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A View From Above
By Tammy Minn - Inland Empire Magazine, April 2006

Bob and Jan Duke bring home a taste of Italy in the custom hilltop home they built that reflects their favorite Mediterranean elements.

Move or make room for the treadmill. It was a choice Bob and Jan Duke of Riverside pondered several years ago, with an eye toward good health but an equally firm conviction that the exercise equipment needed a place of its own. They decided to start from scratch and chose to build a new house with a hilltop view in a gated community in the Hawarden Hills area of Riverside . Not only did the exercise equipment find a logical spot in the roomy master bath, the home reflects the Old World style they fell in love with while traveling.

"We especially liked Italy ," Jan says, and with the help of designer Ruth Chafin of Interior Network in Loma Linda , the 6,000-square-foot home now has the textures, colors and architectural details of a family villa. Ironwork, a range of stone in assorted finishes, and paint in the warm hues of Tuscany create a backdrop for the lifestyle the Dukes had envisioned.

Chafin understood what they were looking for when she saw the architect's blueprints-rooms that were suitable for large-scale entertaining, cozy family gatherings and the rigors of everyday living. Open areas allowed for ease of movement, but would also need to have profiles of their own. The entry area that leads to a formal living room on one side and a library on the other, a curved staircase ahead and the main hall that unites the first floor is one example. It is typical of the design challenges that come with an open floor plan. But to Chafin the goal was clear.

"As a designer, I'm about functionality," she says. She points to the home's three staircases as examples of how she dealt with it.

"The one in the front entry is grand, but won't be used everyday. One leads from the library to the office upstairs and will get moderate use. Another is near the garage and is very utilitarian," Chafin says. Though they serve separate functions, from certain points on the first floor, all three are visible. Design textbooks frown on breaking up the uniformity of carpeting. But Chafin, who is a licensed general contractor as well as designer and certified kitchen designer, knew she could break the rules and get away with it.

"We had to blend the function of each staircase into overall decorating scheme. We did it by using related, but different kinds of carpeting in compatible textures and hues," Chafin says.

Besides earthy colors and rich textures, stone is an important element in the Old World or Mediterranean style. But using one kind throughout wouldn't have set areas apart and, as Chafin says, "We didn't want that wonderful long hallway to look like a bowling lane."

So she and the Dukes decided to let the roles of the various spaces dictate the materials. The entry demanded special treatment, so polished travertine was used in an arched pattern for the entry, while honed travertine is in the hallway itself.

In the entry, the polished stone complements the Murano glass chandelier that had been shipped in four boxes, unassembled, from the Italian island near Venice . Artisans have produced fine glass products from Murano since about 1291, and the Dukes had their hearts set on this particular design. It is a focal point of the entry.

When planning the kitchen, Jan had fallen in love with a marble pattern called Golden Butterfly that she wanted to use on the countertops. But the pattern was as aggressive as it was beautiful, and Chafin felt if they used it on all the countertops, "it would make the kitchen feel like a cave." So they placed it on the expensive kitchen island where its boldness easily carries the large Viking cooktop and establishes the area as a special part of the room. Softer shades of granite are used in the rest of the kitchen.

Upstairs, the master bedroom includes a sizeable bath suite with a walk-in shower and spa-quality tub and the exercise equipment that faces a built-in TV to help the time fly while keeping in shape. It's something that might not have existed in an Old World villa, but the style's easy flexibility into contemporary life is one thing that makes it a popular choice among homeowners.

The Dukes have lived in the home about three years and are still adding pieces of art and other ornaments they collect in their travels. While some people bemoan the process of building a home, Jan enjoys it.

"It's nice to feel you've built something permanent," she says.


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