Let me count the ways I love Winter Park, Orlando, and Central Florida and why we have been living here for the last 30 plus years!
Maitland has a population of only 18,000 , but it is Central Florida's best-kept secret. It has a small-town feel but a large town reach. See new condo complex below right.
BUSINESS The pull to Central Florida for me was a steadily increasing economy. Not a boom or bust from where I escaped. In the mid-80s Florida was bringing in retirees from the north with pockets full of cash (from the houses they just sold) and would do drive-bys and point to the new house they wanted to buy. They really didn't want to spend any time designing new houses. Speculative construction was booming as builders built as fast or faster than they sold. Banks were lending money hand over fist. Things have slowed down a bit since the last national recession but business in leisure and related industries is very strong. For me, several clients fly in to enjoy the fun and sun and will visit my office to have a house designed.
LOCATION Maitland is located in the middle of the state of Florida, just north of downtown Orlando and adjacent to Winter Park and Altamonte Springs. In under two hours you can drive to either the Gulf of Mexico or enjoy the Atlantic coast. In four hours you can visit Miami; in eight you can be in Atlanta or settled into your hotel room in the Keys. We are 45 minutes from an international airport with direct flights to Europe. Very convenient..
Maitland itself is 30 minutes from Universal Studios, Seaworld and Disney attractions. It takes 4 minutes from our house to get to the Interstate and downtown to national sports events to opera in 9 minutes. It's just super.
DAY TO DAY LIVING: Wow, it's amazingly great! We can be at any mall, bank, food store, restaurant we like, 7-11, movie theater, park, funeral home, church, hospital, etc. within a 6 to 10-minute drive. We are in a subdivision of older homes, on a lake, heavy oaks, and can go north/south/east/west without any problems. The neighborhood is quiet and walking the doggies very easy while taking photos of the changing seasons and flora. There are over 5 parks with walking trails, lakes, children's playgrounds, etc. within that 10 minutes. The sheer convenience of day to day living is the number one thing.
FUN THINGS TO DO Fish and boat on local lakes or deep water, attend art museums, golf on numerous courses at public and private clubs, attend NBA or baseball games, spend days at Universal Studios and Disney, jog and walk at nice neighborhood parks, drive to the beach and come back in one day, lots of restaurants and movies, have bbqs by the pool, stay casual nearly all year long, feel alive! Drive east for an hour and feel the thunder of a rocket launch from the Cape. While in the area stop in for an airboat ride! Drive 25 minutes north to Sanford and rent a float boat to navigate the clear waters of the St. John River. Florida is for outdoor folks who enjoy water, sun, sports, and sightseeing. A nearby freshwater spring and park, Wekiva, takes you back to primitive days as you swim in clear water as the Seminoles and canoe the tributaries watching 'gators glide underneath. My favorite haunt: Winter Park's Park Avenue on which numerous tasty restaurants and boutique shops lure you in. It is the closest thing to being in France or Italy. The outdoor cafes are fabulous. Friends + food = fun. Don't miss the Winter Park Scenic boat tour, and ask for Alan Woods! Culture? The only museum featuring the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany is at 445 N. Park Ave. There is an intact altar from the 1893 World's Fair. A 45-minute drive northwest lands you in beautiful Mt. Dora, on a large chain of lakes. Oh yes, we have a Film Festival sponsored by the Enzian theater and a Fringe Fest, which features very creative types. There are jazz and blues clubs to boot! Oh, the second largest Ferris wheel in the U.S. is on International Drive. The strip also has a Ripley's and other adventure rides. What else? I have never seen so many restaurants per square mile as in the Tampa area! My favorite is Mykonos in Tarpon Springs. Tell Andy I sent you. Amazing homemade Greek delicacies. While there take a tour on the sponge diving boat and another to take you out to the Gulf and watch manatees and dolphin frolic. Almost forgot: DAYTONA 500! And Bike Week for cycle lovers!
WEATHER Most of the fun things above are possible by nearly perfect weather all year round. Yes, it rains and we see a hurricane or two a year or every two to three years. The winter is so easy to take. Fine weather starts in November and goes through mid-April until things just start heating up. There is heat and humidity for a good three to five months but is not overbearing for more than 3 or 4 weeks. Flip flops, t-shirts, and shorts are the look of summer and through most of the year in fact. Today, March 2, 2020, we have a high of 77 degrees. Gorgeous. Oh yes... 'gators love to come out in the cold weather and sun on the shores of the lakes. Boat tours in Mt. Dora and The Villages take you through beautiful pristine waters so that you can watch them in their natural habitat...
