Beauty plus Brains
Tuscan Villa Hides An Impressive High Tech Heart
By Lyla Haggard | Photos by Mark Borosch
There tends to be a story behind every name. On the surface, Villa Linda is an exceptional four-bedroom, 8,700-square-foot, single-story Tuscan residence. But at its core is an intelligent heart wrapped in a beautiful package. Builder and current resident, Bobby Gross, decided to name this elegant home after his wife, Linda.
Modern Tuscan design
This award-winning residence is a prime example of how initial architectural designs can be modified and customized to fit a family’s lifestyle. The exterior of Villa Linda has a more formal Tuscan look, with stone walls, tiled roof and an arched wooden doorway. But just step inside and you know at once that this dwelling has a personality all its own. “We like the formality of the Tuscan manor house, but inside we wanted the comfort and functionality of 21st century technology,” Bobby explains. He, Linda and their two sons live in the home as well as utilize it as a model residence for Windstar Homes, a company Bobby founded with co-principal David Lesser.
A major asset of this special home is that it is very green—not the color, but ecologically green—which is critical in building cost-effective and energy-efficient structures today. Among other things, its small environmental footprint is due to tankless gas water heaters, an Icynene insulation system, heat pumps with the highest SEER (Service Energy Efficiency Rating), double-insulated and impact-resistant windows, an automated lighting control system and whole-home air and water filtration systems. Yet all this high technology, while giving the homeowners a comfortable and economical lifestyle, is virtually invisible and does not detract from the comfort and beauty of the home’s design.
Customized for family
Crossing the threshold is like entering another world—first into a two-story tower-like foyer with walls of concrete block clad with stone and punctuated by small, narrow windows overhead and then into a spectacular courtyard dominated by a sleekly designed pool and spa. High stone walls, wood ceilings and segmented columns form shaded walkways around the clean, sleek lines of the pool edged with iridescent tiles. A 7-foot-long transitional bed faces a glass-filled gas fireplace and 60-inch flat screen television to form an outdoor den. “This is an area that merges the traditional feel with up-to-date contemporary styling. We especially love the den area. We can watch TV day or night out here, even from the pool,” he smiles.
Livability is one of the major concepts around which this residence is designed. “I wanted the home to have a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere—a ‘come in and stay awhile’ feeling,” says Bobby. “Every room in this house is used daily, so there is no formal living room, huge media center or guest bedroom that take up space but only get used a few days out of the year.” Functionality is key to each and every room.
From the courtyard one enters the main part of the house that Bobby refers to as a “Trinity” design area. Under a 22-foot ceiling with trussed cypress beams and stone-clad walls, three major areas—kitchen, dining and conversation/TV—flow easily from one to another and are connected by the 5-inch distressed hickory plank flooring. Multiple French doors on either side allow daylight from the courtyard and from an outdoor dining patio on the opposite side to open up the space. At night, pendant lights add to the spacious feeling of the large room and exterior lighting around the pool and fire bowls on the lanai add an exotic flair.
In the kitchen area, fully integrated appliances disappear behind traditional Tuscan style cabinetry finished in an off-white Con Crystal paint with a coffee glaze and heirloom distressing. The dark cherry work island features a Tea Chest stain as well as heirloom distressing, which gives the cabinetry an authentic antique look. Dark Cometa granite tops the island, counters and other work spaces. Appliances include a 60-inch Wolf range with exhaust hood hidden beneath a mantel-like structure, which visually balances the fireplace and 55-inch television at the far end of the extended room. A double Sub-Zero refrigerator with four freezer drawers below, a Miele coffee station, a double sink with a dishwasher to each side and a warming drawer and a microwave installed in the work island round out the modern cooking conveniences.
Although not visible at first glance, several interesting alcoves and rooms are accessible from the kitchen area. Easy to find is the wine nook, near the end of the island. It’s a good example of how Bobby chose to customize this home. The space currently holds 300 bottles of wine, with the alcove area open for soda, juice, beer and bottled water. The nook can be reconfigured to fit any combination of bottles.
A large multi-purpose room, dubbed the “Martha Stewart Room” by Bobby and Linda, is another example of designing for functionality. In the center stands a long 10x4-foot island topped by a seamless slab of stunning granite that can be used for school projects, hobbies and other activities. Along the walls are laundry appliances and a porcelain sink, plus individual Internet alcoves for Bobby’s Windstar work, Linda’s household management and the kids’ homework. “I didn’t feel a need for a separate room as an office, since I can carry my phone and laptop with me into any room. Plus I enjoy working in the same space with my family whenever I can,” Bobby adds.
Also accessed from the kitchen area is a moderate-sized media room—smaller than many such rooms on purpose. “In our previous home, we had a very large theater-type media room that got used only a few times a year when we had parties or guests,” explains Bobby. “In this house we designed this rectangular area, which is sound-proofed with double-insulated windows, to serve as our TV center—with five flat screens so we can watch five games at once. And it’s a perfect room to listen to the 7.1 surround sound system or—thanks to the drums, keyboard and piano—we try to create our own music.”
The master bedroom suite is a definite illustration of designing for function and for pleasure. The sleeping area is spacious and restfully decorated in a muted contemporary style. It features a fireplace, large flat screen TV, iPod docking station, beverage cooler and a coffee station to get going in the morning. The master bath is exceptional with several high tech amenities that make it so pleasant it would be hard to leave. A relaxing oval bathtub is located in the center of the room facing another flat screen TV on the far wall. A floor-to-ceiling glass wall behind the tub separates the shower and connected steam room to one side and drying-off area on the other.
The entire bath area is part of the home’s sound system and wireless routers. Users can also program the water flow of the multiple showerheads, turn on soothing music and the multi-color lighting system. And, since the shower wall is glass, the homeowners can watch television at the same time.
Off the master bath is a huge walk-in closet with pull-down racks for space-saving efficiency, a large storage island with electrical outlets for charging phones, and special storage areas for luggage and ski equipment. The decorative lighting is low voltage and fluorescent to get a true color when making apparel selections.
Form and function
Villa Linda demonstrates how the grace and beauty of traditional Tuscan architecture can be combined with modern green technology to create a simple, functional and comfortable home. As proof, the Southeast Building Conference granted four 2011 Aurora Awards to Villa Linda for Best Energy Efficient Home, Best Green Construction, Best Master Bath and Best Custom Home Overall.
Builder: Windstar Homes; Cabinetry: Busby Cabinets; Pool: Landmark Pools; Plumbing fixtures: Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery; Plumbing: Bay Area Plumbing; Electrical: JN Electric; Green Energy certifications: Cool Green Consulting