Gail and Jeffrey Stalnaker’s home on South Merritt Island is a lesson in waterfront design, practical elegance and aesthetic detail.

Story by Ingrid Matta photography by Rob Downey

After a long search in which location, floor plan and aesthetics were paramount, two years ago Gail and Dr. Jeffrey Stalnaker finally found their dream home on South Merritt Island.

“We knew immediately when we walked through the front door that this was the home we had been  looking for,” says Gail, a former coronary intensive care nurse who cares for her five-year-old granddaughter during the day. Her husband, Dr. Stalnaker, is vice president of medical affairs for Health First Community Hospitals.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

The Stalnakers, who are outdoor and sports enthusiasts, desired a home on South Merritt Island, a mile north or south of the Pineda Causeway so they could be close to family on the mainland and on the beach.

At their home situated on the mangrove and Spartina-protected bank of the Banana River, the Stalnakers enjoy the beauty and activity that make this part of the estuary world-renowned – hundreds of species of wade birds, manatees, porpoises, mullet, red fish and trout jumping, sailboats in the distance, quiet kayakers and the occasional kite surfers.

Once the superb location grabbed them, the next feature that took their hearts was the home’s convenience. Specifically, the couple gravitated toward the home’s flowing floor plan, generous square footage and reasonably sized lot. “The lot needed to be a manageable size since I do my own gardening, without giving up the square footage of the home,” explains Gail.

The artfully landscaped one-acre lot includes an old-world driveway gently snuggling majestic oaks that rival the home in stature. During construction, the former owner of the Stalnakers’ home, custom builder Kyle Militano of Militano Construction, carefully worked around the trees and strived to ensure the house blended with the surrounding flora.

A meandering swimming pool with two natural stone waterfalls and an infinity-edge nestles against the rear of the home, complementing the river view. The pool features a convenient extended shallow entry – perfect for young ones.

Meanwhile, a sitting area off to the side of the pool features a gas fireplace. The vast, yet out-of-the way, outdoor kitchen looks ready to work.

An Amish ship-like playhouse, handmade in Pennsylvania, delivered and erected by handyman Bill Holland occupies the backyard, indicating a fanciful and fun-loving family lives there. The playhouse is three stories tall with a gangplank, sliding pole and lookout tower.

CREAM OF THE CULINARY CROP

In nearly every room of the Stalnakers’ Mediterranean-style home, the Banana River demands attention, competing only with the home’s exquisite décor. While it exceeds 5,000 square feet, the home feels cozy, with Gail admitting to using nearly all the rooms – especially the kitchen.

She loves to cook and her kitchen is a testament to serious culinary business.

Conveniently located between the couple’s dining, nook and family room, it easily becomes a centerpiece for activity. A long tall bar begs onlookers. A wine pantry isn’t far away. A cook can reach from one counter to the next and three cooks could create a symphony without dissonance.

No kitchen is worth its salt without storage, and this one has it. Stocked full and ready to serve, this pantry befits the home’s size and functionality. Ample custom wood cabinets throughout conceal all the right tools. A large, elevated center kitchen island houses a stainless sink that snuggles discreetly under the black granite.

“This is a great place for iced shrimp,” Gail says with a spark.

Convenience and storage give way to professional quality appliances such as two Miele dishwashers which Gail loves. “My favorites are the two Wolfe refrigerator drawers and the one Wolfe warming drawer. The two dishwashers and the two ovens are what make the cooking and cleanup more efficient. The microwave is also a Wolfe,” she explains.

Then there is, of course, the fun-factor: “The kitchen always seems to be the main congregation area,” says Gail. “Guests find it easy to mingle with the cook in the kitchen, gathering around the bar and center island without interfering with the cook’s main working area.”

ALL IN THE DETAILS

Moving throughout the Stalnakers’ home, signature aesthetic details abound and include a solid-steel wrought-iron encased front door; wine pantry and bar; master bath beveled windows made by Dr. Stalnaker’s father; garage ramp to the house; pre-construction for an elevator; sound-proof insulation; master bedroom his and hers baths/closets; 23-foot entry ceiling with 12-foot ceilings downstairs; 10-foot ceilings upstairs; 10-foot interior doors and crown molding; hurricane-resistant windows; gym in the master suite; hideaway office and suite upstairs with a view; and wood-look garage doors with iron handles that hint of times past when elegant homes were functionally gorgeous and built to last hundreds of years.

Built to last, and constructed to blend in with the environment, the Stalnakers’ “kingdom,” (affectionately named so for their granddaughter) also boasts energy-saving features such as energy-efficient low-E impact resistant windows; triple-insulated exterior walls; Icynene insulated ceilings; 12-inch solid poured block walls on the front of the house; and an energy-efficient HVAC and water heater with timer.

Today, the Stalnakers are enjoying and embracing the home, having found their “kingdom” – a place to call home, to share with their children, grandchild, and to experience with close friends.

2012 GOURMET KITCHEN TOUR
Gail and Dr. Jeffrey Stalnaker’s kitchen will be featured on Brevard’s Gourmet Kitchen Tour sponsored by and benefiting The Women’s Center. The tour takes place on Saturday, March 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online at WomensCenterInBrevard.org.

Seven luxury showcase kitchens in various styles are on tour with scrumptious bites along the way from locally heralded chefs and eateries including Patrice Shuback, Djon Pepaj, Scott’s on Fifth, Green Turtle Market, Two Chicks and a Pot, Merritt’s Table, Matt’s Casbah, Petty’s Meats of Suntree and Sweetlips Confections.

“This year’s tour features various styles of kitchens including New England Shaker, Key West and Old World European,” says tour organizer Becky Dukes. “The owners have spent much time customizing their kitchens so that each is an individual showcase reflecting the owner’s personality.”

On sale at these breathtaking, fully equipped and inspiring kitchens are products from Wooden Spoon and Pampered Chef. Ticket holders may also enter to win one of the spectacular floral arrangements designed by Eau Gallie Florist, Petals Floral Design, Roses are Red, Fleur des Champs, Elbow Creek or Magic Dove Flower Shop.

All funds raised go directly to The Women’s Center to provide much-needed shelter, counseling, emotional and financial help and education to women and children who have suffered abuse. “The beautiful thing about the Kitchen Tour is that other than the planning and manpower provided by The Women’s Center Guild, there are few expenses,” Dukes adds. “Funds are generated from ticket sales, raffles, advertising from pertinent businesses and from the sale of items offered by Wooden Spoon and Pampered Chef at some of the homes. Our community support from restaurants, florists and musicians make this a very successful fundraiser. It is a great way to support a very valuable service for the women of Brevard County.”

The Women’s Center is a non-profit organization that helps more than 10,000 women and children each year by giving them a step-up toward safe, healthy, self-sufficient lives. The center’s mission is to empower women and their families by providing support, education, counseling, information and services. It provides counseling services, financial assistance, career guidance, job training, transitional housing and victim advocacy. Additional information about The Women’s Center is available at WomensCenterInBrevard.org. For more information on Brevard’s Gourmet Kitchen Tour, contact Becky Dukes at (321) 253-1394.