BY MICHAEL KORB
Florida Weekly Correspondent | Florida Weekly
There comes a time in most people’s lives when they want to simplify. Perhaps they clean out their closets, donate a piece of furniture to Goodwill or sell a car they don’t use.
Roma and Bob Michnal went a step further. They sold off a gorgeous beachfront home in Stuart, a large home in Atlanta and a condo in Michigan. Then they sold their 14,000-square-foot home in Mediterra and downsized to a 6,000-square-foot penthouse in Aqua at Pelican Isle, off Vanderbilt Drive in North Naples. You know, to simplify things. And they’re loving every minute of it.
The foyer of the penthouse at Aqua at Pelican Isle invites guest to appreciate things as soon as they get off the elevator. A shiplap-covered dropped ceiling floats above, giving a visual cue that directs the eye towards just one of the many spectacular views from the 11th floor. The entryway also features a checkerboard wall that is backlit and seamlessly hides a secret door that leads to the service elevator.
“We wanted to be able to travel, so we’d looked at every condo building down here but never found anything that we really, really liked,” Mrs. Michnal says. “And then once this building was built and the penthouse was available, we knew this was it.”
Thanks to the move, their life is leaner. And in a way, they’ve come full circle. Before they were married 35 years ago, the duo started a mail-order supplement business from their kitchen table. True, that one-bedroom apartment in Atlanta was a far cry from the literal heights they’re experiencing now, but owning and maintaining just one place feels like simpler times.
Yet, the penthouse at Aqua is a three-bedroom, 3½ bath beauty that exudes a warmth and sense of organics you don’t see a lot of in Naples. In fact, if not for its stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico, you’d think this place might be in Telluride or Aspen or Squaw Valley. It’s a welcome respite from the traditional Mediterranean feel that still has a grip on this area.
“They actually had stacking stone walls at their home in Mediterra,” says interior designer Sherri DuPont of Collins & DuPont Design Group, who not only handled the design of this penthouse but also the Michnals’ home in Mediterra. “And they wanted to carry that element over, although a lot of those elements — the wood and stone — were mainly used outside at Mediterra. So it’s a little different feel. A bit more Polynesian or Californian.”
Those elements give the space a glow and natural feel that belies its physical location, some 11 stories above the ground. Even more impressive is that the unit was basically an empty shell when they purchased it a couple of years ago. Aside from cabinetry in the baths, kitchen and laundry, it was a blank slate.
Ms. DuPont worked off of the tones of the existing cabinetry and created nooks and gems just about everywhere — even the 11-foot ceiling.
“Throughout I let the architecture of the space speak to me,” the designer says. “Like the ceiling that you see in the living room actually drew from the shape of the room. I added the wood — it’s shiplap — in the ceiling to accent the shape and make it a little more casual and keep it grounded. The wood was installed directly onto to the slab of the ceiling and we boxed in around it in order to give it more dimension.”
In the foyer she used a dropped ceiling that’s illuminated from above, creating a dramatic entry featuring glass fire doors. In fact, when you arrive at the penthouse and the elevator doors open, you’re greeted by a gorgeous backlit checkerboard wall that hides a secret door to the fire staircase and service elevator. “Trust me, (before) it was the ugliest door you’ve ever seen,” Mr. Michnal says. “So when I saw this feature in a magazine, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’” And now the foyer is unlike anything else in the building.
And before we get off the ceiling, it should be noted that the wooden beams that you see following the curvature of the building’s exterior are actually just boxed out sheetrock that has been faux painted to look like wood. That masterful artistry also took place in the master bathroom. The marble columns that ground the standalone tub are again faux-painted portions of sheetrock. It turns out that when Ms. DuPont wanted to continue the marble up the columns, it was no longer available, forcing the faux paint artist back into action.
Structural changes were kept to a minimum, but because Mr. Michnal wanted a fireplace in the living room, Ms. DuPont moved the wall it would be on in order to have it face the seating area a bit better. That move gave more space in the study. And because there were no gas lines in the living room, Ms. DuPont used a hologram fireplace, which is the very definition of slick. “They’re quite nice now,” she says.
So now the Michnals can sit back and relax in the living room, enjoying the glow of the fireplace and still glance out at the lights of the marina below. “You know, that’s the thing we really didn’t like about living on the beach — at night it’s pitch black out there,” Mrs. Michnal says.
“But here, we see the lights of the marina and waterway below,” Mr. Michnal adds. “It’s just beautiful.
“There is absolutely nothing in this condo that we would change,” he adds. “We love every inch of it.” ¦
— Collins & DuPont Design Group 296 14th Ave. S., Naples 948- 2400; www.collins- dupont.com
—Aqua at Pelican Isle 13675 Vanderbilt Drive 591- 2727; aqua- naples.com