor and ceiling are constructed of weather-resistant synthetic materials, so it’s designed for “almost” year-round enjoyment.​

Skylights: VELUX; Ceiling fan: Modern Forms, from Chloe Winston Lighting Design; Porch floor and ceiling board: Aeratis

Three-Pronged Approach to Better IAQ

Idea House 2021, Norwalk Cottages, Reveal Erin Little

Homes today are built to be ever more tightly-sealed to conserve energy, save money, and maintain comfort. But this sealed-up environment can create unintended consequences: without an exchange of fresh air, toxins from things like cooking vapors, cleaning products, VOC’s and viruses can build up and pose health concerns, and excess moisture can cause mold and mildew.

To combat this, Effren opted for a strategic mix of mechanical ventilation products to create a healthier indoor environment:​ ​(1) An energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to increase whole-home air flow; (2) a high-powered range hood designed to efficiently—and quietly—clear the kitchen of cooking odors and smoke; (3) a variety of bathroom ventilation fans; the fan shown here removes excess moisture while providing much-needed light.

Ventilation products: Panasonic

Circuits that tell a story

Idea House 2021, Norwalk Cottages, Reveal Tim Lee

Effren installed a load center with smart circuit breakers to monitor the real-time energy consumption of anything plugged into their branch circuit; he can then use a free app to evaluate energy consumption, remotely control any circuit breaker, and view system status in real time to detect if any critical loads need to be addressed. ​

Load center, smart circuit breakers: Leviton

Setting the scene

Idea House 2021, Norwalk Cottages, Reveal Tim Lee

While you may have seen a lot of smart switches that turn lights on and off, the Effrens installed smart dimmers. These WiFi-enabled switches connect to a free app, allowing the user to orchestrate scenes—so you can ask Alexa for ‘Dinner Time,’ ‘Movie Night,’ or ‘Cocktail Party,’ and get perfectly dimmed mood lighting every time. ​

Smart dimmers: Leviton

Enlightened spaces

Idea House 2021, Norwalk Cottages, Reveal Erin Little

Effren became a fan of these sun tunnel skylights when he installed them into his own home, the 2020 Farmhouse in Fairfield County. Says Effren, “They bring an incredible amount of natural daylight down from the roof into the innermost spaces, like this window-less hallway and master suite closet.” ​​

Sun Tunnel Skylights: VELUX

Return to the Idea House landing page to see more of the Cottage Community! ​