Tuscan Treasure

Odessa home takes its cue from Italy

The exterior features a thick layer of Archistone and a roof made of a triple layer of clay tiles.

“I love South Tampa but I have always wanted more space,” this former South Tampa resident says of her previous life south of Kennedy Boulevard. Fast-forward many years and now she and her husband are happily enjoying country living in their new lakefront home in Odessa.

At the end of a curving lane, this handsome Italian country home sits on a spacious lakefront lot surrounded by woods and meadows. “For about eight years, we were going to Italy two or three times a year and we got to know a lot of people there. I have always wanted to build an Italian style home but one designed after a country house. We wanted simple, elegant lines; not a villa or a palace, just simple Tuscan lines,” the homeowner says.

An authentic design

The exterior of the home is coated with a thick layer of Archistone, a surfacing product made of ground stone that was applied to the block walls by Kat Stucco. The beauty of this product is the way it ages over time. On the inside foyer of the home, the walls were treated with the same process then scored to look like large stone blocks. The wife, a former professional faux finish artist, had initially planned to paint the walls herself to achieve this effect but realized that she could get an even better texture without having to step one foot on scaffolding.

A marble-topped, 18th century chest accented by a Trumeau mirror, hand-made and painted by the wife, and a round wooden table she finished with a tortoise shell finish, enhance the aged appearance of the room.

Beautiful reclaimed lumber floors were used in most of the public areas of this home. The 250-year-old salvaged pine planks were milled to size at Robbins Lumber, a family-owned local lumber company, and installed by Oakleaf Flooring. “We loved the texture of the old wood. We even left all the old nail holes,” the homeowner says. The floors were waxed instead of varnished to maintain their true appearance. The only maintenance required is annual waxing to keep the protective wax coat.

To achieve the thick walled look of an Italian country home, the structure of the house was built with double thickness concrete blocks. This allowed the windows to be recessed both inside and out creating the wide windowsills typical of older European homes. It also meant the wooden shutters on the house could be fully operational, designed to close easily into the recessed windows should the need arise to secure the house. George Smith, a retired local architect, designed the home after the homeowners lured him out of retirement. “We begged him to take it on,” she says laughing. “He finally agreed saying it would be his ‘swan song.’” South-Co Construction, owned by family member Jimmy Watson, built the 5,800-square-foot home.

Lastly, the triple layer, tile roof was designed after the Italian fashion. Using hand made clay tiles from Columbia, the first layer was put down upside down in a “U” position in a bed of thick mortar mud. The next layer of tiles was laid over that in the standard, inverted U form with thick layers of roofing “mud” oozing out, followed by a third layer in a similar fashion. The end result is roof that it looks like it could have been built by Italian artisans two hundred years ago. It took the homeowners a long time to find a roofing company with the expertise and experience to do this project. Installed by Shields Roofing, this incredible roof is the ultimate tribute to Italian design.

The foyer walls are covered in Archistone that was scored to look like large stone blocks.

Serene interiors

With two guest bedrooms and adjoining bathrooms on the second level, most of the living in this home happens on the ground floor. The design of the home is only one room’s depth in thickness with angled wings off on either side. This means that nearly every room in the house has a view of the beautiful pool, lawn and garden area and the sparkling lake beyond. To the right of the foyer, a peaceful sitting room with eclectic furnishings and a grand piano is a favorite place to read and relax. Also part of this wing, the master bedroom, simply painted in a clear sky blue creates a restful, serene space. The master bath, featuring elegant white marble counters, floors, bath and shower against the same clear blue has a spa-like ambiance.

“Michael Meloy was my designer on this house,” the homeowner says. “What really impressed me is that not only did Michael have wonderful abilities and talent but he was able to make this house really look like my house. It really reflects me.” In addition, Meloy’s expertise shows up in the beautiful antique rugs found throughout the home.

Much of the furniture pieces found in this home are antiques from France and Italy. Other pieces such as the foyer table, the homeowner bought locally and refinished to fit her style. The large dining room table and round kitchen table were custom built for this home from reclaimed wood by Mike Bell, Inc., a company specializing in custom and reproduction furniture.

