Southwest Florida : Home Tour : Secret Garden

In the coveted Naples neighborhood of Port Royal, a hidden gem from the early 1990s has been given new life. Where many would have been overwhelmed by the idea of renovation, Kristen Williams and her trusted team seized the opportunity to revive something special. This speculative project, listed by Larry and Mary Catherine White of Downing Frye Realty, is the perfect demonstration of how to add great value  to an older structure by remastering it for today’s life style.

From the moment you lay eyes on this property, you are captivated by the beauty and enchantment of the home’s exterior. A canopy of Live Oak trees welcomes you, and draws you in to discover one of the most striking features of the  home’s facade. Bougainvillea trees that appear to be growing out of the front steps and up through the roof are more than just a remarkable architectural detail; they cleverly foreshadow the home’s continuous theme of bringing the outdoors in.

The original architect on the home was Alfred W. French III, who was considered a true community leader. He left his mark on Naples in many ways including numerous important buildings, and a passionate commitment to community service. One of his most notable achievements was leading the efforts to obtain city and council approval for the Fifth Avenue revitalization plan of downtown Naples, the most sweeping proposal for redevelopment in the city’s history.

The current architect, Matthew Kragh of MHK Architecture and Planning happened to know French, always admired his work, and was honored to have the chance to work on one of his creations. “The day Kristen and I first walked through this home, we knew it was the largest potential that we had seen. Great architecture does not tire, and this home’s former magnificence  was just waiting to blossom again. With a few less walls, we were able to create a better flow which increased the functionality of the space,” says Kragh.

Entering through the lattice covered front doors for the first time is an experience that can only be described as delightful and surprising. If the exterior had not given it away, it is at this moment that you realize how remarkable this property really is. Rather than a typical reception area, or a formal living room, this home is built around a secret garden. The  pyramid-shaped atrium was transformed into an aviary and butterfly sanctuary that rivals most botanical gardens. Kristen enlisted the help of Mike & Jackie Malloy to refresh the space with nectar plants, and host plants for butterflies. All of the plants that you see here are native and indigenous to Florida. Mike Malloy is a Collier County Master Gardener and author of the book Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida.

“The Alfred French style old Florida home is something that people are trying to recreate today, so why mess with it. My goal was just to bring it back to life,” explains Williams. The builder that Kristen chose to revive the space was Mike Assaad from Waterside Builders. “This is the largest restoration of an existing home that we have done to this level of finish, and it is the most dramatic before and after,” expresses Assaad. Moving through the home you will find yourself in a truly one-of-a-kind kitchen. The space that you see now was once divided into two rooms. In order to bring this property up-to-date, a wall was removed to accommodate a 12-foot island, double butler’s pantries, and a spacious breakfast nook. “Our main concern was making Kristen’s kitchen exactly like she imagined and designed. Everything is fully integrated and all appliances are hidden. You would never know she has two refrigerators, an ice maker, wine cooler and refrigerator drawers,” adds Gregory Bennett, of Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery.

Kristen’s attention to detail is one of the many reasons that her work shines so brightly. When multiple opportunities for custom carpentry pieces presented themselves, Williams reached out to Chris Hylemon and Amanda Gearey at Hyland Custom Cabinetry, A Thomas Riley Company. “The look we have created is a modern French cottage kitchen. We were able to maximize the storage and create multiple work spaces with a unique U-shaped island,” adds Gearey. Other custom details created by Hyland include the large French hood with stainless strapping, English Elm tabletop with live edge, and sliding barn doors. The barn doors were created with a lattice pattern to mimic the original doors and trim work that you see throughout the home.

Kristen took a very creative approach to the large formal living room. The centerpiece of the room is an oversized French reproduction chandelier. Two full seating arrangements define the space and create a wonderful atmosphere for entertaining. Above the fireplace, an authentic Hollywood regency pagoda mirror is flanked by blue and white porcelain ginger jars for an elegant and timeless statement. Opposite the fireplace a large 4-panel painting by local artist Mally Khorasantchi brings color and life to the space. “I like working large and spontaneously, which I feel reflects who I am,” explains Khorasantchi. The look is tied together by flanking her artwork with pieces of an opium bed from Thailand. The natural wood of the bed blends well with the natural colors and textures used throughout the space.

Reminiscent of a garden tea party, the dining room feels like something out of a dream. Used as inspiration throughout the entire home, the Chaing Mai Dragon pattern by Schumacher takes center stage here on the wingback chairs and seat cushions. The pattern encompasses Kristen’s vision and brings the magic of the secret garden into the home. A truly custom lighting fixture, this vibrant coral chandelier can’t be found in any store. With a homemade prototype consisting of red branches and Christmas lights, Kristen decided to collaborate with Judith Liegeois on the design. Ed Koehler, a Florida native who specializes in organic design, brought their vision to life.

The Chinese water dragon table base (featured on the cover of this issue) was discovered by Kristen at a consignment store in downtown Naples. While it adds to the eclectic nature of the home, it ties in perfectly with the signature Schumacher fabric as if they were made for one another. The impressive sliding barn doors made of live edge slabs of English Elm were another custom detail executed by Hyland Custom Cabinetry. “We were seeking a creative way to cover the passage from the dining room to the kitchen and didn’t want to stick with the standard pocket type door system. The barn door style offered a world of possibilities for unique door slabs. We wanted to achieve a natural looking element that would be not only functional but aesthetically pleasing. The hardware was custom made with the intent of creating an industrial and aged element that was also strong enough to carry the weight of the doors,” describes Hylemon. Overlooking both the pool and the garden, this room is filled with natural light and surrounded by beautiful scenery.

The master suite overlooks a canal and a view of lush undeveloped land, which is especially rare in Port Royal. Anchoring the space, a jute rug is a neutral base for the soft blue and purple color palette. The original master bathroom and dressing rooms were completely gutted to make room for updates and an additional guest room. In the new bathroom, a soaking tub is accented with a dainty chandelier, and the walls are clad in Calcutta Gold tile.

This one-of-a-kind residence has all the conveniences of modern living, with all the character and charm of old Florida. “Walking through this home, you are taken on a journey into Kristen Williams’ vision. Her ability to curate and assemble unique treasures to form an eclectic look is second-to-none,” raves Larry and Mary Catherine White of Downing Frye Realty. “Keeping the integrity of the original design, she has brought this Port Royal beauty back to a home filled with sunshine and life.” This lovely estate home is being received with great excitement by those looking for a statement that will endure in Port Royal.


Written by Kelsey Miklavcic
Photography by Giovanni Photography

Hyland Custom Cabinetry
1458 Rail Head Boulevard
Naples, FL 34110

Kristen Williams
kw properties

Mary Catherine & Larry White
Downing Frye Realty

Waterside Builders, Inc.
790 Harbour Drive
Naples, FL 34103

MHK Architecture & Planning
975 6th Avenue South, Suite 200
Naples, FL 34102

Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery
3406 Domestic Ave.
Naples, FL 34104

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