Home Work

Every member of the Fresonke clan invested sweat equity in an Isleworth renovation.


Open House
The Fresonke family (from left), Dean, Max, Alex, Stephanie and Roxy, bonded over their home renovation project.

Technology entrepreneur Dean Fresonke isn’t afraid of hard work. Or, for that matter, of making his children work hard. So when he decided to buy and renovate a home in Isleworth, his three kids weren’t surprised to learn that his plans called for a substantial investment of their time and skills.

Son Alex, 21, helped his father install plumbing fixtures, lay tile, and put in balcony railings and landscape lighting. Daughter Roxy, 17, pitched in by providing miscellaneous labor for such tasks as fence installation, as well as helping her mom select furnishings and color schemes. Max, 14, helped install the home’s Ethernet cable system, and he wired the entire home’s audiovisual systems, including the one for the theater room.

The work began in the fall of 2005 and took about 18 months. Almost every square foot of the home renovation tells the story of a family that, while privileged and prosperous, has a brown-bag-lunch work ethic.
“This house is really designed by how our family operates,” says the mature-beyond-his-years Max. “I feel like I can really call this place my home because I can look around and see what I contributed.”
By having the family complete much of the home’s finish work, Dean and his wife, Stephanie, saved a bundle on labor costs. He also pinched pennies by comparison shopping on the Internet for everything from plumbing fixtures to furnishings. He estimates that the combination of smart shopping and free labor saved $500,000, including a savings of 90 percent on the home theater. One quote for the home
theater’s equipment and installation came in at $60,000. But with Dean’s savvy shopping and Max’s self-taught knack for installing and wiring audiovisual equipment, the family completed the job for a tenth of that.

Starting (Almost) from Scratch
The original floor plan consisted of disproportionately high ceilings that had the effect of emphasizing the small scale of the rooms. The Fresonkes hired Orlando architect Terry Irwin to completely redesign the space so that the excess ceiling volume would create a larger second story within the original shell of the home. That increased the living area by nearly 2,000 square feet, to 6,600.

“Working within the original footprint of the structure, we increased the size of all of the ground level rooms by relocating walls,” notes Irwin. “In an extreme case, we relocated the entire main stair. We then created additional spaces by building a mezzanine level.”

The Fresonkes hired Tom Harvey of Image Builders of Central Florida to implement Irwin’s design plan, which turned out to be a far more complex project than Dean, 48,  anticipated. “I had the idea that the second story could fit in the shell of the home, and I completely underestimated the effort it would take,” he says, adding with a self-deprecating chuckle, “and I’m an engineer by training!” His ultimate what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into?

moment occurred when the foundation had to be cut apart to pour the sturdier supports required by code to handle the weight of the second floor. At that

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The ultramodern dining room reflects the family’s contemporary taste.

point, Fresonke, whose business interests include a wireless entertainment company, realized that razing the original home and building a new one on the property might have been a better plan. 

But he forged ahead. Dean used one of his favorite computer-aided programs, Google SketchUp, to design many of the home’s custom amenities, including the summer kitchen outside. The kitchen features a bar crafted of brushed aluminum and black-stained ipe wood.

Dean employed the same program to design the wood-topped dining island in the kitchen, a favorite gathering spot for the family. Stephanie, 45, “loves to cook, and I love to eat,” says Dean, eliciting laughter from the kids.

During the Isleworth project, the family lived in a “fixer-upper” in Windermere. It was there that they honed their home-improvement skills during the off-limits demolition and heavy construction stages of the Isleworth renovation. After those stages were completed, most of the Fresonkes’ family time was spent hammering, sawing or otherwise working on their future home. The children have fun at their dad’s expense when describing his role as de facto foreman. Roxy spills an ill-kept family secret when she reveals that her father was notorious for starting projects just when the others were ready to call it a night. Adds Alex, “It was like an equation: ‘Just one more thing’ equaled four to six more hours of work.”

For all this good-natured ribbing, family members don’t seem to mind the countless hours they spent together to complete the home. On the contrary, the ties that bind this family are clearly ones of respect and affection. “It was definitely a bonding experience,” says Roxy of their months of hard labor.

The Fresonkes finally moved into their home in summer 2007. “It wasn’t really done, but it was livable,” says Dean. He estimates that it took another eight months to complete the remaining details, including trim work, installing a fence and other projects done entirely by the family.

Finishing Touches
While the renovations were under way, the Fresonkes turned to designer Ron Nowfel of Robb & Stucky in Altamonte Springs for help in achieving their goal of a welcoming contemporary interior. Nowfel provided guidance in selecting colors, furnishings and light fixtures—among them a Jetsons-worthy chandelier that hangs over the dining table. His touch can be found throughout the home, from the sleek leather sectional in the living room to the Asian tranquility of the Zen-influenced master suite.

 Open House
The Fresonkes frequently gather in the second-floor game room, where the black felt of the pool table is repeated on the ceiling above. Dean designed the grid of triangular ceiling beams.

With Nowfel’s help, the Fresonkes chose a neutral palette accented with bright splashes of primary colors for the public areas of the home. Softer shades, such as the cool blue-greens of the master suite, were used in areas meant for retreat and relaxation. A mix of warm wood and brushed-marble flooring provides welcome sophistication underfoot, and the now-open floor plan provides for a fluid passage through the living, dining and cooking areas of the ground floor. Furnishings and accessories are streamlined and sophisticated with no frills, frippery or excessive ornamentation, in keeping with the thoroughly modern ambiance the family wanted to achieve.

Stephanie who is Sprint Nextel’s director of enterprise sales for the southeastern United States, is especially pleased with Nowfel’s creative collaboration with the family. “We decided that this house could be a contemporary showplace,” she says.

“It’s a great embodiment of our personalities,” adds her husband. “We’re in high-tech businesses, so it feels right to be in a warm, modern home.”

The game room upstairs, which boasts a black-felted pool table and a bar-kitchen designed for entertaining, “is definitely the family favorite; it’s become the heart and soul of the family,” says Dean. The room holds special meaning for the Fresonkes, as it was designed by a close family friend, Kim Baguley of Palm Beach Portfolio in Delray Beach.

All of the children’s bedrooms also are located upstairs, and it’s in Roxy’s room that the remaining traces of the home’s former interior from 1991 can be found. “My room is the only room the drywall didn’t come out of,” says Roxy. Her bedroom suite, formerly the home’s guest suite, also holds the single original fixture left in place: a bathtub deemed suitable for saving.

For elder son Alex, the renovation experience has had a profound impact that goes far beyond his learning to handle a tile cutter and nail gun. “It was a huge family project, but personally for me, it decided what I wanted to do,” says Alex, who is working toward a degree in construction engineering at the University of Central Florida. And it’s clear that Alex speaks for the entire close-knit clan when he adds, “This house means family to me. When I come home, it’s about being with family.”