Audrey Sexton, Vero Beach born and raised, is fluent in rural Southeast Florida vernacular. Be it architecture, planting, decoration, woodworking or husbandry, her home demonstrates mastery of and embellishment on regional themes.
“I wanted it to look like a Florida Cracker house,” Sexton said of her home at 4555 13th St. SW, which is a vast, yet accurate understatement, kind of like calling a tiara a head band.
The front five acres of the 10-acre property is given over to the home and grounds, the rounded coquina drives working with, instead of against nature, absorbing most of the rainwater and shedding no oils, heavy metals or salts. They curve around oak and palm hammocks, a vanishing landscape, which Sexton has emphasized, the tree islands and surrounding interconnected puzzle-piece lawn and plantings raising local flora to Gardens-of-Versailles heights.
The house comes into view after a few curves and the big shady porch, so necessary to crackers who had no air conditioning, dominates the façade. It has a straight wooden balustrade – no Victorian elaboration – and about a dozen rocking chairs. “My husband – who died 14 years ago – used to feed Planters Mixed Nuts to the squirrels out here,” Sexton said.
The silver metal roof, another Cracker architectural must, is deeply pitched, but its height is muffled by the 12-foot slanting porch roof, the line broken by a centered dormer. Two recessed wings, one an attached two-car garage and the other containing the master bedroom suite and two guest bedrooms, form a “U” in the back, which is partially filled in with another covered porch.
The rest of the U is filled in by an organic-shaped pool and skirt with a six-sided gazebo, the curves reprising and embellishing on the sinuous landscaping.
The front door is solid mahogany with sidelights. “My husband was a citrus grower. For our first Christmas, I had Paul Pickel do the stained glass,” Sexton said, the glowing orange and gold orbs among twining stems and leaves memorializing the region’s vanishing agro-economy.
The Sextons are one of Indian River County’s pioneer families and Pickel is a world-renowned stained-glass artist.
The home’s foyer soars to 25 feet, the cypress vaulted ceiling recalling the Cracker penchant for the insect-resistant and indestructible wood, which forms the crown molding, walls and ceilings of most of the common rooms, as well as the built-in cabinetry and deep archways.
The house veers from Cracker tradition a bit by using solid oak flooring instead of pine, the honeyed tones in the same key but lighter than the cypress, giving the house a warm glow.
The wall papers are updated traditional patterns, their curvilinear flora and fauna holding their own against the rich, carved wood. “All the papers are Thibaut,” Sexton said, referring to the renowned design house.
The kitchen, with a picture window overlooking the pool, has a big island with a red-cedar bar, “everyone’s favorite place to be in the house,” Sexton said. “Waldo Sexton was known for his wood collection and this was one of the pieces.”
Bead-board wainscoting and warm maple cabinets, some with glass fronts to show off the china, add to the beauty of the room. The hand-painted botanically correct flowers on the doors were done by an artist within the family, Sharon Sexton.
The master bedroom lets onto the pool area, but the expansive bathroom and lounge-like walk-in closet may become the preferred soaking and lazing areas. The golden oak mirror surround with plinth-block corners make the room. A cultured marble walk-in shower with two shower heads, as well as a soaking tub, suggesting a Turkish bath.
The massive walk-in closet is big and luxurious enough to satisfy a Sultan, displaying silks in ranks and rows or folded away in too many drawers to count.
An aluminum fence that looks like traditional cast iron separates the house grounds from four outbuildings and paddocks that currently service miniature horses, horses, donkeys, chickens and roosters.
“I put a lot of thought into the layout,” Sexton said, the feed room, plumbing, stalls and coops “all very centralized.” The drives around the buildings and the barn doors are arranged so horse trailers and equipment can loop through without backing up.
The horse barn is where Sexton throws great parties. “I have a full working kitchen back there.” The covered passageway recalls the “dog-trot” found in many Cracker homes, the big doors and windows letting air flow freely.
The remaining five acres is pasture, each plumbed with water for the animals.
“We trail ride all around here,” Sexton said, patting her favorite horse, Ralph, a red roan that bows his head and leans in with great affection.
The property offers beauty and a way of life that will make the new owners proud to call themselves Florida Crackers.
To see this exceptional Florida property, contact Berkshire Hathaway Home Services listing agent Michelle Clarke or plan to attend the open house she is holding Sunday, Sept. 30 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
- Address: 4555 13th St. SW
- Year built: 1998
- Home size: 4,100 square feet • Lot size: 10 acres
- Construction: Wood frame with Hardie Plank siding
- Bedrooms: 3 • Bathrooms: 2.5
- Additional features: Irrigation system on well water, county water for house, pool, gazebo, huge kitchen, island, cypress walls and ceilings, oak floors, vaulted ceilings, second-floor office, built-in cabinetry, huge laundry room, two-car garage and four out buildings, including working horse barn with kitchen
- Listing agency: Berkshire Hathaway Home Services
- Listing agent: Michelle Clarke, 772-263-0386
- Listing price: $1.5 million