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Orlando Home & Leisure Magazine – Orlandoâ€™s stellar private dining venues offer exclusivity served with panache
By Randy Noles & Michael McLeod • Photography by Greg Johnston & Chris Raleigh.
Like so many driven souls, Chris Raleigh
has a hard time keeping his
professional life from gate-crashing into his
Take, for example, his
Twenty years ago, when he
wife, Kate, he
was careful to suffuse the event with an aura of romance.
Raleigh, an architectural designer and the founder of Winter Park-based Raleigh Design, built an arbor from scratch for the occasion, then examined petals of a dozen different colors to select just the right shade for the 15-foot fuchsia bougainvillea that arched above it.
It was, he
hoped, the perfect setting for an exchange of sacred vows.
also thought of it as a great place to snag a profitable business deal.
had been currying the favor of Robert Earl, the British entrepreneur who owns the Hard Rock Café chain and was planning to build one of the restaurants in Orlando.
The contract to design that building was one that Raleigh
desperately wanted for himself.
betrothed was appalled when he
chutzpah impressed the Hard Rock czar, and Raleigh
got the contract.
dreamed up the now-familiar, iconic concept for the cafe, a 23,000-square-foot Classical Palladian building sitting atop the body of a 340-foot-long Fender Stratocaster guitar.
success with that structure led to other design opportunities at Universal's theme park, including an array of appropriately outrageous themed restaurants based upon the film Jurassic Park and Marvel Comic's universe of superheroes.
personal taste in architecture and interiors derives more from Tiffany windows and gaslights than from action-adventure paragons and tyrannosaurs.
became steeped in Belle Epoch sensibilities while designing a series of period-piece restaurants, such as the 1920s-styled Emerald Grande Resort in Destin.
other restaurant assignments have included such local institutions as Seasons 52
, Darden's trendy eatery, and Cuisine des Chefs, one of the premier fine dining destinations in the Mercado Shopping Center places known for their posh appointments and obsessive adherence to authenticity.
That devotion to recapturing the romance of time and place is reflected with still more intensity and personal commitment in the home he
and Kate share, a century-old, 911-square-foot grove tender's house in Maitland that he
bought and began renovating 30 years ago.
The walls are adorned with vintage film posters and framed lithographs by Raleigh's
grandfather, Henry, an acclaimed turn-of-the-century illustrator.
"It had to be eclectic," says Raleigh
"I put together what works, regardless of the style.
The home's quasi-Victorian architecture is now Carpenter Gothic, a style that uses wood construction and jig-sawn details to mimic or expand upon features carved from stone in traditional European Gothic structures.
Carpenter Gothic, a peculiarly North American invention, is most commonly seen in smaller homes and churches dating from the 1880s.
Raleigh, who served as his own contractor, not only designed the home's interior and exterior but he and Kate worked alongside carpenters and other trades people during various construction projects.
"I spent about 200 hours stripping and refinishing the dining room paneling," Raleigh
"I used a Q-Tip to get between the boards.
It's difficult to believe that the silky smooth, mocha-colored panels are more than a century old.
Conversely, many of the home's newer elements are difficult to distinguish from what's original.
An intricate piece of exterior gingerbread fell apart when it was being removed for repairs.
simply used a skill saw and recreated it.
isn't a believer in outsized kitchen spaces.
"Many new, high-end homes tend to include large and at times over-scaled kitchens," he
"This trend is perhaps good for sales but often gets bad marks for ease of use and efficiency.
Raleigh says the home's outdoor living area was inspired by research he did to prepare for two professional engagements - the Downbeat Jazz Music Hall of Fame and Pat O'Brien's, both at Universal's CityWalk.
was intrigued by the compact courtyards he
visited in old New Orleans and came to realize that he
had too much space to properly tame.
sold about a third of his
backyard to a neighbor and created a more manageable zone, now highlighted by an angled brick-and-stucco wall, French Quarter gaslights, a fountain, an arched bridge and an array of terraces filled with tropical plants.
Best of all - at least as far as the neighbors are concerned-Raleigh's backyard oasis isn't entirely closed off.
It's fully visible from the street and sidewalk and looks spectacular when illuminated by a theatrical light bar positioned on the roof.
"The whole thing has been a labor of love," says Raleigh, who studied architecture at Arizona State University and received his degree in Interior Design from the University of Florida.
and Kate Raleigh's renovated Maitland home combines romance and architecture in a vintage form.
Transworld Surf | Ron Jon And 17th Street Set To Open New Locations
It's a playful representation of the Florida beach lifestyle and its traditions," says Chris Raleigh, principal of Raleigh Design."We are storytellers, and there is a rich story to tell here."
Inside the store, there's a pier made from aged cypress blanks, a 1934-replica Ford Woody, a 60-foot-long wave mural, and a series of tin-roofed surf huts that serve as display areas for men's and women's clothing, surfboards, beach accessories, and souvenirs.
A beach-lifestyle element runs throughout the interior and exterior of the shop.
"It's like walking onto a movie set -- there's a beach, pier, water, sand, and sky," says Raleigh
."You're transported to a totally different environment."
But the beach theme isn't limited to the inside -- the outside was also designed with the islands in mind.Architects at Cuhaci & Peterson
included thatched roofs and a lookout tower in the design.
"The new store really showcases the Ron Jon image.
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Chris Raleigh Designer
953 N Pennsylvania Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789 Map