The sprawling Spanish Mediterranean home in Fort Myers looked magnificent from the outside, but it was the inside that needed lots of imagination. It sat on the market for years until Dorothy and Ron Fitzgerald had a vision of what it could become. They hired Dwayne Bergmann to make that vision a reality. Now the couple has their dream home, and Dwayne Bergmann has a prestigious national award for his work.
“It was a very long road, but I think it turned out very amazing,” Dorothy Fitzgerald began. “When it started, that house was a one-bedroom suite with a six-car garage and it was on the market for a very long time, and I had a vision for it and Dwayne made everything possible. I think it is amazing and it deserved to win an award.”
The original home was like a man cave. Fitzgerald described walking in the front door down a long hallway and into a dark den.
“To get to the house, you went up the stairs and there was a dining room, a kitchen, a small living room and a bedroom with a master bath,” she described. “It literally made no sense which was why it was on the market for years. From the outside it is enchanting. It kept attracting me. I found it and I said ‘I love this house.’ I understood it. I understood what it needed to be.”
With a beautiful courtyard, pool and cabana, Fitzgerald knew the home needed to feature a downstairs area that led to the outside. She had no use for a six-car garage that could actually hold 10 cars with all its lifts. So the floor of three of the garages was raised about four feet and a large kitchen was created. Next to that a two-story addition was created to build a den and library downstairs and a master bathroom and two-story master closet upstairs.
Walls were town down to open up the old man cave into a big family room. A screened-in porch with a hot tub was enclosed and made into a dining room. Another outdoor space was made into a rounded inside addition to house a baby grand piano. Windows overlooking the mangroves and little waterway behind the house were added. Now instead of solid walls, the family room is bright and light and opens to the courtyard, pool, and back deck.
Upstairs the old dark brown kitchen was torn out and replaced with a guest room and living room that overlooks the mangroves. The master suite was enhanced with a huge modern master bathroom and a very large unusual two-story walk-in closet. Another bedroom was also added upstairs. Now with the three upstairs bedrooms and the two cabanas, the home has five bedrooms, and five full and two half bathrooms. It went from 5,500 square feet under air to 7,500 square feet.
“It really turned out well,” Fitzgerald said. “It has been an amazing process. It was supposed to be a short-term project, but when you think of lifestyles it makes sense. You don’t want to take the groceries upstairs every time you walk in from the garage. I think I need a house with a couple of bedrooms and a kitchen downstairs and not a 10-car garage. It has evolves into something different. We love it.”
The biggest change, and the one that is award winning, is the kitchen. It won a first-place national award for best kitchen design in Florida from Wood-Mode Fine Custom Cabinetry. The competition was part of Wood-Mode’s 75th anniversary celebration. The Inaugural Design Awards had 560 entries from North American designers and dealers. Dwayne Bergmann’s winning design will be featured in a Wood-Mode commemorative picture book.
Bergmann, owner of Dwayne Bergmann Interiors, said the most difficult part of the kitchen was the intricate ceiling that has arch shape designs that match the kitchen cabinets.
“This ceiling was incredibly difficult to capture,” Bergmann said.
He also added a backsplash wall behind the Wolf stove that is filled with sparkling gems that complement the glistening chandelier.
“We completely reinvented this space,” Bergmann described. “That was a big decision to move the kitchen from upstairs to downstairs. The old kitchen was upstairs so it was a little inconvenient. We did some 3D imagining before they pulled the trigger to move the kitchen downstairs.”
Fitzgerald, who loves to travel and cherishes her childhood memories, wanted a home that seamlessly matched the old with the new. She said Bergmann was able to do that perfectly.
“It was the right fit,” Fitzgerald said. “He was very responsive to my ideas. It respects my childhood and reflects my travels. It shows my personality, and yet everyone who comes in feels comfortable and welcome.”
While the kitchen was his biggest feat, Bergmann and his company designed the entire remodel.
“When you came in before, you basically were just walking into walls. We really reconfigured the downstairs area,” he described. “I have always had a gift for envisioning space and floor plans and layouts.”
Bergmann did everything from choosing furniture to selecting the marble floors downstairs and walnut floors upstairs that replaced the old tile and carpet.
He redesigned the square-shape staircase into a softer rounded one. He created new ceiling details, added a sunshelf in the pool and expanded the pool deck. All new windows and window dressings were added. On the exterior new moldings, lights and back porch railings were put in. Most of all, he made the home more open with rooms downstairs that flow to the outdoor space, and are brighter and more open.
“That was the original challenge,” Bergmann said. “The layout just didn’t have the features that people would want in a house this size.”
The entire process took about three years to reinvent the home that was built in 1999.
“Remodels are much more intricate than new builds,” Bergmann explained. “I think it is much more difficult to do a renovation. I think a lot of people don’t realize how much work it is to do a remodel. You are working with a lot of preset conditions. The goal is to make it look like new construction. The concept is to take this Spanish Mediterranean and soften it. The interior didn’t replicate that Spanish Mediterranean. It really lacked style on the interior. There was this huge focus on the exterior of the house and then you walk in and there was this big letdown. Our goal was for people to come in and say ‘wow this is an amazing home.’”
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