Business leaders Steve and Rita Hollosi were seeking a property “on a pristine lake” when they happened upon Deer Island and were smitten. Here, in Winter Garden, Florida, resort-style living on the John’s Lake chain of lakes offers a serene island lifestyle with expansive homesites, large setbacks and breathtaking water views and access, without being far removed from desired amenities.
“We had been looking at waterfront property and loved the possibilities here,” says Steve Hollosi, in an interview with Homes & Estates. “There’s one main road, and it’s gated. There are large estate lots and only 174 residents on the island.”
That deep sense of privacy is enhanced by the property upon which the Hollosis built La Casa de Leon. This one-of-a-kind heritage estate with 11,696 square feet of indoor living, and an additional 11,000-plus square feet of magnificently finished, covered outdoor living space, sits upon a 1.75-acre peninsula surrounded on all sides by water and protected wildlife, and boasting a rare 700 feet of lake frontage.
“This estate has great access minutes from shopping, dining, business centers and the international airport, but so private, serene and secure,” says Rajia Ackley, president, Coldwell Banker Ackley Realty. “This property has attracted significant attention domestically and internationally, as well as a celebrity clientele seeking a waterfront estate with seaplane access in an incredibly private yet convenient setting where they can have an unsurpassed, meticulously realized design and all the space they need for entertaining, with 22,000-plus square feet under roof.”
The home the Hollosis built was inspired by their Western European heritage and love of high style, and driven by their shared experience with construction and design. It also represented a long-held goal.
“My father and I began from modest European beginnings, and one of our dreams was to someday live on a private island,” Hollosi says. “He passed away just as our home was being finished, but he got to enjoy the construction process and make sure that, from beginning to end, quality and inspiration flowed through the home.”
With authentic European architecture showcasing fine craftsmanship, the estate makes an impression from every angle. Enter through the grand double doors, and you’re enveloped by lavishness. An inlaid mosaic is mirrored on the ceiling by some of the intricate faux painting found throughout the home — a process that took the artist six months to complete. A sweeping iron staircase, detailed carvings, elaborate moldings, a shimmering chandelier and cast stone columns — of 87 found on the property, both inside and out — further establish the Mediterranean magnificence.
“We bought 40,000 to 50,000 linear feet of moldings. It enabled us to do really beautiful moldings throughout, with coffered ceilings in several of the rooms, and also extend the moldings to the covered outdoor space to make it feel as luxurious as the inside,” Hollosi says. “Some of the walls are 12-inch-thick, solid concrete, the roof tiles are all hand-set with no nails, and a master craftsman from Germany did all the custom cherry cabinetry in the house. All the stonework was done by a South American stone craftsman on premises, and all the marble and granite are from Italy.”
The resulting home is “jaw-dropping,” Ackley says, in features, finishes and floor plan. “There’s not one detail that was missed on the entire property, from the beautiful wine cellar to the sunken bar off of the great room, which was designed so you can look eye to eye with guests.”
Perhaps the home’s most inspired feature is the way it is situated on the lot. A priority for the homeowners, the siting allows the home to drink in the views, no matter which room you’re in.
“It’s like you’re living outdoors, inside,” Ackley says. “It makes the house so special, to be able to walk through every room and feel the beauty of nature and enjoy the water, the sky and the sunsets.”
The fully finished, protected outdoor space all along the entire back of the home brings that enjoyment outside, with fireplaces both upstairs and down, elaborate architectural details and enough room to host a party for hundreds. Beyond, a private boathouse with two Jet Ski lifts; a 70-foot negative-edge Intellitouch pool with spa and fire bowls; an outdoor kitchen; and lush, tropical landscaping further extend the entertainment potential.
The estate also features a handsome library, two sumptuous master suites, five other en suite bedrooms, two butler’s pantries, an eight-person sauna, a Hollywood-style theater room, a wine cellar, an exercise room and a 1,500-square-foot private caretaker’s quarters.
17819 Westbay Court, Winter Garden, FL 34787
By Jaymi Naciri
This article originally appeared in the fall 2016 issue of Homes & Estates.