Tropical Oasis of Culture

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On the banks of the gulf coast, in Naples’ exclusive Port Royal community, this 13,000-square-foot home, despite its stature, yields a livable and cozy essence, achieved by the incorporation of warm tones along with high open spaces artfully distinguished and individually celebrated. The homeowners discovered this gem while searching for a place with enough waterfront suitable for their yacht, Top Dog. Nestled on a beautiful piece of property with breathtaking views, this diamond in the rough was in need of a lot of love and major reconstruction.

The search was on for a design team to anticipate the owners’ tastes and style while working with a very aggressive schedule for completion. The couple reached out to close friend and builder Mike Vitte. Up for the challenge, Vitte met with interior designer Ruta Menaghlazi (formerly with Freestyle Interiors), architect Jon Kukk and the homeowners to brainstorm ideas to complete this project in time for the holidays. Although the project was considered a renovation, the home was completely gutted. “It was originally designed [for us] not to take it down,” Vitte says. “When we opened it up, I just flat out knew we could not build on this. The house had been remodeled four times.”

Yet the residence, a secondary home for the owners, retained its original Polynesian flavor starting with the exterior. “The peaked entry area was probably the one part of house that was left standing. Most everything was replaced,” Menaghlazi says. “Basically, we kept the bones of the house and used all new finishes to modernize it.” The design team collaborated for 13 months on the transformation of this large-scale property into a contemporary home that pays homage to Bali-style architecture with a creative touch of West Indian influence.

Avid collectors of art and antiquities, the couple came to the table with collected photos from their world travels, images from design magazines, and a passion for contemporary as well as traditional art from around the world. An eclectic mix of items from photographs to antiques — referencing the homeowners’ penchant for Japanese, Chinese and African influences — effortlessly commands the spotlight. Upon entry, a 2,000-year-old Oriental bronze horse bolted to the foyer table is a guest’s first welcome to the home.

From here, a gallery of art begins to weave an intriguing story that flows throughout as walnut wood flooring leads the way into the living room. Brigitte Bardot by photographer Terry O’Neil easily wows the conversation in the intimate atmosphere. Rich walnut paneling travels 12 feet up the wall to facilitate more of a human scale, while high windows accentuate the height of the ceiling and bring in natural lighting. The balance of the wall and ceiling look like they’re floating, suspended much like the bronze Henge ring LED lights that circle the space.

The tray ceiling in the kitchen, one of four in the house, mirrors the stepped look of the custom front door panels. “It defines the space while adding architectural interest with dimension and texture,” the designer says. Though functional, the minimalist kitchen remains streamlined with all appliances housed in cabinetry crafted of fumed eucalyptus with a piano finish. In the nearby breakfast area, Menaghlazi wanted to give the family a place to gather and enjoy casual meals. Large enough to seat 10, the Carrara marble table comes in at 7 feet in diameter, outfitted with a custom Lazy Susan.

Steps away, an eye-catching stainless steel and glass stairway emerges as walnut treads climb a wall of textured silver travertine. Dream of Mexico by American pop artist Jim Dine contributes a brilliant splash of color to the family room bathed in dramatic lighting cast from floating beams that support a high-peaked ceiling.

In the dining room, Mankind 2 by photographer David Yarrow takes center stage. A tribal essence pervades the space bolstered by vintage shed water buffalo horns from Indonesia configured into sculptures to the right, as well as a male head sculpted of black serpentine and a female sculpture made from African jade to the left.

Massive in size, the master bedroom becomes intimate with architectural interest, warm woods and soft lighting — particularly evident with the custom-designed poster bed complete with white linen sheers for privacy. In this instance, the ceiling serves as the focal point as the eyes are instantly drawn to the high-pitched walnut beams with raffia insets.
The couple’s affinity for the West Indies style carries outside to the lanai. “You see the canoe, I bought that years ago even before I started building this house,” the husband says. “I had taken my family up the East Coast, somewhere around Nantucket, and I came across this old canoe hanging from the ceiling of an antique store. I told my captain, ‘We’re going to take it back to Naples. I’m going to turn it upside down, put lights in it and hang it in my West Indies-style lanai.’” And that’s exactly what he did. Just beyond the lanai, the pool area celebrates Florida living with a view of the couple’s other passion, the sea … but that’s a story for another day.

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