Story by Meaghan Alvarado
Photos by Matthew Gane
Moss covered trees, the occasional palm, a Spanish-tiled roof, and Chinese doors dating back to the early 1800s — wait, what? Chinese doors? Yes, the home of Larry and Amber Payne at 163 Hickory Hill Drive in Palencia feels like St. Augustine, yet has standout features, like the front entrance, which make it one of a kind.
I hear dogs as we step through the antique wooden doors and into the courtyard area. The hacienda comes into view. Entirely separate from the home, the unit has an efficiency kitchen and its own bathroom, perfect for housing guests who need a little more space to themselves.
Amber guides me past the pool and in the front door where we’re greeted by one of the barking culprits, the family’s two-year-old Doberman, Madden. Her other pup, Uggs, a teacup Chihuahua, is yapping away in another room, so she walks away and comes back with the small dog in her arms. The 12- foot ceilings in the more than 4,200 square-foot home are impressive and add an industrial feel to the space. Grey concrete accent walls are accentuated nicely by the black concrete countertop in the kitchen.
The house has a modern, contemporary vibe with some industrial thrown in. Think wood, rough piping, and endless clean, white walls. It’s refreshing and calming, with a bit of an edge.
One element that stands out, and keeps the environment from being too austere, is the wood.
Reclaimed wood flooring covers the majority of the house, and there are multiple tables and chests of drawers throughout the living space. The original table was built of wood from Bali that wasn’t dry when constructed. So, by the time it dried, the appearance wasn’t up to par. Chopping it apart, Larry got four beautiful tables out of it. “Larry likes wood,” Amber says of her husband. “He made four tables from an extra-large (piece).”
A do-it-yourself aficionado, Larry had the idea to build a Koi pond in their backyard after visiting family in California. He went to Earth Works in Jacksonville, planning to do the project on his own, and when he finished, his creation ended up featured on the NatGeo TV series Pond Stars in 2014. The massive ponds are full of friendly koi fish that come up to the edge as you walk by. “The kids swim in it,” says Amber. There’s an underwater camera that connects to the television, and the Paynes can watch the fish swim by: “Our own little screensaver,” she says. As VP of Marketing at RyTech, Amber works from her home office where she has a sweeping view of the koi pond just outside the window.
There is a cylindrical space situated just through the kitchen and living room areas that appears empty save for the two long, rough-cut slabs of Osage Orange Tree affixed to the wall.
Larry added backlighting behind the pieces to create a work of art.
The bedroom is bright and spacious. Amber notes that Larry made the wooden frame for their king-size bed and presented it to her as a wedding gift. The attached bathroom features both a standup shower and a large bathtub. She turns the knob and water comes rushing down from the ceiling’s water spout. No traditional tub filling here. There’s an industrial-style jewelry stand Larry made from piping sitting on the sink, and a towel bar to match on the wall.
Ayla, Larry’s nine-year-old daughter, from his first marriage, has the entire upstairs to herself. She’s a determined young girl with a legitimate jewelry company of her own, Ayla’s Industrials. Her designs can be found at boutiques throughout north Florida. Her dream is to be on the show, “American Ninja Warrior”, so her Dad built a ninja course where she trains for hours each day.
Ayla’s upstairs space consists of her bedroom, a playroom, and a sitting area where three “paintings of Ayla” are affixed to the walls. Amber says she always wanted to have children. She had three paintings in her previous home of young girls and one day Ayla saw the paintings and asked why she had pictures of her. It seems that Amber dreamed the little girl into her life…much like the contemporary dream of a home in which they live.