Spacious Orchid Island home combines craftsmanship with West Indies architecture and a dash of Hollywood
BY MARY ANN KOENIG
A broad and elegant mansion in Orchid Island has a legacy in Vero Beach that stretches from Baltimore to Hollywood and extends to the NFL. The house was the creative brainchild of one of Vero’s most influential builders.
The Baltimore connection comes from one of the original owners, Art Modell, who owned the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. He and his wife, Patricia, formed a company with master builder and owner of McDonald Properties, Donald Ricci, and his wife, Nadja. Together, the couples purchased an oceanfront lot in Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club and built the home on spec, completing it in 2007.
Ricci’s stamp on the luxury building landscape of Vero Beach and Indian River Shores is profound. Through his decades of work along the Treasure Coast, he built some of Vero’s most prestigious communities, including Sea Colony, Sea Oaks Beach & Tennis Club and Carlton.
“My husband really started that high-end trend in condo building that is part of Vero history now,” Nadja Ricci says.
The house that the Riccis and the Modells created is a masterpiece of British West Indies architecture graced with a modernist touch.
The residence is accessed by dual stairs that arc together and form a single, wide staircase to enter this majestic, even regal home. The 11,604-square-foot house, laid out over three floors, is an oceanfront marvel and conveys no shortage of jaw-dropping appeal.
PRIVATE AND PEACEFUL
At the end of the road in Orchid Island’s exclusive beachside community, the location offers privacy and peace, along with rich, elegant detailing. Mahogany double doors open onto a grand entry hall preceding a double height living room that offers ocean and sky and greenery as the vista.
The Modells had previously purchased a separate oceanfront lot in Orchid Island and hired Donald Ricci to build them a home. They were so pleased with Ricci’s design and the quality of the craftsmanship that they decided to form the partnership and build a spec home, equivalent in character, just down the road.
Rich mahogany wood throughout the home, offset by subtle tan and textured walls and 18-inch travertine tile flooring, gives it an abundant feel of true sophistication.
With six bedrooms, 10 full bathrooms and four half-baths, there’s more than enough space for a large family.
The living room fireplace is a prominent feature, stretching the full height up to a 30-foot ceiling. Columns and arched windows fill the space, as does the presence of water, with the pool and the ocean just beyond.
The outdoor area includes a well-equipped kitchen, a cascading infinity-edge pool with a chic fountain and an integral spa and a large, sloping lawn beyond the pool.
Bordering dune vegetation lies between the house and the turquoise waters of the Atlantic.
ELEVATED AND FORTIFIED
The home is set back from the water and has an extended dune crossing that includes seating and is sheltered under an archway of sea grapes. Stairs lead to the beach, which has recently undergone sand replenishment and dune planting to reinforce the shoreline.
High-impact windows are in place throughout the home. With consideration to its direct oceanfront location, the home was fortified and raised by Ricci and his engineers. They elevated the property substantially from sea level, providing a prominent ocean view and a bolster against rough weather. Ricci designed a system of poured concrete and steel pillars which were sunk deeply into the ground to reinforce the foundation.
Ricci’s design and the construction of the home were exquisitely planned for high-end living. That strategy is reflected in the spacious kitchen intended for a caterer or professional chef to handle any entertaining assignment.
Along with two islands, Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances and an intimate breakfast nook, there is a secluded door adjacent to the family room off the kitchen that leads to the pool area, but off to the side. Servers can come and go discreetly.
And the butler’s pantry adjoining the kitchen is not only supplied with storage, bar sink and minifridge, among other features, but also offers a passage way to the formal dining room. Another nod to discretion and convenience for a catered dinner party.
An additional impressive element is the balance between refinement and practicality. Listing agent Ansley Watkins notes that, “All the bedrooms have walk-in closets and private bathrooms.”
The home’s considerable menu of special features indicates the amount of thought and preparation that went into construction and design of the home. An elevator is accessible from the ground floor to the third level, with entry located directly from the garage and on the upper floor, directly outside the primary owner’s suite.
EVERYTHING IS HANDMADE
On the main level, down a gallery hall to the opposite side of the house, a mahogany-walled library has a stately, deep coffered ceiling anchored by an octagonal centerpiece.
“We had an in-house carpenter who made all the panels, cut by hand,” Nadja Ricci says. “Nothing was ordered and brought in, everything in the house is handmade.”
The quality of the build is evident throughout.
Across the hall is the game room with its own bar and mini kitchen, pool table and dramatic extra-large windows looking out to the ocean. French doors provide direct pool access.
Nadja Ricci was trusted with the interior design. She worked hand in hand with Patricia Modell and together they selected luxury fixtures to accentuate the elegance of the residence, collaborating on everything from finishes to chandeliers, to countertops, cabinetry and color scheme. The decorative elements bring in the natural features of the spectacular oceanfront location.
On the third level, a gallery, which opens to the main floor below, delivers unobstructed views of the Atlantic.
Dual primary suites are in each wing of this level. On the south side, a large bedroom has a set of bay windows that capture the view of pool and sea. And the ensuite bathroom’s exquisite onyx countertops in the color of soft sand, are another indication of the home’s luxury.
MASSIVE MASTER SUITE
In the top floor of the north wing is the master suite. The room’s fireplace has a facing of deep-veined cocoa-colored marble.
“I had a marble source in Fort Pierce,” Nadja Ricci says, “who had specialty slabs that he always reserved for me.”
French doors lead to a large, private balcony overlooking pool and ocean. His and her walk-in closets and separate his and her bathrooms — his with steam shower, hers with a soaking tub with ocean view — are just a few lavish touches that went into imagining this space.
At the rear of the home, outside and across a walkway is the caretaker’s residence, a two-story apartment with living room and kitchenette upstairs, and bedroom and bathroom down a curved stairway.
The spirit of a house of this magnitude can be felt in its touches of flamboyance and pragmatism, such as convenient keypads throughout the house to access music or communication.
And then there’s the garage.
Two garage doors, at opposite ends of a ground floor expanse that traverses the width of the home, allow a driver to pull into the space, drive through and pull out.
There’s also ample parking space, and a bathroom, for the comfort of the chauffeurs.
The home is so solidly constructed that, according to Nadja Ricci, “If a storm brought a major surge of water through the garage, the garage walls could break away, but the house would still stand because of the steel pilings.”
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
On the ground floor is where the entertainment and recreation area can be found.
There is another guest suite on this level, along with a gym equipped with a wet bar and steam shower.
The six-seat theater has plush recliners with cup holders, a surround-sound system and dimmable lighting to mimic a true movie-going experience. Film posters grace the walls and are a fitting complement to the home’s Hollywood connection.
Patricia Modell was a successful actress with a significant career. As Patricia Breslin, she appeared in such iconic ’60s TV shows as Twilight Zone, Bonanza, Peyton Place, and many others. Her acting career culminated in her long-running portrayal of nurse Meg Brantley, on General Hospital.
Donald Ricci designed and built this home in a lavish style suitable for the graceful living offered in oceanfront Vero Beach. His commitment to quality and craftsmanship has left a lasting imprint on the Treasure Coast, and that is exemplified in the home. It’s a demonstration of his success in helping to create some of Vero’s best, most distinguished communities.
The line of ownership succession of this home went from the Ricci/Modell partnership to the developer and philanthropist Brook Lenfest who bought the spec home in 2008. The current owners are listing the home for sale with Alex MacWilliam Real Estate for $16,500,000.00. The luxury resort-like residence sits on 122 feet of direct oceanfront, over a large private parcel of 1.25 acres.