This Fort Myers “Lego House” was Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, Rios’ Hermès store and museums

This travel-inspired home was deemed the "Lego House," for the way it came together, with walls in flux until the design was finalized.

BY December 20, 2022
Lego House
Papadopoulos spent four years crafting his home, with nearly every structure and finish created by his family’s Made in Rio general contracting company and their network of artisans. Papadopoulos took cues from Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 Fallingwater house, using walls of windows and cohesive organic materials. Every room was inspired by his travels. (Photo by Dan Cutrona)

As the director of business at his family’s Fort Myers-based construction company, Made in Rio Inc., Felipe Papadopoulos isn’t new to the building game. When he and his father, Giovani, decided to team up to do a spec home, located on a lot in the woodsy Briarcliff neighborhood, he figured it would be a no-brainer.  Then he sat down with a draftsman and began sketching out floorplans, finishes and furnishings, and all bets were off. “I started calling this place the ‘Lego House,’ because I changed and modified everything so many times,” Papadopoulos says with a laugh. “My dad saw the work I was putting into it, and he started nervously joking around, saying, ‘Don’t get too attached here.’”

But it was too late; the home had already won him over. Four years later, Papadopoulos has taken up residence in the 10,500-square-foot modern home, chock full of personal references, including an affinity for midcentury design. “I love Frank Lloyd Wright—Fallingwater (built in 1935 in Mill Run, Pennsylvania) is iconic. I took some elements from that house; the highs and lows of the columns, all the natural light coming into the house, the introduction of timeless design,” he says. “You visit a home by Frank Lloyd Wright, and even at almost 100 years old, it’s something that doesn’t age.”

Papadopoulos also loves to travel, and his world adventures inspired many of the materials and finishes throughout the home. He looked to the Midwest for the foyer’s lofty ceilings and storefront windows, modeled after the Art Institute of Chicago. Walls of slatted wood recall an Hermès store in his native Brazil. And, a month-long trip to Asia informed the mosaic of illuminated walnut panels in the common area. “I got that from Japanese design—using illumination to define what you’re building, how they protrude from the wall, and all the different textures,” he says. The home’s four guest suites are fit with custom-milled headboards, Tom Dixon lighting and furnishings that bring home the flavor of luxury hotels throughout Asia—as does an exceptional en suite upgrade. Papadopolous configured sensor illumination behind the mirrors. “When you walk up to the sink, a lighting strip comes on automatically on a 15-minute [Lutron] timer,” he says. 

The local landscape was equally important to the overall design. “I wanted to play with the concept of indoor and outdoor. It was important to mimic the lighting, color and textures from nature on the interior and vice versa,” Papadopoulos explains. The transition is smooth thanks to a wall of floor-to-ceiling pocket glass doors, a consistent palette, and materials like shellstone floors that carry through the outside, along with an ipe exterior wall and an outdoor bed that mimics the wood details inside. “On the lanai, I created a bistro area with a kitchen that feels like you’re cooking inside. You open the house and you’ve got dueling kitchens, with pizza in the oven outside, while Greek salads happen inside,” he says.

The gym also offers the best of both worlds. Family and friends work out on a Peloton overlooking the grounds and then slide the doors open to cool down on the Alaskan king daybed by the pool. Post-workout, a Finnish dry sauna and steam shower offer moments of peace. Those looking for a longer meditative experience can head directly to the Zen garden, where an outdoor bathtub is surrounded by bamboo. “Sitting in the tub almost transports you to a different place. I think it’s the calmest place here at the house,” he says. 

Despite his father’s warnings, Papadopoulos has no regrets about becoming attached to this house. “My family is Greek and Lebanese, and we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so they’re always coming over to make pizzas, and we love having parties here,” he says. Even after all the blood, sweat, and tears (“So many tears,” he says.) that come with long-term construction, he’s looking forward to building a life here. “I’m happy to say this house brings me peace,” he says. “And I hope it brings that sense of peace to everyone who comes here.”

Photography by Dan Cutrona

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