Let The Games Begin

Just Because You Play A Professional Sport For A Living Doesn't Mean You Don't Like Playing When You're Home … In This Lake Butler Mediterranean Classic, The Fun Doesn't End
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Builder Rial Jones knows Lake Butler Sound — a chain of 12 pristine lakes that meanders in and out of 150 extraordinary home sites. In fact, living there himself, he's also built nearly a third of the sprawling estates dotting the lakes and curving paths of this beautiful Windermere, Fla., community.

And he likes his neighbors. "It's kind of a magnet for the professional athlete," he says. "The single men may prefer Miami, but the families like it here." Pro golfers, baseball and football players, hoops wizards and tennis stars seem to congregate here.

In this athlete's nine-bedroom, 20,000-square-foot home, Jones' task was to maintain Lake Butler Sound's motif of neo-Mediterranean luxury and blend it into the warm and laid-back feel the owners wanted. "We may have incorporated turrets and Spanish arches on the exterior, but using some contemporary lines, we transition to the inside so that the arcade room, the wrestling ring, the hair salon and the bowling alley aren't too much of a leap," he says.

One design feature that works is the positioning of a huge eight-car garage to the rear of the house. With access via a cached drive-through instead of blank garage doors, the front elevation is a stunning series of architectural focal points.

For Wendy Kensler, principal and owner of Design Specifications, this project was pure fun. Passing through the foyer's bank of contemporary stainless steel entry doors by Neoporte and under the arching second-floor bridge, the 24-foot-high living room soars toward one of multiple domes hinting at a Moorish influence. Brilliant twists of glass hang on individual strands to form three jewel-like chandeliers. The fireplace wall becomes art itself in Tennessee fieldstone and floating maple panels, featuring one of the home's 58 televisions and a granite-surround fireplace. Just beyond, the stair tower glows in its own curly maple-clad veneer.

Nearby, the dining room exudes the feel of a medieval wine cellar with its dramatic barrel-vaulted ceiling overhead, and groin vaults and arches at the windows and doors. The coolness of a cave is simulated in the marble floor tiles and the stone touches on the walls. A pair of Terzani's eye-popping chandeliers draped in strands of metal balls hang above the table and chairs. Peeking through the dining room is the children's eating space. With multicolored stripes running riot, each chair is a different color.

"This home wasn't built just for adults," Kensler says. "The owners love to entertain, not just their own friends, but those of their children as well." But even for the grown-ups, whimsy and fun are never far away. Dual bowling lanes with electronic scoring send balls into the mouth of a scary circus clown sculpted by Aztec Scenic Design. Custom graffiti walls created by urban artists, Vitale Art Design, incorporate the family's favorite colors and numbers. One of the biggest challenges for project manager John Fuller was soundproofing the upstairs bowling alley with six layers of rubber and foam in the floor and walls to muffle crashing sounds of ball and pins. A professional billiard table sits in the next alcove, topped by a crimson ceiling and floating abstract forms that hang from stainless steel struts.

Yet nowhere is there more of a draw than the idyllic poolside lagoon. Flanked by a volleyball court, tennis courts and a play area for children, the pool undulates around a romantic hammock island and a sunken Tiki bar. An elaborate stone mountain hides the private grotto, its fire pit and a thrilling water slide.

"The owners are very hip," Kensler says. "They have cool friends, throw cool parties, and their home feels just as young and fun." The perfect blend achieved: fun in the sun right at home sweet home.

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Interior Design
Wendy Kensler and Denise Pfeifer, Design Specifications, Inc., Maitland, FL

Everett & Soule, Altamonte Springs, FL

Text by
Marina Brown