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5,300 square feet of ideas

If you haven't had your fill of splendiferous houses this summer, here's another. Southern Living magazine is sponsoring an "idea house" in the community of Lake Forest in Sanford, just east of Orlando. It's a 5,300-square-foot home, styled like a European chateau, built by Signature Homes of Longwood. The house is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $3; part of the proceeds benefits the Florida Hospital Foundation. To get to the idea house, take Interstate 4 east to Exit 51. Turn left on State Road 46 and travel about three-quarters of a mile. Lake Forest is on the right. More information: (407) 322-5253.

Read before you buy

Shopping for new appliances? Before you head for the stores, take a look at Home Appliance Buying Guide from Consumer Reports Books (236 pages, $8.95; at bookstores or order from (800) 500-9760). Everything from breadmaking machines to refrigerators, garage-door openers to vacuum cleaners gets the usual, thorough Consumer Reports going-over here. There are brand-name ratings and discussions of product safety, convenience and durability. Are the new "smart" dishwashers better than regular ones? Are convection portable heaters better than radiant heaters? What should you know about the new CFC-free refrigerators? The answers, and lots of other information, are all here.

The women of the house

Women are often the ones at home during a remodeling project, trying to run the house and prepare meals in all the mess and disarray. So a smart remodeler will go out of his (or her) way to keep that female client happy, remodeler Daniel E. Ashline told a workshop at the Southeast Builders Conference this month. Ashline, owner of the St. Petersburg remodeling company that bears his name, offered these tips. (Homeowners, is this how your contractor operates? If not, why not?)

Find out what's really important to your female client and then find a way to incorporate it into the project.

Don't talk just to the husband. Ashline insists that both members of a couple be present at initial meetings. "It's real important that we're all on the same plane," he said. "There are going to be problems on the job if the clients don't have a clear understanding of what each one wants."

Take time to explain what you're doing, how things work and what's going to happen next. "I've found women are very receptive to that," Ashline said, especially those who have no background in home repair or construction.

"Remodeling is usually such a negative experience that when someone has a positive experience, word really spreads," Ashline said. He had five phone calls in a recent week "for fairly large jobs, and every one was a female contact."

_ Compiled by Homes Editor JUDY STARK