In our latest showhome—a four-bedroom, six-bath beauty on Lake Susannah in the Baldwin Park neighborhood of Orlando, Florida—the aim was to celebrate water and sunlight in a stunning, classical space with modern conveniences, which also addresses green concerns.
Architect Geoffrey Mouen calls the project’s style “ancient modern.” He melded Greek and Roman ideals with today’s amenities and flair. “It’s proportioned like a good Roman house,” Mouen says of the U-shaped plan that blurs the lines between indoors and out, wrapping around a center courtyard with a shimmering pool. “Orlando is about 75 degrees and beautiful for eight months of the year,” he says. “You want to be outside as much as possible.”
The layout offers a resort-like lifestyle with touches of green. “You can be environmentally sensitive in a big house,” Mouen says of the 7,300-square-foot home. “We built that in; we didn’t rely on gadgets.” He used passive-cooling techniques to usher in natural breezes and aid cross ventilation: Two 30-foot-wide walls of glass doors open to the courtyard and allow winds from the lake into the house. “You can turn off the AC, open up the entire house, and let it breathe,” says Mouen.
Hot air rises, escaping through remote-controlled transom windows in the 13-foot-high space. “Even opening them a crack starts a natural convection that moves through the house,” the architect explains. This circulation also helps improve humidity and indoor air quality.
Interior designers Dave Brown and Kim Deddens applied a palette of blue hues and a minimalist aesthetic based on a nautical theme. “The home works like a fine ship: Everything syncs easily with everything else,” Deddens says. This showhome’s lesson: You can teach a new house old tricks—beautifully.
The common living areas—family room, informal dining area, living rooms and a spacious kitchen—flow into one another in the west wing of the house. The plan was designed for a casual, family lifestyle. “My kids love this house,” says Mouen. The wow factor comes with accordion-style doors on either side of the courtyard that open to create the ultimate indoor/outdoor living and entertaining space. “This is exactly how people want to live in Florida,” Mouen explains.
Using locally-sourced natural materials was important to Mouen and Orlando-based builder Charles Clayton. The cypress wood (indigenous to Florida and naturally rot-resistant) that comprises the cabinetry, louvered shutters, and ceiling beams was harvested just 20 miles away.
Smooth, cool travertine tile covers the floor in the kitchen, bathrooms, and main hallway. “It’s informal, low maintenance, provides another layer of texture, and just feels like Florida,” Deddens says.
Deddens chose a watery palette for the master bedroom. “It’s restful and serene, and the color changes from blue to green to gray, depending on the light,” she says. The custom-made built-in captain’s bed furthers the nautical theme. For a cozy feel underfoot, the designer specified a soft inset carpet surrounded by a hardwood border. Floor-to-ceiling windows are fitted with shades that rise from the bottom. They filter light (which also keeps fabrics from fading) and provide privacy.
The master bathroom features his-and-hers vanities and walk-in closets separated by a deep soaking tub and a two-person, walk-in shower. “We took another cue from the Romans with the sunken shower,” Mouen says. The spalike oasis continues outside with a private covered terrace shaded gracefully by tall bamboo.
The stately home occupies a prominent corner lot. With pediments, tall columns, and outdoor pavilions, the facade makes use of elements from many familiar styles. “Clearly, it’s influenced by classical architecture, but it’s not a literal interpretation,” Mouen says. Contrasting touches—the standing-seam metal roof, natural wood, and louvered doors and shutters—are reminiscent of Old Florida and the Caribbean.
Like the floor plan, the construction was also tailored to the climate. A concrete frame was topped with white stucco, a preferred method in the tropics, to insulate the house from the heat and stand strong against driving rain.
Deep roof overhangs all around and a prominent entry portico—supported by cypress-wood columns—shade the windows from intense summer sun, and the reflective metal roof keeps the attic space cool.