HOUSING Orlando is in the “Top 10 best cities for first-time homebuyers.” Appreciation last year was 6%. Median rents are at $1,599 per month. The median price of homes currently for sale in Orlando is $289,000. You can move to Central Florida with little money and rent a house or apartment easily as you move up in your career and expand your contacts. There are multiple luxury gated golf communities for the high-end buyer (Isleworth, Lake Nona, Alaqua, Golden Oaks) and a wide mix of housing below that. Condos have sprung up to get you closer to the concentrated fun described above. Mid-level prices are still very good and appreciation is quite nice. There is a lot of construction activity at this time and remodeling seems to be strong. (Transitional style house above designed by John Henry Architect, Builder is Charles Clayton Construction).
EMPLOYMENT Florida enjoys an unemployment rate of 3.2%~! The Orlando metro area is at an astounding 2.8%! -- the tenth lowest in the country. Business is churning, people are working, and fortunes are being made. This is the lowest rate in over 8 years and well below the 3.6% national average. Florida attracts 900 people a DAY. This should be good news for anyone related to the housing and food industries and all support businesses in between. Another statistic: there is a 34% deficit of houses for sale.
YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL No doubt, living in Central Florida is a 'best of all worlds' adventure! So many things to do, so much bright sun and outdoor living. From children's activities to adult living, there are a myriad of choices available. Maitland is a hidden gem and still priced right. You are in secluded tree-lined streets and feel small town but in 6-8 minutes you can get just about anything you want. Florida has zero income tax to boot! If you come by on a Saturday, I will give you a tour. Wear flip flops, a t-shirt, and shorts! Let's meet at the Croissant Gourmet in Winter Park for boutique coffee and some of the best French pastries available in Florida! If you miss me, ask for Francois; he will treat you right. Doesn't this look like the European riviera below?
TOURISTS (If you can't manage a trip to Italy right now, stay at the Universal Studios Portofino Hotel, above, and with just a little squint -- you're there!) The Orlando theme parks drew over 75 million visitors in 2018!! That is a 5% increase over the year before. You would think that living here would be a true jungle with so many people running around. Well, the nice thing about Maitland is that NO ONE drives through this area unless they live close by. Maitland is about 20 miles away from Universal Studios, Sea World and Disney attractions. You can freely move about and rarely bump into a tourist. The amazing resort hotels, discount malls, and attractions centered in the southwest part of the metro area keep all these people in that zone. So if you want a year-round Florida pass to any of the parks, you can pick the best times to go and to stay away when packed and too hot!
ARCHITECTS Why, you only have to contact me to have nearly anything you have in mind designed! There are a lot of close-in properties that are ready for a teardown start from scratch custom design or great remodel. We do both and are well known in the area. For over thirty years I have been creating inspiring and practical custom homes for Central Florida in Maitland, Winter Park, and the Orlando and Windermere area. We have won multiple local and regional awards. We are doing historical projects and custom homes from 2,800 SF to 28,000 SF here and out of state. Let me know if you have any questions about the area and where you would like to live. I can also put you in touch with several great Realtors. Here is a link to start now with any design that you have in mind. I am here to help make your vision a reality. (Craftsman style home above, Palm Beach mansion below)
There is a quixotic appeal of the wonderful dwellings, villas, and palaces that originate in the lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea by American homeowners, architects, and builders. In most cases, the simplicity of form and geometric integrity, clean and bright harmony of color, and earthy materials seem irresistible -- to love and emulate.
While these houses originate in a warm dry climate, they are reconstructed in spirit from the sunny humid climates of Florida and Texas, to the drier states of Arizona, New Mexico, and California. And they have been found in the rainiest and coldest of areas as well.
When one visits Turkey, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France or Morocco, the impression of smaller houses built next to each other, whitewashed, with multicolored roofs, is simply charming to behold.
But there are differences of course due to culture and building practice, availability of materials, etc. which culminate in a regional or local style. And historically, the further back one goes the more simple and primitive the forms. In the southern and eastern Mediterranean, the roofs are often flat and act as rainwater catches for potable storage. Dwellings are smaller interlocking squares with no pitched roofs. The absence of any color is due to the limewash that maintains cleanliness, is bug resistant, mold resistant, and reflects heat.
