Putting Down Roots


Fate leads landscape professionals to buy a longtime neighbor’s old home. And the rest is history. 

Stephen and Kristin Pategas
Stephen and Kristin Pategas registered their 1925 Mediterranean
Revival home with Winter Park's Historic Preservation
Commission.  "We wanted to preserve it forever," says Stephen

The notion to relocate was sparked when a neighbor telephoned Stephen and Kristin Pategas in 1998 to discuss the neighborhood tradition of Christmas Eve luminaries. After talking with the octogenarian widow for a few minutes, Stephen realized that his neighbor would be spending Christmas Eve alone.

"So we invited her to join us at the end of the street,” he recalls.

That act of kindness sparked the realization that their elderly neighbor would soon be selling her home of nearly 50 years. For Stephen and Kristin, who run a landscape design firm, it was almost as if fate had brought her to their door: “We needed a bigger house, and her house is right across the street from the park we designed,” says Stephen, a landscape architect. “Talk about going full circle.”

The park the Pategases designed is The Park at Orwin Manor, which was created in the early 1990s when the city of Winter Park donated the land for that purpose. The couple donated their time and talent to design a friendly oasis of green that the entire neighborhood could enjoy. The prospect of living right across from the park was irresistible to the pair, and it didn’t hurt that the circa 1925 Mediterranean Revival home had loads of charm and architectural appeal.

Initially, the couple approached the homeowner’s son, who was handling his elderly mother’s affairs. As it turned out, they weren’t the only interested buyers—a half-dozen others also had inquired about the house. “Each of us had to write a letter with our best offer,” recalls Stephen, 55. “We got a call saying he had accepted our offer; he may have gotten more for the house, but he knew we’d keep it up.” They moved into their new home in December 1999.

So dedicated are the couple to preserving the home that they had it registered with Winter Park’s Historic Preservation Commission in 2005. “We listed it so it cannot be destroyed; we wanted to preserve it forever,” says Stephen. A plaque attesting to the home’s historic status can be seen beside the triple-arched Palladian-style entryway, a door so distinctive that it was featured on a poster of notable Central Florida doors that was created for the Orlando Opera in 1992.

Arts & Crafts Appeal

The door looks a little different now that the Pategases have moved in; they painted the formerly white iron grillwork black. Through that door lies a beautifully built home with Craftsman-style finish work and a traditional bungalow layout with the bedrooms clustered on one side of the house.

The dining room is the home’s hub, with rooms radiating out from that center point. “It is truly the heart of the home,” says Stephen. The dining room’s walls are adorned with paintings by Kristin’s great-great grandfather, William M. Davis, a notable artist of the 19th century. Several of the paintings are of Kristin’s ancestors, and she says that she can see in those long-ago faces many family resemblances that have carried on into the current generation. A self-portrait of Davis himself is also in the room; it is displayed on the artist’s own easel at which he painted countless works.

When the couple first bought the three-bedroom home, they focused their energies on updating and improving the interior, including refinishing the

The Pategases made extensive cosmetic improvements to their
home's interior

hardwood floors, raising a few low ceilings and having the whole place rewired. They also made a number of cosmetic changes, including restoring the redbrick look of the living room’s fireplace surround, which had been painted white.

Other changes were more extensive and dramatic. The Pategases brought light into the dining room by replacing a wall on one side with French-style pocket doors. Those doors lead to a cozy, book-lined den (formerly a bedroom) with a bar and entertainment center that were custom-made in Indonesia; French doors also were added to the room’s exterior wall to provide a view of and access to the large side yard. Gauzy curtains made by Kristin billow in the breeze generated by the room’s ceiling fan.

