HOME & GARDEN

Living Waters

Custom builder for a virtual who's who of Gator coaches, Tommy Waters new delights in living in the dream home he created for his own family.


Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 30, 2005 at 12:56 p.m.

When builder Tommy Waters and his wife, Beverly, set out to design their dream home, they had two goals in mind. One was to show potential customers the grandeur and scale that Tommy and his crew could create. The other was to craft a home as warm and welcoming as Tommy and Beverly themselves.

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The Waters family outside their Biltmore home which Tommy and Beverly took two years to plan and build.

Photos By ROB C. WITZEL and MICHAEL C. WEIMAR

Their Mediterranean-style home in southwest Gainesville's Biltmore neighborhood succeeds on both fronts. With soaring columns and a custom-built spiral staircase, opulence abounds. Warmth and comfort come from natural materials-granite, travertine and cypress-with walls, fabrics and carpeting in earth tones from sage to creamy yellow.

The Waterses also added Old-World touches from rope molding to Venetian plaster. "We wanted it to be as authentic as possible," Tommy says, running a hand along the rounded corners of the rough-textured plaster wall. "We made the corners round, because that's what the old castles and estates looked like. They were plastering over stone. We're using wood and concrete block, but we can still create the authentic Mediterranean look."

Tommy's in his 30th year of building custom homes in Gainesville, with a client list that's a virtual who's who of the area, including Steve Spurrier, Billy Donovan and Urban Meyer. He's built 20 $1 millionplus homes in Gainesville, which gave him plenty of opportunity to gather ideas for the home he and Beverly, both 48, moved into last May, along with their two daughters, Christy, 12, and Carly, 9. (Son Derek, 21, lives on his own but works for Tommy's company.)

For two years, Tommy and Beverly planned their home, choosing Brazilian travertine in Orlando and looking at Mediterranean-style estates in South Florida. Beverly, a true Southern girl, knew she wanted a sweeping spiral staircase. Tommy wanted an open, family-friendly space dotted with secluded areas for privacy and quiet time.

He brought in plenty of help to make their vision come to life: Amy Martin designed the home, Sharon Adair decorated it, and Pete Herrick, a trim carpenter with whom Tommy has worked for 10 years, created the upscale woodwork.

Here, the story takes a poignant turn. Last April, shortly after Herrick completed the intricate built-in shelving throughout the Waters home, he left to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserves in Iraq. After a few weeks in Baghdad, Herrick was injured when his Humvee was attacked. Paralyzed from the neck down, he is recovering at a veteran's hospital in Tampa.

"Pete's a good friend and an incredibly talented carpenter," Tommy says. "I really miss him. I feel honored that his work is in my house." Another talented artisan, William Van Sickle of Lake City, created the wrought-iron banister of the spiral staircase and second-level catwalk. Rick Chance painted murals and faux finishes in several rooms. "Rick read our minds," Beverly says, referring to the mural of an Italian balcony overlooking the sea, which is above the tub in the master bath. "We looked through his portfolio and gave him an idea of what we wanted, and he did an amazing job." The result of their many collaborations is a two-story, 8,000-sqare-foot home with a sweeping, palm-lined drive, a four-car garage and a tile roof.

"I have to pinch myself when I come home," he says.

"I want all of my customers to feel that way, too." Mornings in the home bustle with activity as Beverly gets the girls off to school. Bev's kitchen, crafted by Kitchen Art and Design, is the center of activity. "In the morning, we're all in here, gathered around the breakfast bar," she says. "That's where we communicate." With a commercial-grade Wolf cooktop, double dishwashers, a wood-paneled Sub-Zero refrigerator and handy refrigerator drawers for the girls' juice and snacks, the well-appointed kitchen looks over the breakfast bar to the family room and kitchen dining nook.

"I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen, and I wanted it to be open so I could be with my family while I cook," Beverly says.

Once Tommy's at work and the girls are at school Beverly is off to the gym, errands and volunteer activities with the Junior League before coming back to start her three jobs: "taxi-cab, cook and telephone operator," she laughs. Tommy often works late, but he loves the evenings they spend around the pool, where bubbling waterfalls overlook the two-acre lot.

"In the summer, I love to come home, get in my bathing suit and just lounge around with my girls," he says. "I'm a home person."

Tommy, a Gainesville native who attended Littlewood, Westwood, Buchholz and Santa Fe Community College, met Beverly, who grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, when mutual friends set them up on a blind date. They hit it off right away ("As soon as she walked in the door," says Tommy) and have been married for 17 years. Tommy learned home building from his father, Robert Waters, and enjoys passing on his knowledge to his son, Derek, who is learning construction from the ground up, as Tommy did.

"I really credit my dad with taking the time to teach me," Tommy says. "He showed me the fundamentals of building a house."

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