Independent developer Michelle Koch knew that she wanted something different when she built her latest spec home in Naples. Florida. “No more coastal contemporary or West Indies style,” she declares. “I wanted something entirely new, and I picked the perfect architect for the job.” Robert Mongillo, Principal of JMDG Architecture | Planning + Interiors has worked with Koch before, so he knew she would come to the table brimming with great ideas. He wasn’t disappointed.
“Michelle always has a vision,” he says. “We are very good at listening to one another during the design process.” What the two came up with was a low country-influenced home, hearkening back to Koch’s own upbringing in South Carolina. Airy, spacious rooms and a large shade porch are distinctive features of such an architectural style, as the original low country homes were designed to offset the heat and humidity of marshy climates while evoking the very best of southern hospitality.
Keeping with Koch’s desire to have “a place for everything,” there is an abundance of storage in this stylish kitchen, including a built-in coffee station, spice racks, double dishwashers, and an ice maker. Vintage-style pendants hang above the marble-top island that reflect the overhead light. Wolf/Sub-Zero appliances and a hidden butler’s pantry add functionality to the space.
Mongillo, who has been designing show-stopping homes since 1991, knew the triple dormer windows were also befitting, but they proved both an advantage and a challenge. “The windows provide wonderful natural light, but getting them just right was difficult,” he says. “I had to put a horizontal gable and tie it into the roof while keeping the whole look very clean. The front elevation is the part of the design of which I am the most pleased.”
But Mongillo isn’t only about the beauty of his designs. He is also interested in the livability of the home. “Certain features we did really set the house apart,” he says. “For example, I made a secret door from the master bedroom’s walk-in closet to the utility room, so the homeowner doesn’t have to lug laundry across the home to the laundry room.” Mongillo continues to say that “such functionality is one aspect of thoughtful design.”
He knew he had succeeded by the comments he received. “Even the contractor congratulated me on a job well done, and Michelle is delighted with how the house turned out.”
Koch also had the perfect interior designer in mind, one with whom she had worked so successfully before — Molly Hoover of Molly Hoover Design Group. Hoover put her years of experience to work by envisioning and creating an all-American classic with a nod to the vintage, but with a fresh feel. “Everything had to be grounded in great design,” says Hoover. “Our aesthetic is always about creating a home that is totally livable and functional, but beautiful too.”
The team succeeded in that mission. The home sold for a record-breaking price per square foot for a non-waterfront property in Pelican Bay. Hoover was not surprised because during construction people flocked to the site. “Pelican Bay is a walking neighborhood,” says Hoover, “and every day during construction, we had people clamoring to get a look inside.” Such attention is understandable. From the moment you enter this beautiful home through the weighty, black iron and glass door, you know care was taken at every turn.
Greeted by a two-story entryway that is flooded with natural light, the eye is drawn to the stunning woodwork displayed everywhere. Attention to detail is evident throughout the home. As you meander into the 16.5-foot vaulted great room, the cozy neutral furnishings beckon you to stay awhile.
One compelling feature is the oversized kitchen island that seats five, a must-have feature for developer Michelle Koch, wife and mother of three active teenage boys. “I build homes that I can see my family living in,” says Koch. “The house has to be livable, not just a showpiece.” This idea fits perfectly with Molly Hoover Design Group and their basic philosophy. “A home must be personal and comfortable. Form and function must be in balance,” explains Hoover.
Seating for eight is found at the 72-inch round Hickory White table set on random-sized plank white oak flooring by ProFloors & Cabinets. The fabric chairs are framed with hickory that help keep hands from soiling the upholstery. A round Hudson Valley Lighting chandelier overhead sheds soft light.
Wallpaper from Phillip Jeffries in a geometric print adds to the neutral palette of this intimate den. A freestanding Hickory White desk stands in front of a custom matte black and crystal cabinet, featuring a printer pullout and hidden cord storage. Glass doorknobs add a touch of elegance here and throughout the home.
The black Victoria + Albert tub serves as the inspiration for this master bath. “I fell in love at first sight with it, and we built the room around it,” says Koch. There’s a contemporary take on a classic look with black-and-white-marble-basket weave underfoot. A Regina Andrew glass bubble chandelier lights the solid crystal pedestal table. Plantation shutters by Shutter Concepts filter the natural light in this expansive space. The encased glass shower includes large-format dolomite tile, and a solid slab of quartz hosts vintage glass and chrome sconces above matching trough sinks.
A vast picture window provides a treehouse feel to this master bedroom. Spring grasscloth wallpaper adds a lovely background for the pop of Koch’s favorite shade of purple, seen in a Wendover art print above a Gabby Home Furniture headboard that moves to create the perfect pitch for sitting up to read. A Wesley Hall bench and chair add additional seating, while Global Views lamps with illuminated bases sit atop the Vanguard’s “Make It Yours” nightstands that flank the bed. The linen panel drapes, bordered with sage Greek keys, can be drawn against the night.
Custom-framed, antique nautical military flags adorn the clean white walls of this guest room. The black- framed bed adds contrast to the natural finish of the Vanguard Furniture nightstand, which complements the rope detailing in the Palecek chair. A blue Dash & Albert rug is soft underfoot and adds additional contrast.
Upon entering this guest room, the eye first captures the unique basket-woven twin mirrors that seemingly float above the headboard. The sheer linen Schumacher fabric of the window treatments complement the navy blue grasscloth wall covering, and the geometric ceramic lamps in navy and cream sit atop contrasting ivory nightstands, giving this space the finishing touches it deserves.
This project was not the first for this creative team. Because they work so well together, the creators of this special project were in sync from the moment Koch presented her inspiration photo — a home she admired in Minnesota — to the finishing design touches, which brought the home to life.
“I could rely on my contractor, Joe Sullivan, my interior designer, Molly Hoover of Molly Hoover Design Group, and her construction manager, Dana Fogelman, to be the eyes of the project when I was off site,” says Koch.
Despite challenges caused by pandemic slowdowns, when the team gathered around the fire table on the final day to raise a celebratory glass, they knew that they had collaborated well and pulled the project off. “We toasted each other on creating a classic and timeless, yet truly unique, home and one of which we are very proud,” says Hoover.
The lanai’s tongue-and-groove cypress ceiling, painted in a muted blue hue, oversees a cypress living room grouping in a neutral color scheme with contrasting dark blue upholstered chairs atop a Dash & Albert rug. Behind this cozy arrangement is a dining table with seating for eight, a built-in bar, and an outdoor kitchen that features Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances by Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. At the pool’s far end is a fire table that is a welcome retreat on cool nights.
A workspace connected by the master bedroom closet features shelving above the desk area, a charcoal leathered quartz countertop, and a Jessica Charles caster chair, making this laundry room truly dual-purpose. Built-in cabinetry includes mesh pull-out drying racks and hampers. This multi-purpose space also houses a large capacity washer and dryer and a small sink with lots of counter space.