Max Strang Featured In NY Times

By ELAINE LOUIE
Published: August 1, 2012

WINTER HAVEN, Fla.
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A Green Home in Winter Haven, Fla.

CARL J. STRANG JR., the 79-year-old chairman of 6/10 Corporation, a real estate development company here, has always been an environmentalist, of a D.I.Y. sort.

“My father was always careful not to be wasteful,” said Max Strang, 41, the youngest of his five children and an architect who practices in Miami and Telluride, Colo. “He’d save slivers of soap and attempt to bake them in the oven,” in a vain effort to make them congeal.

“He always recycled newspapers, and he had a thing of plastic that was handmade that would crush aluminum cans,” Max said of his father. “In the late ’70s, and into the early ’80s, he would always try to see how far he could go without turning on the air-conditioner, much to the discomfort of the family. He’d try to go into June, when it would be 90.”

Max’s mother, Mary, who died in 1972, might have put up with that, but Sheryll, his father’s third wife, who is now 68, “would have none of that,” Max said.

So in 2005, when the older Mr. Strang finally sold the house in Winter Haven where he had raised his children, he was hoping to build the kind of eco-friendly house he had always dreamed of, he said. But he also “wanted Sheryll to have a comfortable place.”

To her, that meant a modern single-story home that was big enough for plenty of family and friends. In other words, it had to have at least four bedrooms and a 1,000-square-foot kitchen.

With Max as their architect, the couple split the responsibilities for the project according to what they cared about most. “Sheryll was in charge of the aesthetic,” the older Mr. Strang said. “And I was in charge of the systems.”

Together, the three created a 4,200-square-foot home in Winter Haven that is as sleek as it is green. (But not cheap: completed earlier this year, it cost $1.6 million.)

The roof, for example, is green in three ways: it is insulated with Icynene, a spray foam more efficient than fiberglass batting; it is covered with thermoplastic polyolefin, a membrane that reduces heat absorption; and it contains two solar systems, one that feeds directly into the electric grid to offset the energy consumed by the home and another that heats the water in the pool. Not that you could tell that from the outside, though; a three and a half foot parapet conceals everything.

Inside, green amenities include a geothermal system that makes air-conditioning more efficient; floors that are eco-friendly concrete; and an on-demand system heats water only when needed.

The house is minimalist, but warm and welcoming. On a recent Sunday in the space of four hours, six people dropped in. Phil Tanner, Mrs. Strang’s ex-husband, and his wife, Terry, came by to visit Brett Tanner, 42, Mrs. Strang’s younger son, who has cancer and is living with them.

Next up was Webb Tanner, 45, Mrs. Strang’s older son, who lives next door. An hour later, Bud Strang, 56, and his wife, Anita, showed up, and soon after, another brother, John, 54, popped in. (Their sister, Eve, 50, lives nearby and is a frequent visitor as well, and when Max and his family come to town, they stay here.)

Mrs. Strang worked with Susan Oakley, an interior designer in Naples, Fla., to choose the furniture and the color palette, which is mostly white, with shades of cream and brown. She insisted on just one major shot of color: an oxblood-red wall in the powder room.

Max was against it, she said. But she prevailed, just as she did with the air-conditioner nearly 30 years ago.

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