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East County Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 1 year ago

The Talk of the Town

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This show-stopping home embodies high style in the new Waterside community.
by: Robert Plunket Staff Writer

Waterside is having its moment.

That brand-new community just to our south, with its lakes and water views and what promises to be a sensational commercial center, is filling up fast. It seems that every day several new homes — priced up to well more than a million — begin construction.

Human nature being what it is, people are wondering what it’s like inside their impressive British Colonial style front doors. Models are there for the touring, but to fully understand Waterside’s appeal, it’s best to visit some new residents and see how these new homes fit into the Lakewood Ranch lifestyle. What makes them different? What clues to the future do they hold?

Dale and Lori Baker moved into their Lighthouse Cove home in May 2020. It’s a Nautica model by Lee Wetherington, embellished with numerous tweaks and upgrades. The exterior style is the aforementioned British Colonial, which finds its origins in the manor houses of the great plantations of the West Indies. It’s a blend of aristocratic English formality, strong and solid, yet lightened by easy tropical touches and colors.

The interior of the Baker home is a little unexpected. It is crisp, sharp and modern. Flooded with light and air, it’s part resort, part family home. The decor hints of coastal, but classic contemporary better describes the atmosphere. Lori Baker did the furnishing and decorating herself, using an off-white color scheme with occasional pops of coral and greenery.

But it is what’s outside that immediately grabs your attention. Many homes in the community face the water, but the Baker house takes a different approach. A nature preserve provides a calm and extraordinarily private view. “It feels so open when you walk in the front door,” Lori says. “That’s what we love most about the home.”

No other homes are in sight, and the “open view” screening around the pool provides an uninterrupted look at Florida nature in all its glory. “We’ve seen deer and a family of hawks,” Dale says. “And the spring wildflowers are amazing.”

At first glance, the main living area appears to be an open concept plan. But on further examination, you can see how the open concept idea has been carefully refined and rethought. There are discrete spaces throughout, each with its own appeal and use.

The living room itself is rather grand, with 17-foot vaulted ceilings. Next to it is a dining area, which could be used formally or informally depending on who’s coming to dinner. The kitchen, white with wood flat-door cabinets and high-end Wolf and Sub Zero appliances, is totally in sync with the home’s simple lines. A bonus room is adjacent; it could be used as a den, an office, a family room or even a fourth bedroom.

Perhaps the biggest innovation of the Bakers’ house is the way the outdoor living area has been rethought and perfected. Slide the glass doors back, and there’s a large seating area that extends the one indoors. Just to the left is a complete summer kitchen and dining area.

Indeed, if there is a takeaway from the new homes at Waterside — Lighthouse Cove and Shoreview are its two communities currently in operation — it is the triumph of the outdoor living area. It’s been a feature since the beginning of Lakewood Ranch, but now it’s blossomed to become the focal point of the home, perfectly integrated with the interior but with its own atmosphere of sun and soft tropical air.

Also innovative are the home’s many “smart house” features. Simply by using his phone, Dale can control and adjust all the lighting, indoors and outdoors. He can also control the lighting and temperature of the pool (it’s heated) and the audio-visual aspects of the home, including the built-in speakers. There is even a tech closet to house the electronic equipment.

Still, for the first-time visitor, the real wow factor in the Baker home is the master bath. True, master baths in the Ranch are famous for their size and opulence, but here there really is something new. One end of the space has been designed as a “wet room” with a stand-alone soaking tub and a spacious shower area containing three shower heads: two overhead and one hand-held. Matching vanities that “float,” backlit mirrors and a remarkable lighting fixture that turns into a ceiling fan at the touch of a button complete the luxurious, spalike atmosphere.

The Bakers are recent arrivals from Fort Lauderdale, where the traffic and frenetic activity finally became too much. They toured the state looking for the ideal location for a new home, but nothing seemed right — until they found Waterside. “We wanted peace and tranquility,” Lori says, and their new home gave them exactly that.

The amenities offered by their new community were also a powerful attraction. Lighthouse Cove provides yard maintenance. “It really is carefree living,” Dale says. “We’re free to travel and spend our time enjoying our home.” There is a clubhouse just a short stroll away, and other features include a doggie park for Piper, the couple’s wheaten terrier.

But it’s the quiet, contemplative atmosphere of their secluded living area that  means the most. In the distance a weeping willow can be seen, Spanish moss swaying in the gentle breeze. The bird feeder is busy with a cheerful crowd of feathered friends. It’s a lazy sunny afternoon as the Bakers, and Lakewood Ranch, look forward to a future full of new ideas.

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