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How The Fullwood Family Built Their River Ridge Dream Home After A Fire Destroyed Everything

Donna and Jim Fullwood were asleep in their River Ridge home when they woke to frantic pounding on the front door. It was 2 a.m., and a neighbor from across the street was screaming that their house was on fire.

“He always goes to sleep at 10, but that night he just happened to wake up,” Donna Fullwood says.

She raced upstairs to get the couple’s two cats, Renee and Chloe, who had their own bedroom on the second floor. They all got out safely, but the house was a total loss.

“We thought about whether we wanted to move somewhere else,” Jim Fullwood says. “But we decided to stay where we were and rebuild.”

The home had been situated on a half-acre lot on the Loxahatchee River, and the Fullwoods had loved the layout. But now they had the opportunity to make changes that would improve it.

First, they brought in fill so the new three-bedroom, 3 ½-bath house would sit 11 feet above high tide. They decided to keep the same basic floor plan, but add about 1,000 square feet so they could enlarge the rooms. They also wanted to make major changes to the outdoor areas, and they wanted more space to entertain, both indoors and outside. “We have a large family and a lot of friends, and we often have people over,” Jim Fullwood says.

Outdoor Spaces

As is the case for many South Floridians, the yard was as important to the Fullwoods as the interior of the home. Donna Fullwood, a lifelong swimmer who does laps every morning, had always been dissatisfied with the 15-by-30-foot pool. “I couldn’t stand it,” she says. “It was too little.”

waterfall with a grotto
A waterfall with a grotto underneath adds ambience to the outdoor areas. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)

Her sister, Marianne Griffiths, designed the new, 56-foot-long lagoon-style pool, heated from the bottom, that curves and meanders through the yard. There’s a swim-up table where guests can sit and enjoy cocktails, and a spa that accommodates 10. A waterfall with a grotto underneath adds to the ambience, but there’s also a lap pool that runs through the center, which Donna Fullwood uses every morning 
at 6 a.m.

A 3-foot-tall precast perimeter wall is wide enough to provide seating for guests on the poolside, but a 4-foot drop on the opposite side allows it to serve as a safety barrier for children and pets. On the river bank outside the gate, the couple created a white sand beach protected by a hand-stacked wall to prevent runoff. With the new design, every room in the house overlooks either the pool or the river, and terraces at different elevations can seat 100.

56-foot lagoon-style pool
The 56-foot lagoon-style pool meanders through the yard, but a lap pool in the center allows for serious swimming. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)

The long travertine driveway at the front of the home can accommodate a dozen cars. The garage door is hand-painted to create the illusion of louvers, and a sunburst pattern on the mahogany custom front door is an eye-catcher. A two-story column of glass offers an interior view of the foyer and a mahogany staircase bordered by a glass railing with stainless steel accents.

Living Room and Kitchen

In the living room, a wool rug patterned with hues of ruby, orange and turquoise adds color and texture to the creamy, 24-by-24-inch honed marble tiles that interior designer Lesley King used throughout the first floor. Low-backed twin sofas are upholstered in white leather accented with orange throw pillows, and two columns of built-in art boxes illumined by LEDs flank the fireplace. “All of the pieces in them are things we’ve collected at local art fairs,” Jim Fullwood says.

interest to the living room
Lighted art boxes add visual interest to the living room. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)

Donna Fullwood loves to cook, so the kitchen is important to her. “When I wake up in the morning I ask myself, ‘What can I create in the kitchen today?’” she says.

A butler’s pantry not only holds supplies, but it also houses decorative art boxes similar to those in the living room. An earth-toned linear mosaic backsplash contrasts with dark wood cabinetry and stainless appliances. Slender pendant lights hang above a breakfast bar with a vegetable sink on one side so that while Donna Fullwood chops and peels, she can visit with friends and family seated on wood-banded circular stools on the other side.

The breakfast bar
The breakfast bar allows the cook to visit with family and friends while working at the vegetable sink. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig) 

The Master Suite

A mahogany tray ceiling adds drama to the first-floor master bedroom, and a fireplace creates a romantic ambience. A shag rug softens the wood flooring. The custom-made bed, dressed with a textured white silk coverlet and shams, has attached floating nightstands. Suspended in front of it is a TV.

The master bath has a large tub that fills from the ceiling. Water spills over the tub’s edge into a surround, which reheats it during long, relaxing soaks. Inserts in a stone-clad wall hold candles, and at the top of the wall, a narrow horizontal window lets in natural light while preserving privacy.

Upstairs are two more bedrooms—one of them for the cats—with a shared balcony overlooking the pool and a loft with a theater room, bar and pool table.

The Fullwoods are glad they didn’t relocate. “Our neighborhood is great,” Jim Fullwood says. “And so are the people here.”

romantic ambience
A fireplace in the master bedroom creates a romantic ambience. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)
large tub fills from the ceiling
A large tub fills from the ceiling, and overflow splashes into a surround that reheats the water. Inserts in a stone wall hold candles. (Photo by Ron Rosenzweig)