Outdoor Oasis in historic Micanopy


Published: Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 30, 2014 at 3:02 p.m.

The Morrises believe in signs.

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Drs. Deborah Morris and Glenn Morris stand outside the entrance to their custom-built pool home in Micanopy.

Rob C. Witzel

In 2007, Glenn Morris was offered the position of director at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute. He and his wife, Deborah, decided to accept — which meant a move from Baltimore, Maryland to Gainesville.

After touring six houses in Southwest Gainesville, which Deborah describes as “the same floor plan, just slight variations of the exact same thing,” they made their third house-hunting trip. They were tired of seeing “cookie cutter” homes when a colleague from UF mentioned a home for sale in Micanopy that was worth seeing.

For the Morrises, seeing is believing.

What drew them in was the towering live oak draped with Spanish moss just beyond the gated driveway.

“We saw the giant live oak and it was a sign: this was our house,” adds Deborah, an internist with Gainesville Internal Medicine Physicians.

The home was custom built in 1990 and features nearly 6,000 square feet of living space, which wraps around a landscaped garden and pool. Included are 4 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, a wine cellar, and a historic one-bedroom guest cottage (which was salvaged from the Sister Hazel mission in Downtown Gainesville) adjacent to the three-car garage.

“We were looking for a Florida house that would accommodate our favorite rugs and antique pieces,” Deborah says. The collection of Asian antiques and Oriental rugs are now interspersed throughout the home, a reminder of Glenn’s upbringing in Thailand.

“Glenn’s parents lived in Asia for over 40 years … we’ve inherited their collection. Some of the pieces are really special,” Deborah says.

While they describe their home’s design style as “cozy and classic” the home’s layout and landscape are utterly unique.

For one thing, there are the variety of palm trees interspersed between pine trees, live oaks, crepe myrtles, lush ferns, camellia bushes and azalea shrubs in varying shades of pinks and magentas.

“We were told there was an incredibly special collection of palm trees,” Deborah says.

According to the home’s landscape architect, Richard Berry, the original homeowners wanted the backyard to resemble a South Florida estate, since the homeowner was from that area.

“Basically we used every kind of palm tree that was cold-hardy on this job,” Berry explains. “The owner had me go in person to pick out each one.”

This kind of meticulous attention to detail extends throughout the award-winning landscape design, which features a koi pond, rock waterfalls, boardwalks, a pergola with swings, and a beach-entry pool (in lieu of steps to enter the pool, there is a graduated slope much like a beach).

“I had seen a pool in a magazine showing that beach effect,” says Berry, who teamed up with Fun State Pools to bring that vision to life. “It was one of the first beach-effect pools constructed in Florida.”

The landscape design was recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association, and the National Pool and Spa Institute.

There are even rumors that the pool was featured in Southern Living magazine. “I’ve never seen it … but I’ve heard [that] from several sources,” Richard adds.

Accolades aside, the true test of the home’s landscape and design has been Father Time.

“This garden is over 20 years old,” Richard says. He notes that it has survived Hurricanes Wilma, Charlie and Francis, as well as sitting empty for years at a time between owners. In the Florida heat and humidity, making it through these challenges was a true test.

In fact, when the Morrises were inspecting the house, they didn’t even realize there was a koi pond because the ferns and shrubs around it had become so overgrown they couldn’t see it.

“We didn’t intend to raise koi fish,” Deborah says of the 4-foot deep pond with around 40 fish living in it.

One thing these empty-nesters have figured out is entertaining: The home features a great room (with pool table, surround-sound speakers and a large screen television), spa, and guest cottage, plus 2.5 acres of landscaped gardens.

Their three adult daughters, Amy, Lili and Polly, no longer live at home, but when they visit, there’s more than enough space for friends, too.

“We wanted a cozy ‘empty’ nest with plenty of room for when our girls come home,” Deborah explains. “Plus the guest cottage is where we can send their boyfriends.”

Other visitors include Glenn’s colleagues and associates through his work with the University of Florida. As an institute director, Glenn, a medical doctor, is involved with recruiting and frequently hosts groups of international scientists, Deborah says.

The one-bedroom guest cottage has a history of its own.

“This was part of Sister Hazel’s mission in Downtown Gainesville,” Deborah says. “It’s a historic little Cracker house ... we call it Sister Hazel’s house.”

“They were tearing down some of the mission houses,” Glenn adds. “[The original homeowners] bought this one and moved it out here.”

When the guests are gone and the kids are finished visiting, the Morrises can relax with a book or perhaps a spade — they both love reading and gardening — and hang out with their pets: two dogs, Joy and Reese, and two cats, Tux and Eddie (and the koi, of course.)

“We do a lot of [the gardening] ourselves,” Glenn says.

“It’s relaxing ... a change of pace for us,” Deborah adds.

While there are several favorite features of the house, such as the centralized and open kitchen, the climate-controlled wine cellar, and even the spa (a favorite of their youngest daughter, Polly), the Morrises agree that spending time on the enclosed screen porch is just right.

“We enjoy reading, and this is just perfect for that,” Deborah explains.

“We often eat our meals out here,” Glenn adds.

After seven years of living in Micanopy, the Baltimore transplants are just happy to have a place where they can actually sit “outside” (on the porch or otherwise) instead of worrying about snow flurries or shoveling.

“We like the excitement and diversity of living in a college town,” Glenn says.

“And there’s no snow or ice,” Deborah adds happily.

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