The Ultimate Backyard Playground

Situated on a curve of the Caloosahatchee in North Fort Myers, a sloping slice of paradise makes for the ultimate family oasis.

BY November 1, 2022
Ultimate Backyard Playground
In the center of the pool, a sunken gathering area provides an intimate space to entertain outdoors. The design team tucked a private, three-hole putting green off the side of the house, separated by foliage. (Courtesy Jinx McDonald Interior Designs/Blaine Johnathan Photography)

This Caloosatchee collaboration from MHK Architecture & Planning and Jinx McDonald Interior Designs brings riverside living to a new level. It’s a fun, personalized home—built by Sawgrass Construction—with a British West Indies feel, situated on a more than 10,000-square-foot lot, hugged by a natural lagoon. The team was determined to make the most of its aquatic setting and unique, pie-shaped lot. “It comes down to solving a simple math problem,” architect Matthew Kragh says. “Where are the owners going to spend 90 percent of their time, and how can we maximize it?”

The answer, as for many living in our paradisiacal setting, was the outdoor living area. The house maintains a symmetrical layout—keeping the entrance as the focal point—and incorporates a maintenance-free stucco facade, horizontal siding and a flat, concrete split-pitched roof. An open-plan interior creates contemporary coastal vibes, and a second-floor wraparound balcony offers understated Caribbean embellishment that sets the stage for unobstructed views of the waterway below.

The homeowner called in landscaper Hunter Booth of St. Petersburg-based Booth Design Group to fill the grounds with blooming bromeliads, fanning monsteras and swaying palms to highlight the region’s subtropical climate while keeping the vistas free and clear. A wall of windows along the back of the home showcases the pool, which appears to spill into the river, interrupted only by four distinctive fire features along the sloping edge. Custom porcelain pavers and limestone coping create a seamless expanse along the edges and a subtle sensuality that aligns with the rhythm of the undulating river. In the center of the pool, there’s a sunken conversation area to gather around the fire. And, off to the side, a spa and sunning deck are shaded by towering palms.

Designers Minka McDonald and Beth Walker-Fenton fine-tuned the home’s finishes with natural materials. Minka calls the house “extremely sensual and tactile.” She chose exterior materials that mirror the elegant indoor palette, such as Carrara marble-inspired Dekton counters and backsplash for the outdoor kitchen and a natural coral stone-clad fireplace. A kitchen and lounge casually flow around a central TV focal wall and the fireplace for resort-living vibes. The result is an alfresco space that embraces its natural surroundings while maintaining modern comforts. 

Taking advantage of the curved lot, the team tucked a private, three-hole putting green off the side of the house. And boaters swoon for the dock, on the opposite end of the property, perfectly aligned to drift into the backyard with style. The space quite simply amplifies the pleasures of being outside at home.

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