Home of the Month
With its ornate balconies and hand-painted triple groin ceiling, the entry hall of this elegant Tuscan home resembles a lobby in a Florentine boutique hotel, and that’s just how J.D. and Mary Susan Clinton envisioned it.With its twin TV rooms, open pool and sprawling lanai, the back of the home looks like a family fun space, just what the couple had in mind. "We need a home that’s family-friendly," J.D. says, "but we do a lot of entertaining, so our home has to suit that purpose, too."
Although he is chairman and CEO of Insouth Bank, J.D. is no stranger to a blueprint. As an avocation, he has built and sold more than 100 houses.
"We’ve got a process for the homes Mary Susan and I have built together," he says. "We sit down and talk about our vision. Then we develop a narrative with specifics we can convey to an architect."
Once the blueprint is created, the Clintons begin their joint tasks and the ones they do solo. "I’m the director of color and soft elements, such as fabrics," Mary Susan says with a smile, "and J.D. is in charge of the hard surfaces and construction."
For instance, it was he who designed the intricate patterns of the Spanish gold-veined travertine floor. It was he who ordered the mahogany doors and millwork from Honduras. And it was he who is responsible for the spectacular Colombian, hand-wrought iron grillwork that begins at the entry gates, continues on the front Palladian windows and crescendoes in the balcony railings that border the second-floor bedrooms and offices. Spectacular doors that mask the entry hall’s cocktail bar are also his creation.
Longtime building experience has netted the Brownsville, Tenn., native a trove of people who do good work and companies that have great products.
"I got a sample of the travertine at a trade show years ago and kept it," he says. "And Baylor Anne [of Baylor Bone Interiors] and I go back 30 years."
It was that longtime collaborator who took the blueprints for the 12,000-square-foot home and planned what furniture would be needed. Some would come from showrooms, some from the Clintons’ former Bay Colony condos and a lot from their own reserves.
"We didn’t realize it until a friend pointed it out recently," J.D. says, "but Mary Susan and I are furniture and art collectors. If we can’t use a piece immediately, but we love it, we store it until we can."
That was the case for the exquisite marble-top tables in the mini-foyer that precedes the entry hall. It applies to the bronze silk sofas that occupy opposite ends of the entry hall and to the massive carved piece near the elevator.
"We discovered Randall Tysinger, a North Carolina company that imports European treasures," says Mary Susan, a former stock broker and entrepreneur from Savannah, Tenn. "That carved piece and the two chairs by the fireplace in our formal living room came from cathedrals."
While antiques supply the entry hall with Old World spirit, the four corner chairs huddled in a square and the bar at one end would be at home in any modern bistro.
Not only are the corner chairs cool, they’re mobile. When the Clintons hosted a Naples Winter Wine Festival dinner, they were replaced by three round dining tables of eight. Other guests that night were served in the wood-floored formal dining room, a room that owes its personality to Mary Susan’s sighting of the dining chairs at a North Carolina showroom.
"I liked the walnut carving on the frames," she says, "but I loved the clay-red and gold silk on the chair backs and seats. The walls got a faux treatment of matching red, softened with a metallic wash, and Baylor Anne created the drapery with bronze silk, brown velvet and clay-red fringe."
The Clintons, who came to Naples from Brownsville in 1993, took a friend’s advice and moved the wine cellar from an inconspicuous spot near the kitchen to a place of honor, behind extravagant wrought iron gates, in the dining room. Glazed, torn burlap creates the Old World effect on its walls, and antique leather chairs and a table make wine tasting a gracious trip back in time.
The formal dining room is regal, but the kitchen and casual dining area of the two-year-old home are as cozy as a rustic Tuscan kitchen.
"This is the heart of our home," Mary Susan says. "I cook a big breakfast for our boys, Hurst and Denver, every day, and I pack their lunches. I also cook our family dinners, mainly Southern style. We made the breakfast bar big enough for family and friends to hang out around, and sometimes they even do the cooking."
The Clintons call the adjoining area "The Boys Club." There are two rooms with big TVs and comfortable seating. A tweedy banquette and granite-top table enable the boys and their friends to watch sports and enjoy snacks, or admire the chandelier, which came from a Spider-Man movie set.
The covered lanai is equipped to delight young and old. The hand-painted wood ceiling crowns a canopied summer kitchen and lounge-size bar. There’s a long dining table made from a single tree in one area, and a canopied, striped day bed with exotic personality in another. The lagoon-finished pool is open to Floridian breezes.
Upstairs, the boys have similar adjoining study rooms, but their bedrooms are as different as night and day, with one tropical and monkey-themed, and the other woodsy and Adirondack-like.
The parents’ offices are also dissimilar. J.D. designed his own desk and enjoys walnut shelving filled with hunting books and financial mementoes. Mary Susan’s ultra-feminine workspace has textured pumpkin walls, a mirrored desk and an atmosphere conducive to working on the family businesses she oversees. Both use their offices for their participation in a host of philanthropic and civic activities.
Respite is available in a master suite consisting of a sitting room and a bedroom dressed in deep-toned silks. The arches between the two spaces have a faux finish in a silver, taupe and pewter design, sort of like tree bark, and that’s no accident. The couple wanted their home to reflect the colors of olive trees, from the bark tones to the green and reds of the leaves and ripening olives.
Red is prominent in the 15th century painting of the entry hall ceiling and formal living room beams. Green is especially intriguing as quilted, channel-stitched silk on the entry hall walls.
The Clintons have made the Tuscan theme of their Pine Ridge home more authentic with religious paintings and porcelains, but that is a happy coincidence rather than a decorating choice. Mary Susan says, "Having a Christian presence in our home is important to us as a family."