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Luxury Home + Design

Say it with Flair 

A house, no matter how spectacular, is not a home until the owners make it one, say Cindy and Art Habighorst. So the many charms that drew them to a five-bedroom, two-story house creek-side in Pelican Landing became the starting point for a makeover still in progress.

"The location is perfect," Cindy says, "and we have the former owners, Hank and Darlene Johnson, to thank for that."

She explains that in 1996, the Johnsons were the first buyers in the Bay Creek neighborhood and snagged a parcel with a view of two sections of Spring Creek separated by mangroves. "We were thrilled with the view, and delighted with the outdoor living area, an open space with a lap pool, conventional pool, spa, waterfall and cabana," says Cindy.

"But all the goodies weren’t out back," her husband adds. "There’s a great gumbo limbo tree in the front yard, along with a giant agave plant and many other dramatic plants. We immediately felt a sense of peace and relaxation here, and also a sense of the privacy we both crave."

Although the bones of the home’s 6,635 air-conditioned square feet were appealing, the couple agreed their new dwelling should reflect their own personalities and pack some new wow power. They started with paint.

"The house was pale lavender on the outside," Cindy says. "We opted for a sand color, and we liked a cafe-au-lait shade for most of the interior walls."

Since the habighorsts spend some time in their Westport, Conn. colonial, they sought assistance with the transformation from Faith Fix Cahill, of Freestyle Interiors in Bonita Springs, and Joe French, their owner’s representative.

"I keep magazine photos of designs that appeal to me," Cindy says. "They come in handy when it’s time to work with the professionals." For example, they wanted to imbue the home, which they bought two years ago, with Art Deco flavor. That materialized first in the foyer, where a striking settee in wheat and black and an angular wall mirror express the theme.

The geometric character of Art Deco design can also be seen in the circles of the open metal panel screens that introduce the dining room. "We like the screens because they define the dining room without enclosing it," Art, a commercial mortgage banker, says.

"We also borrowed the dark bronze tone of the panels to repaint what was white railing on the staircase," he says. "Once the carpeting was replaced and the banister wood was changed from white crackle to a mahogany tone that matches the entry doors, the staircase had new personality."

The formal dining room has a new walnut, claw-foot circular dining room table and eight chairs with Art Deco lines. Four are wood-framed; four are fully upholstered.

"We realized the kitchens of 1996 weren’t really in tune with current design," Art continues. "Cindy likes to cook, so we updated ours, first by gutting it."

The new, off-white cabinets go to the ceiling and provide more storage. A former desk/window space now has conventional and window cabinetry, and the new island is more functional. Cahill created the range backsplash with bordered white "brick" tile.

"Since the kitchen came out looking so fine, we just had to make the butler’s pantry look as good," Art says with a rueful smile. "But in there, Faith suggested using smoked glass on the walls, which makes the room seem bigger and more sophisticated.

"She also had an idea to maximize our casual dining seating," he says. "We have four children and four grandchildren, so we were intrigued with her plan to build a banquette along the window wall. That saved space and gave us the opportunity to use a table that seats eight. We can seat even more on the bar stools we got for the breakfast bar."

"We liked a multi-stripe fabric for the bar stools and a chocolate brown fabric with a white tree branch design for the kitchen chairs," Cindy says. "Faith brought in the Floridian look with a palm tree chandelier, and she designed a cornice of tan panels with a brown spindle pattern to go over the kitchen windows."

The cornices over the family room windows are light taupe with chocolate brown squares. The slider panels are ivory-colored, with cutwork squares in the design.

"I love choosing fabrics," Cindy says. "The sofa and chairs in the family room are all gold chenilles, but there are three harmonizing fabrics. The entertainment center is painted fern green, which coordinates with the grass green fabrics on the new lanai furniture."

That would be a green with diamond pattern, a sand with cream and green bamboo stripes, and a green solid, framed either with bronze metal or espresso-toned woven rattan.

The Habighorsts chose a light brown fabric for the furniture they had refinished for the terrace that borders two second-floor guest suites. "We’re currently using the guest suite furniture that came with the house, and we decided the existing patio furniture just needed refreshing," Art says.

But nothing will remain of Camp Henry. Hank Johnson, a former pilot, and his wife fitted a large second-floor area with eight bunk beds for their grandsons. Although the name will remain, with affection for the former owner, Art says he intends to turn the former juvenile barracks into an informal recreation space, with bar, big-screen TV and other rec room accouterments. This, he feels, will complement the downstairs entertainment facilities and be handy to the two guest suites.

Occupants of the grand guest suite will have a slightly longer walk to get there. Located out of the main house on the second floor, and reached via Camp Henry’s French doors or an exterior spiral staircase, the grand suite has a cathedral ceiling, kitchen, bath and living room area.

"There’s a new wood floor in the living room, and we redid the powder bath with a cabinet vanity and scalloped, cream-colored sink," Cindy says.

The homeowners’ wing includes a cypress-roofed reading room, office, bedroom, master bath and an outdoor secret garden. "I’ve got plans for that garden," Cindy reveals. "We’ve added bleeding heart vines to the wall fountain and arches at the front of the house, and some colorful plantings in the back, but there’ll be other changes as soon as I learn more about Florida gardening."

Looks like these two already know how to cultivate a gracious home.

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