Daniel and Kari Rothamel are house professionals. They’re in their fifth year selling houses, and Daniel writes a well-read local blog about real estate (realestatezebra.com). But it wasn’t until this February that the couple became first-time homebuyers themselves. That’s when they moved into a not-so-big house in Lake Monticello, a place with the kind of features any good agent is constantly pointing out to clients: hardwood floors, lots of natural light, an open floor plan.
“We were only sort of looking for a house,” not seriously on the hunt, Daniel says. They’d seen the house when clients looked at it and said to each other what a good deal it was. “For a 1,300-square-foot house,” Daniel says, “this had all the things we wanted.” Their profession gave them a unique perspective on the place. “[As a Realtor] you see a lot of houses. It makes it difficult to choose; you know there’s always another one out there. But it also makes it easy to know when something is right.”
Daniel Rothamel enjoys his living room.
One thing that’s right about this one is that both of their families also live at the lake. Already, he says, “We’ve had Mother’s Day dinners here, Father’s Day dinners, a lot of milestone moments.” And they had help getting the place ready to move into. “My parents like painting—not as much as they used to, but they do a really good job,” he laughs. They helped him put a warm beige color on every interior wall.
When I visited, Daniel was reveling in a brand-new decorating job by designer Andrea Phillips: a green patterned rug, starfish and shells, new linens on the dining room table. It makes the open kitchen/dining/living area feel more grown up—like a house somebody owns and doesn’t rent.
“Before [Phillips came], this room was about the couch and the TV. That’s how we live. It was spartan. We liked it but knew we needed to do something. We help people find houses, but decorating and design? Not our thing. The Food Network, HGTV, Fine Living—that’s all we watch but it doesn’t sink in. It’s just not us.
“As far as our style, we’re beach people. We’re big Tommy Bahama fans. We wanted more island than beachy. Since we can’t live there yet, we wanted something that felt island-like. It’s comfortable but practical.
“These are postcards we bought in Florida and [Phillips] matted and framed them and they look awesome. This photo is from when Hurricane Charlie came through Ft. Myers. She put everything together. It’s got little touches of us, subtle things. She did such an incredible job.
“Every day it’s like, ‘Man, we love this house.’ The thing we really like is that it’s open. Usually I’m grilling. My wife can be preparing food in the kitchen. Her mom or my parents can be here. The dogs are going in and out. Everybody can converse without being on top of each other. This is the only part of the house you can live in. The rest of it’s bedrooms.
“The other thing we love is the wood-burning fireplace. When we moved in, every night we’d do the fire. We work late and I’m a basketball ref so sometimes I don’t get home until 9 o’clock, but it’s still like, ‘Can we start a fire for two hours?’
“[Once] I rolled a burning log onto the floor. It was the Sunday of the Daytona 500. The dogs were barking, everybody was screaming. …It was ugly. But I made my mark on the house. It gives my wife a great story to tell.”