High above the gates, atop a rare Floridian incline, stands a home that embodies coastal living. Two stories of white balconies wrap around the blue beachside manor like a hug. Built to maximize the 360-degree oceanic paradise above the dunes of Crescent Beach, the home offers ample open spaces to entertain a crowd – namely the 22 members of the Casimiro family – when everyone is in the same place at the same time.
“This house was literally built for the grandkids. They can destroy it and that’s fine by me,” says Jorge Casimiro with a grin. “This home is my dream. I walk in the door, take one look at the ocean, and my blood pressure lowers immediately.”
Jorge first arrived in the US from Cuba in February of 1962 at eight years old. It made an immediate impact, particularly in New York’s The Bronx. His childhood was spent in New York and New Jersey, and he made it his life’s goal to move to Miami Beach. Eventually, he opened Little Essex Deli around the corner from the World Trade Center. In 1984, his mother called asking for his help with a family business venture in Houston, Texas, so he sold the restaurant and moved. One day while setting up his accounts at the bank, he noticed Sonia, and asked his banker for an introduction.
“He was very persistent,” she smiles. “When we first met, I said to him, ‘I’d like to chat, but I’m heading out to lunch. He said, ‘How about lunch?’ He had two kids and I had three,” says Sonia. “When we started seeing each other, he got very serious very quickly. I told a friend, ‘He has to be totally insane or totally in love.’ Thirty-four years later, I’m glad that I bet on love.”
“We blended really well,” says Jorge. “I told her, my kids are the most important thing in life, and yours are included in that. They are all our kids.”
Breathtakingly edgeless ocean-to-sky views greets guests who enter the dual front doors, along with a serene setting curated by Debi Hanks of D. Hanks Design. “Debi has been truly great,” says Sonia. “I felt it was really important to have someone else lead the design of this house, and we are so grateful for her expert eye.”
When they moved in, the Casimiros had a few couches and chairs, as well as “inspiration” items for the guest bath and study, but it was otherwise a clean slate for Debi. They had been introduced to her by St. Augustine Realtor, Elaine Wallace. “Our goal was to create serenity in the guest rooms and make the home generally kid / teen-proof,” says Debi, “while creating an inviting haven for entertaining and fun.”
In 2014, after their daughter moved to St. Augustine with five of their 15 total grandchildren, Sonia and Jorge began talking about the house. Sonia shared a photo of the dream kitchen that she’d been carrying in her wallet for the longest time. Jorge set out to exceed her expectations and was successful, as usual.
Michael Stauffer served as architect on the project, and Corner Construction acted as builder. Jorge’s years of project management on his multiple homes played a huge role in its evolution. Though Sonia and Jorge initially planned 4,000 square feet, the first round of plans showcased a whopping 8,000. They brought the house in by editing down extra spaces and balconies before realizing that it wouldn’t be complete without Sonia’s cozy living room for her reading obsession. Jorge balanced it out with his study in the back, building above it, adding a detached garage. They ended up with a “cozy” 7,300 square feet.
“We look at each other and laugh and say, motorhome next time,” Jorge quips.
But, to be fair, the couple moved over the years practically once a year through nineteen different homes with five children to get to this point. It’s doubtful that they are going anywhere soon, now that the dream is complete.
“We had properties on the Intracoastal and the ocean, and decided to build on the ocean,” she says. “We watch sunrise by the pool and the sunset on the porch. I love the history here. On Sundays after church, we’ll have lunch with the kids, and I’ll hop downtown to learn more about St. Augustine.”
The open kitchen features expansive white quartz countertops that can withstand wine spills and any cooking mishaps with the kids. In the dining room, a beautiful resin and gold leaf painting selected by Jorge at DHD Home, draws the eye up from the massive table. Jorge’s wine cellar showcases his favorite Oregon Pinots, while the laundry, mudroom, bathroom, and “hot dog room” – also known as an outside bar – are affectionately called “kids alley.”
A staircase leads upstairs, though the elevator is also an option. On the second floor, a laundry room for “non-sandy” items helps Sonia to keep the bed linens separate from beach towels. The movie theatre features five oversized flat screens and plush seating to kick back. The kids’ built-in bunk beds offer plug-ins for the screens and phones, and once settled, it’s hard to get them to leave. Overlooking the ocean, the pool sparkles with celadon tiles and five beautiful fountain vases, beckoning. A long private boardwalk crests the dunes to the beach.
“I’m living what I have always worked for,” Jorge says. “Building houses was what I wanted to do, and I had great success at it. Now, I suppose, I’m still tinkering.”
Photography by Brian Miller