On the other side of the Sea, where a more (northern) European tradition of pitched roofs prevail, you have the same small houses, now with single pitch tiled roofs, or sometimes just sloping roofs. Stone walls in many cases have not been plastered but those that are will also be painted. Skipping forward to the Renaissance a new sensibility about design as a philosophical art developed among master masons. They used the same materials to design structures that now were inspired by things they found in the ground: Greek and Roman temples.
These temples became iconic to Western Civilization. The perfect symmetry was mimicked from small rural hamlets to the great churches of the southern European countries up to the northern bounds. The 'Mediterranean' ideal changed bit from region to region depending on climate, materials, workmanship, and level of enlightenment.
Fast forward to the last 100 years in the United States and you will find that stucco, stone, and tile - with wood and iron details - were the basis for small entry level houses, custom homes, and large luxury estates which borrowed exacting details from Italian villas and manors. But they were not all symmetrical. In fact, due to the development of haciendas from Colonial Spanish settlement, these freewheeling asymmetrical working ranches and estates inspired a more relaxed and informal design genre that was picked up in the new California and transmogrified in other southern states especially.
In Florida during the 1920s, Addison Mizner combined Iberian motifs successfully and used his own ingenuity to create magical estates in the Palm Beach area. A little earlier in Newport, Rhode Island, the Vanderbilts asked Richard Morris Hunt to create a replica of an Italian Genovese palace. Other formal Renaissance inspired estates were built on the East Coast and in other areas where Gilded Age millionaires could afford the size and extensive detailing in and out. Often these were clad in limestone or even marble.
While all the Old World prototypes were built of stone walls clad with stucco and roofed with ceramic tile over wood timbers, here in the United States wood framing more often comprises the main structure with a cheaper stucco finish and often concrete tile roofs on wood trusses. In some areas concrete block is used for the perimeter walls, which allows the best bonding for exterior plaster.
Interiors of U.S. custom houses are a smorgasbord ranging from ultra contemporary to select period details in fireplaces, moldings, and some stone flooring. The 'contemporary Mediterranean' style allows a free hand in complex roofing and usually asymmetrical facades due to typically tight urban or suburban lot restrictions. It is very difficult to create a fully symmetrical design with garages and the number of rooms limiting the plan on a smaller lot.
The Romans introduced the arch and this structural element, played against horizontal members, has been called the Palladian Arch. The Greeks employed no arches in their temples. Romans invented concrete as well and were able to build public buildings efficiently with thick brick walls filled with a concrete stubble.
Graceful full round arches are an Italian Renaissance motif and with arched windows below, create an iconic 'Mediterranean' style. Use of columns, not as on a temple, but to frame windows and doors or used rhythmically at the front and rear porches, is the second important motif. These can be simple or very detailed. When they are decorative it is important to wrap similar complex details in the moldings around doors and windows, and as demarcations of floors upon floors on the facade, etc.
Wood rafters and balconies are more a Spanish Colonial motif than an Italian one. In buildings of stature, the entire facade and perimeter of the house were finished in either a stone veneer or lime stucco. Wood rafters under the eaves are seen in all Northern Mediterranean houses and they are often exposed inside and carved in a decorative manner in higher standing villas and palaces.
The ceramic tile of southern European houses is an expensive roofing choice now, supplanted in many entry-level to medium quality homes with similar profiled concrete roofing tile. The choice of color and mix allows the replication of a few hundred years of replacing hand worked and fired ceramic tile based on nearby silt deposits at the rivers' edge. Roofs can be open gable or hipped.
Towers and other roof ornamentation is appropriated from larger period villas and palaces, some fortified elements as well. A playful hand can create several different combinations of classical details and simple walls and fenestration (the order and placement of windows).
All together the modern Mediterranean house offers a great palette of design elements, floor plans, interesting facades, and interiors. Certain treatments and profiles are regionally recognized styles. So that we now see smaller elemental designs in starter homes to an eclectic mix of towers, chimneys, porches, arches and columns, etc. for mid-level to upper echelon custom homes. Sometimes the results can be quite exotic!
See video below of Mediterranean styled houses by John Henry Architect: