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Textures, hues adorn house

Leopard print and jewel tones help carry a regal theme throughout the South Tampa home of Marc and Diane Stern.

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 25, 2002

SOUTH TAMPA -- Marc and Diane Stern have built homes before, but never a custom home like this one.

"This is our dream home," Mr. Stern said. "The other homes were just homes."

The Sterns moved from Westchase to South Tampa in May after meeting nearly every weekend for a year with the designers at Dolphin Homes. They went back and forth on ceiling heights, room sizes, building materials and, most important, fitting the residence on their 80-by-100-foot lot in Bel Mar.

The Sterns knew from the beginning what architectural style they wanted. The two were attracted to the Spanish Revival designs of Addison Mizner, a world-famous architect who left his mark on Palm Beach and throughout Florida in the 1920s. Accordingly, the home's exterior has cast stone detail, arches, wrought iron balconies and a barrel tile roof.

The house paints a regal picture from the street, partly because of 3-foot-tall bronze lion statues that flank the front door. Beyond the porte cochere, the garage door is faux-painted to give the illusion of a carriage house with doors that swing out.

Inside, the 5,000-square-foot home has five bedrooms and 41/2 bathrooms, including the fully furnished cabana off the pool area. There's plenty of room for the Sterns' blended family. Between the two of them, the Sterns have three children from previous marriages and a son born two weeks after they moved in.

Even with all the square footage, the house isn't impersonal. Rooms are relatively small, and there's barely a white wall to be found.

"We wanted something comfortable, warm, cozy and inviting," said Mr. Stern, a mortgage broker at American Home Loans.

The Sterns started from scratch in designing the home's interior. Almost all of the furniture and accessories are new. They turned to Melanie Rose of Paris Flea, a South Tampa furniture store and interior design studio, for guidance.

"We stumbled into her store and never left," said Mrs. Stern, a human resources director at Coast Dental.

Rose said she wanted the decor to fit with the Mediterranean architecture yet provide the warmth sought by the Sterns. She nixed all the white walls and selected a palette of gold, red and green for nearly all of the rooms.

"This room was stark white, and I begged them to paint it this color," Rose said of the rich red walls in the formal parlor.

She also persuaded the couple to cover the downstairs bathroom walls with a gold-tone, leopard-print paper.

Leopard print in particular and large cats in general are a motif repeated throughout the house.

In the parlor, there's a leopard-print chaise lounge and a Raymond Waites chandelier with leopard-print shades trimmed with looped fringe. The fixture gets added sparkle from crystal and beaded accents. And a lamp with leopard-print shades trimmed in fur lights a corner of the master bedroom.

Cast stone lion's heads frame the fireplace in the family room, and lions are woven into the tapestry that hangs in the stairwell.

Rose also chose a variety of textures for furniture and accessories. The foyer walls are faux-painted to look like marble. The walls in the media room, which boasts a 10-foot screen and eight speakers, have a leathery look. On the wet bar in the family room, there's a small lamp with a multicolor, jewel-tone velvet shade trimmed in beads. It plays against a harlequin-pattern tile backsplash and tumbled stone trim.

Several dried flower arrangements pull together the colors in each of the rooms. Tooled leather chairs in the parlor and family room and a couch with tooled leather arms and tapestry upholstery beg to be touched.

Even the floors, ceilings and other surfaces avoid flatness. There's a bead board ceiling in the kitchen and a coffered ceiling in the family room. Mr. Stern selected Australian pine, which has a pronounced grain highlighted by knots, for the floors in most rooms.

A stone table with lattice-work iron chairs sits in a breakfast nook that's completely surrounded by glass, offering a panoramic view of the pool area. Kitchen counters are made of granite, while marble tops the center island.

Upstairs, a reproduction of a Paris street scene originally rendered by Van Gogh brightens a wall niche.

The nursery walls depict a pastel meadow that provides a backdrop for images of the family pets, with angel wings and halos added. A dog with a sock in its mouth peeks out from the corner of a wall in the laundry room.

Two children's bedrooms are located off the upstairs game and TV room, where French doors open to a balcony that overlooks the pool.

"I wanted it to have continuity to it," Rose said of her decision to paint the bedroom walls green and dress the windows with iridescent velvet curtains that shift between shades of red and gold.

Although the Sterns have moved several times in recent years, they believe they're ready to stay put now.

"We were looking for a house that had a timeless quality to it," Mr. Stern said. "This house will look good 20 years from now."

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