When you ask people why they love living on the First Coast, nine times out of 10 the answer will be because they love living by the water.

The First Coast is defined by its waterways from the St. Johns to the Intracoastal to the Atlantic Ocean and all of the streams, crooks and tributaries in between.

There is something magical about living in a home surrounded by water. We recently sat down with homeowners who incorporated their love of water into the design of their home.

AT HOME ON THE RIVER: Norma Hagan, Jacksonville

Norma Hagan has seen sunsets in many places and says there are none as beautiful as the view from her San Marco home of the sun setting over the St. Johns River.

Hagan and her late husband purchased another home on the property in 1984 and remodeled it. Unfortunately, an addition to the home did not include pressure-treated lumber, resulting in severe termite problems. The Hagans decided to tear down the former house and built their dream home on the riverfront property in 1990. Hagan designed the new home.

Steps leading to the center of the 40' two-lane lap pool
Hagan, a pianist, just released a CD
Norma's home is currently listed for sale
Dining Area
Family Area
Front Entry
Living Room

“I had always wanted to build a home and this was my chance,” Hagan said. “Sunsets are magnificent here and I wanted to capture river views in every room.”

Featuring an open spacious design that flows from room to room, the home is beautifully designed for family living and entertaining overlooking the St. Johns River.

“My late husband was a general surgeon and I was a church pianist so getting away on weekends was difficult,” Hagan said. “We decided to build something that gave us the same enjoyment as our friends got from their vacation homes.”
Hagan literally drew the home’s pool in the dirt before the contractors poured the mold. It is a 40’ two-lane lap pool, designed for her husband who loved to swim and swam laps several times a day. Steps leading to the center of the pool provide a large sitting area for those who want to enjoy the water but not be in the way of those who truly wish to swim. The center of the pool is shallow so children have a large area to play in front of the steps. The pool screen enclosure is two stories so that it feels like another room to the house.

“I had always wanted to build a home and this was my chance. Sunsets are magnificent here and I wanted to capture river views in every room.” – Norma Hagan

The home is situated on a high bluff, making it feel as though the pool is suspended above the river. Hagan thought of every detail to complement the pool setting. There is an outdoor shower, a pool bath and a spiral staircase rises from the pool to the upstairs balcony and master bedroom. The Jacuzzi is located inside the home so that it can be enjoyed regardless of weather and the doors separating the Jacuzzi from the pool fold back to bring the inside out into the pool area. A full-sized refrigerator hidden in a bricked area adjacent to the Jacuzzi holds beverages and snacks, eliminating the need to track inside the home. There is an area for grilling in a screened porch off of the family room. The home has a dock with an upstairs deck as well as a boat lift.

River views are enjoyed throughout the home in nearly every room and Hagan looks out onto Downtown Jacksonville’s skyline from the home’s master bedroom where she can hear the sounds of waves lapping up onshore. From the balcony, the doors to the upstairs bedrooms open north and south rather than to the west over the river. The open doors are an extension of the home, making it possible to enjoy the sounds of a rainstorm without getting wet.

“The river is so calming,” Hagan said. “I love this house – it is the most wonderful house in the whole wide world.”

ALONG THE SHORELINE: Bob and Sallie Ann Hart, Ponte Vedra Beach

After enjoying immense success in professional careers in the energy industry and as a designer and developer of residential real estate, Bob Hart approached creating his retirement lifestyle with the same passion. Hart knew he wanted to build a dream home in Ponte Vedra Beach where he and his wife, Sallie Ann, could entertain family and friends, enjoying warm, ocean breezes and lush surroundings. Bob Hart also wanted to maximize the use of the outdoors as an extension of the indoor living areas. In addition to creating a haven for relaxation, the Harts wanted entertainment areas for family gatherings and ample space for their grandchildren to enjoy while visiting.

Bob & Sally Ann
Bob & Sally Ann Hart
Aerial view of their infinity pool
View of Hart's infinity pool and pavillion
Back of Hart's home showing the waterfall the infinity pool flows into

Hart designed his dream home with the assistance of Aurora Custom Homes and Land Plus Associates. The Hart residence is located one block off the Atlantic Ocean in Old Ponte Vedra Beach, overlooking a lagoon waterway and the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club golf course.

The nine-bedroom, 11,000 square foot home is designed with exquisite interior features and spectacular outdoor living areas incorporating dramatic water features.

“Everything in the Hart’s home was designed with a purpose,” said Michael Lenahen, owner of Aurora Custom Homes.

“The design uses water to create a pleasing environment.”

The vanishing edge swimming pool. situated between twin outdoor pavilions, is the focal point for all outdoor activity. The pool incorporates a hot tub spa, a shallow lounging area and a disappearing edge waterfall. Sun shelves, designed for lounging or relaxing in water only six inches deep, were designed with Hart’s grandchildren in mind.

“The pool is an extension of the home,” Lenahen said. “It’s a gathering place that is captivating and makes people feel good.”

The hot tub spa doubles as a water feature with a full perimeter overflow, creating a sensory experience as it sends water cascading into the pool. The volume of water at the vanishing edge of the pool can be adjusted for either a soft and refreshing sound or a lively, energetic affect.

“You can engineer the water to create so many different sights and sounds. The slow trickle and flow of water can be soothing while the rush of cascading water can be invigorating.” – Michael Lenahen

Located on each side of the home are landscaped courtyards with European stone fountains acquired by the Harts. One of the fountains is located in a shaded tree-lined seating area called Palm Court. A rill, or water trough, transports the overflow to a second bubbling fountain adjacent to the garden pavilion. Fiber optic lighting brings this area aglow when night falls. The second fountain occupies the center of a brick-lined herb and flower garden.

At the rear edge of the property is a serpentine bulkhead and boardwalk along the lagoon. The boardwalk, with its dual-level canoe launch and recessed dock, makes it possible for the Hart grandchildren to safely cast their fishing lines on a sunny afternoon.

“The Hart residence is an extraordinary property enhanced by the creative use of water features in the outdoor living areas,” Lenahen said.