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Classically Trained

Couple creates an ornate, yet livable, home on Lake Thonotosassa

While working on the interior design of a home from construction through final completion, an interior designer gets to know his or her client(s) very well. In the ideal relationship, the designer also becomes a partner, a problem solver and friend as well. That is the case with designer Dee Marksberry, owner of Gage-Martin Interiors and her clients, Donna and George Kurppe. “We had such a good partnership. It was fun. You have to click personality-wise and taste-wise for it to work,” Donna says. “Dee had her work cut out for her with us. I’m more simple, classic in style; George likes more ornate.”

Visually relaxing

At 5,500 square feet, this handsome Mediterranean style home is the perfect fit for Donna and George. With the master suite and family areas downstairs and three full bedroom suites upstairs it has room for both family and friends. It is decorated with a background palette of elegant cream used in the Venetian plaster walls and terrazzo floors. Colorful pops of burgundy, gold and green accents in the upholstery, countertops, artwork and other elements create a rich, lush ambiance. “I believe in disciplined choices,” Marksberry says. “Everything needs to flow. It takes the tension out of the space and creates visual harmony.”

The home is decorated throughout with beautifully made wood furniture by Marge Carson, Haversham, and Tomlinson customized with custom-ordered finishes or stone countertops to make them uniquely suited for this client.

A handsome chest in the foyer illustrates the impact of customizing a piece. “This was one of the last pieces we ordered,” Marksberry says, lightly touching the stone countertop. “We ended up putting together our own look with this chest from Tomlinson with a custom finish.” They added an opulent onyx top that had all of Donna’s colors. “It gives the chest such a smart look,” Marksberry adds.

An ornate hand carved Mayfair mirror, covered in gold leaf, hangs above the chest reflecting the lifelike silk Dancing Orchid by Diane James, whose silk orchids are found throughout the house. “She’s the only supplier I’ll use for silks because they are utterly believable,” Marksberry says. Two matching table lamps designed by Jacque Garcia for Baker sport rich red shades and sparkling Swarovski crystal pendants.

Situated at the foot of the elegantly curving staircase sits a handsome black baby grand piano. Having played as a child, it was Donna’s goal upon retiring after 38 years in the school system, to begin to play again after so many years of absence. The “player piano” option is included until the former school principal works the rust out of her fingers.

The formal sitting room features a silk Oriental rug and Tomlinson furniture with gorgeous upholstery by Ardecora. Framed by a gorgeous view of the pool and canal as a backdrop, the rich fabrics and an ornate Italian Venetian glass candelabra are the showpieces of this space.

George’s wood paneled study sits at the entrance to the master suite. With richly paneled bookcases and a unique, oval wood desk with alligator embossed leather chairs, it is the perfect retreat. Family mementos grace the shelves.

Donna holds a special fondness for the hall powder room as it is a favorite destination for her baby grandson. The hand painted mural by local artist Joanne Karpay was inspired by views off the Kurppes’ dock. It depicts regional plants and birds with one obvious exception—the monkey peeking out of the tree. That cute little fellow drew the baby’s attention every time.

The master suite is truly a luxurious retreat. A massive Marge Carson bedroom suite, richly appointed in Anichini linens, sets the tone. In the sitting room, a fun Barry Dixon ottoman fronting two plush chairs is a favorite place to relax. Lush, textured carpet and elegant silk striped shades with embroidered silk side panels, sewn by local seamstress Karen Lockwood, tie all the elements of the room together.

The master bathroom has many special features of its own. Around the sinks and dressing table, mosaic tiles of gold leaf, marble and onyx laid in a vertical pattern accentuate the beauty of the black striated marble counters and the ivory and black marble floors. On the Venetian plaster walls, the artist pressed banana leaves to leave a subtle textured impression. At the dressing table area, a brilliant pop of red is found in the Barry Dixon chair covered in Scalamandre red velvet. “I just fell in love with that chair the minute I saw it,” Donna laughs.

“It’s a very glamorous bathroom,” Marksberry says. “But, it is also a very nurturing place for George.”

Outstanding elements

There are several unique design features sprinkled throughout the home. One element is the high-gloss Venetian plaster walls, featuring a deep eggplant color, in the dining room. Painter Christian Cardona achieved the effect by increasing the proportion of marble in the mixture and then polishing and polishing and polishing. “We used a deep merlot for a romantic evening color. Because of its dark color I wanted it to be reflective,” Marksberry says. A beautiful glass sculpture, by London artist Amanda Brisbane, graces the table.

The kitchen, breakfast area and family room are usually the center of activity in this home. Accented in soft aqua, Donna’s favorite color, the Habersham breakfast table and accent furniture set a more casual tone. The open kitchen plan has rich cherry cabinets with green granite countertops flecked with burgundy. “I kept going back to that same piece at the stone yard,” Donna says.

Overstuffed chairs and couches face the fireplace for relaxing and watching the television which, when not in use, is cleverly hidden behind a piece of artwork. Large glass doors open onto the balcony facing the pool and lake.

Situated off of the family room, the club room is a favorite destination whenever guests come over. With a large screen television and movie style seating, a full bar and a pool table, it is the place to be for parties. Adjacent to the club room is the fitness area complete with a workout room, sauna and shower.

Going on buying trips with Marksberry helped the Kurppes see the many choices available and learn about the levels of craftsmanship. It also allowed them to see how pieces could be customized to their particular wishes. Also helpful was working with Marksberry’s husband, Chuck, who is an art broker. He helped them select the many beautiful pieces found throughout the house.

Just as impressive as inside are the outdoor spaces including a patio which runs the length of the home, an elegant pool, and a whimsical pool bath painted by Joanne Karpay with a seashell motif. The pool bath mirror and chest, embedded with shells, complete the effect.

An enviable retreat

Beyond the pool and lawns lay the quiet waters of the canal leading to Lake Thonotosassa. George originally bought their Stonelake Ranch lot in 2004 after searching for just the right place. At that time, the community was still a working ranch and most of the roads were dirt.

George, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, had always dreamed of living on a lake. “I fell in love with Lake Thonotosassa,” George says. “I always wanted to live on a lake and it was just beautiful out here.” Alvarez Homes began construction in 2005 and in 2007 they were one of the first homes completed in the development. Situated on a short canal, their home is just minutes off of the main body of the lake. “We love it because we can see the lake but it is so quiet and private here,” Donna says.

Far from the busy world of George’s business and the hustle and bustle of school, Donna and George have found their personal retreat.


Interior designer: Dee Marksberry, Gage-Martin Interiors; Builder: Alvarez Homes; Flooring, countertops and backsplashes: Europa Stone; Cabinetry: Alpha Cabinets; Sinks and faucets: Kohler; Appliances: Miele dishwasher; Wolf cooktop and oven; Sub-Zero refrigerator; Lighting: Gage-Martin Interiors; Wallcovering: Phillip Jeffries; Furniture: Marge Carson; Councill; Hancock & Moore; Accessories: Arte Italica; Amanda Brisbane; Baker; Painting: Christian Cardona; Joanne Karpay; Art supplier: CHC Gallery

To see this article as it appeared in the magazine, please visit our Digital Edition, pages 22-31.


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