“What I love about this home is, this is the house that let me use all the skills my mom taught me,” says Kristin, 50, a horticulturalist and certified landscape designer. “She sewed, she painted, she entertained—those things that make a house a home. That’s what I love most about this place.” Kristin’s handiwork can be seen throughout the home, as she made the window treatments for every room, sewed the coverlet and other bedding for the master bedroom, and even crafted a shower curtain to conceal the home’s only bathtub, which is an unfortunate shade of fleshy pink, the result of a circa 1960s bathroom renovation.

One early renovation that met with the couple’s approval was completed in the 1940s. The home’s kitchen boasts original Youngstown metal cabinets that were installed during that redo 60 years ago. Appreciative of the cabinets’ streamlined design and nostalgic appeal, the couple plan to keep the retro-cool cabinets when they eventually renovate the space once again. They’re grateful that the former owners kept an original clipping from the Orlando Evening Star from 1947 that heralds the home’s ultramodern kitchen renovation, including the Youngstown cabinets that were considered state-of-the-art at the time.


Global Influences

The Pategases (or “Pategai,” as they like to refer to themselves in plural) travel the world in search of unique items to use in their garden designs, and their home attests to their global roaming. Artifacts from Pacific islands, Asian outposts, Middle Eastern countries and other far-flung locales decorate every room, imparting a sense of mystique and wonder. A jade-green ceramic elephant from Thailand rests next to the living room sofa, and a metal gong from Bali hangs in the den-cum-library. Also in the library, a Turkish grain thresher serves a new purpose as a piece of wall art.

Each bedroom features a South Pacific-style bed canopy and linens, and a colorful tumble of paper umbrellas from Laos creates a freeform sculpture of sorts in the master bedroom. The effect is both exotic and alluring, inviting visitors to pause and more closely examine the unusual treasures in each room.

More foreign treasures populate the home’s exterior spaces, including ancient vessels from Turkey and seating cubes that were custom-made in Thailand based on ones the couple saw in Singapore. Peek inside one of the large pots by the front door and you’ll find a face peering right back at you; it’s a Balinese spirit talisman carved out of stone.


Stephen and Kristin used antique
chimney pots and a coral stone
fountain to house plants in a
container garden

The Great Outdoors

Once the Pategases remade the interior to suit their tastes, the couple turned their attention to the exterior. One of the first orders of business was to change the white stucco to a warmer and more welcoming shade. The custom color, which they’ve aptly dubbed “crème caramel,” lends a hospitable air and a sense of richness to the home.

Contributing to the home’s renewed curb appeal, the decorative wooden railing over the front door’s ornamental porch was replaced with a lower-maintenance metal replica, now painted black instead of the original white, and copper gutters were added. Oversized glass vessels in cobalt blue, brown and amber were placed next to the front door to add a pop of color and draw the eye, and more decorative glass elements hang from the gutter hooks along the front porch. As they swing in the breeze and reflect the available light, they bring movement and interest to the setting, which is further complemented by a small bistro table-and-chairs set that seems to beckon to passersby and say, “Come on and sit a spell.”

A commanding presence on the property is a towering magnolia tree, which the couple have adopted as the symbol for their landscape design business. A magnolia blossom adorns their company logo, and a mosaic medallion of a magnolia in full bloom punctuates the brick walkway that leads to the home’s front steps. The theme also continues into the master bedroom, where hand-carved wooden magnolia flowers serve as knobs for the custom-made closet doors.

Given the couple’s chosen professions, it’s no surprise that the Pategas property includes green and growing points of interest. Container gardens housed in antique chimney pots and an old coral stone fountain salvaged from the Peabody Hotel dot the landscape, as do a butterfly garden and vegetable-and-herb gardens that are harvested frequently for cooking ingredients. Plans include an outdoor shower-in-the-round sheltered by grape vines, a pétanque (the French version of bocce) court and a stylized temple ruins the couple have designed based on their extensive travels and research.

The Pategases plan on following in their former neighbor’s footsteps and living in their home well into their golden years. In the meantime, plenty of home-improvement projects are lined up for both inside and out: “We have a ways to go, but we’re getting there,” says Stephen.