The "gnome home" of Jacksonville

Ron and Aurélie Danko live in a five-year-old “gnome house” in Jacksonville.Photos by Julia Moore

Ron Danko knows sets — he's been working in theater most of his adult life. So it's little wonder that his lanky, mustard-hued, stucco house is uniquely designed to fit perfectly on a narrow slice of land. Not a square foot is wasted and every inch tells a story "… or at least provides a fetching backdrop.

To add grace and a touch of Old-World charm to the home's dramatic color palette, lean profile and bold design, Danko's wife, Aurélie, contributes antiques and mementos from her Dutch heritage.

Together, the couple (who met while she was dancing in a professional production of "The Man from La Mancha") have created a home that is as entertaining as it is welcoming.

Making an entrance

A Mediterranean-inspired front terrace — complete with fountains, a lush container garden of trees and blossoms, abundant seating and decorative niches — leads to an arched, Arts-and-Crafts front door that opens into an entry defined by a raised plant shelf, an artfully placed, antique curio cabinet and an antique secretary.

Luxurious chestnut flooring stretches into the great room of this 1,670-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath house, where 12- and 14-foot ceilings and seven patio doors add a sense of vertical and outdoor space.

Lightly textured, sage-green walls soften the bright daylight that enters through angled skylights and views of the back terrace. Contemporary leather furniture outlines a conversation area that faces the great room's centerpiece: an extraordinary, 800-pound steel fireplace surrounded by a concrete hearth and mantel that Danko found in Fort Jones, Calif.

"We heat our house with the fireplace, and of course it draws people," says Aurélie Danko, who had the hearth raised for extra seating.

Beyond the living area is a long kitchen with custom alder cabinets and wood-paneled appliances arranged against its south wall. A crescent-shaped island with a raised bar and bar stools provides modern entertainment space and creates a "hallway" into the dining room.

Dining in the round

Brick-red walls and a gold-tinged dome ceiling add flourish to the round dining room, which seems straight out of a fairy tale.

A round, oak table sits in the center under colorful pendant lights, surrounded by custom, curved, window seats, china cabinets and wine storage.

"The dining room leading into the kitchen is nice for a flow," says Ron Danko, who was inspired by Mediterranean-style houses he photographed while teaching in Carmel, Calif.

His wife adds: "In casual entertaining, lots of people can sit in here."

Down the hall

Danko hand-selected every piece of clear-grain Douglas fir trim for the home's door and window casings. For the study, he couldn't resist an especially beautiful specimen; he had it placed, beam-like, over the room's pocket-door entry.

Also serving as the couple's shared office space, the study's soft, lavender-gray walls, antique Indonesian desk and original oil painting of a French mill illustrate a love of art and history.

A Westminster chime emanates from a wooden clock in the corner, inherited from Aurélie Danko's mother. Before long, other chimes are heard — random yet melodic.

"The clocks are really Ron's thing," says Danko of the home's half-dozen tickers. "He started collecting them the day after our first date — he called and asked me to meet him at the clock shop in Monterey."

That very clock sits on a bureau in the master bedroom. Exposed, decorative trusses create a lodge atmosphere and inward-opening wooden shutters add more panache.

"I love that feeling in France where you just throw the shutters open," exclaims Danko, who grew up in Spain. There's a touch of Spain in the master bath, where travertine tiles with rock detailing line the floors, spa and glass shower. The utility room at the end of the bath offers ingenious storage solutions, with drawers built under the raised washer and dryer, a narrow linen closet and a foldout ironing board stealthily hidden in a "drawer."

The guest suite at the end of the hall starts with a cunningly designed, slate-tiled bath that opens into a bedroom with its own entrance. Thick, cement walls on the room's southeast side house deep windowsills and provide the shear strength for an attached garage.

Outside, grottoes, niches, rock walls and whimsical plantings add to the "storybook-house" feeling. Thanks to a friendly neighbor who sold the Dankos some additional land, they've even added a garden house and are collaborating to create complementary landscaping.

"They've also used stucco on their house, and we've been planting trees together," says Ron Danko. "We've followed through with their rock motif along the side of the hill and made a creek down below. So it all blends in."


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