Having the appropriate lighting was a vital piece of the design puzzle. For that the homeowner turned to Marilyn Checkver at Biscayne Lighting, a 61-year-old, locally-owned company. “I had worked with Marilyn on my other home and liked her very much,” the homeowner says. “She would have all the selections pulled for me and she knows exactly what I liked.”

For this home, iron chandeliers by Schoenbek, with handcut crystal drops, fit the bill in the foyer, the dining room and the living room. “As artists, we fed off each other so this was a thrilling project for me,” Checkver says.

For the family room, Checkver found an iron chandelier that was perfect for the wife to weave deer antlers through for a more rustic feel; a loving tribute to her husband who is an avid hunter. Antique olive jars were repurposed into lovely matching table lamps. The family room, a comfortable room with a large fireplace that is located off the kitchen, serves as a family gathering place. Hand water colored etchings of Florida birds, by favorite local artist John Costin, are prominently displayed in this room and throughout the home.

One of the favorite rooms in the house is the kitchen. Pecan-stained wood cabinetry sets off the black granite countertops, creatively designed and installed with a flat, scored edge making it appear to be fresh from the quarry. Stone floor tiles laid in a French weave pattern sport rough-cut edges for a natural look. Stainless steel appliances meet every cook’s need—from the large Wolf gas cooktop and oven to the spacious double Sub-Zero refrigerators.

Italian-inspired gardens

No Italian home is complete without gardens and this home is no exception. At the front of the house, this homeowner’s love of roses is evidenced by the large circular formal rose garden centering around a splashing cupid fountain. This vast, fragrant collection is carefully tended by Tim Myers, a graduate in horticulture studies. Blue Wave Irrigation installed all of the specialty irrigation systems used throughout the property. The drip irrigation system used on the roses helps keep the plants healthy by watering the roots while avoiding water on the foliage. It also helps conserve water by reducing wasted overspray that evaporates in the summer heat.

Landscape architect Shirley Pearsall designed the formal Italian style landscape, complete with potted urns and Italian cypress, working closely with Judy McMullen, who helped with the plant material and installation.

From the thick walls and custom roof tiles, to one room deep design of the home, from the lovely cupid design insets on the high walls to the potted Meyer lemon trees situated around the pool, this home is a testament to these homeowners love of old Italy and their commitment to authenticity in the construction of their home. However, they may have done such a good job that it will be a while before Italy sees them again. As this homeowner says, “I feel like I’m on vacation all the time. My husband says his only regret is that he can’t ever get me to leave!”


Designer: Michael Meloy, Inc; Architect: George Smith; Contractor: Jimmy Watson, South-Co; Antique pine floors: Milled by Robbins Manufacturing Co; installed by Oakleaf Flooring; Kitchen and bathroom flooring and backsplash: Supplied by Tarmac; installed by Jose M. Rodriquez Inc.; Cabinetry: Omega, Ferguson’s; Countertops: Custom Marble Works; Kitchen sink: Franke; Kitchen faucets: Santec; Appliances: Miele dishwashers; Wolf cooktop and oven; Thermador oven; Sub-Zero refrigerator; Lighting: Biscayne Lighting; Marilyn Checkver; Wallcovering: Benjamin Moore Paint; Dining and kitchen tables: Mike Bell, Inc.; supplied by Michael Meloy Inc.; Cast stone mantels and range hood: Franscoise & Co.; Stucco: Kat Stucco; Stonework: Stonecrafters; Pool: Holloway Pools; Ironwork: Ornamental Design; Landscape architect: Shirley Pearsall, The Landscape Collaborative; Landscape design: Judy McMullen; Rose garden irrigation: Jon Tollett, Blue Wave Irrigation; Rose garden maintenance: Tim Myer

To see this article as it appeared in the magazine, please visit our Digital Edition, pages 62-72.

Add your comment: