Home With Style

In your next life, you may want to come back as a young adult in Knick Barger’s Sarasota home. Or maybe as one of his fiancee, Pam Humbert’s, teens. Between them, the couple has six kids ranging in age from 16 to 28. And everyone gets to party-down in a house that was made for enjoyment, inside and out. From the rustic North Carolina-inspired chalet upstairs to the billiard saloon and state-of-the-art media room downstairs, there’s fun built into all 4,200 air-conditioned square feet. Want a beach party? Kick off your shoes on the white sand under the backyard tiki hut, take a cold drink out of the cooler at the shipwreck bar and make a splash at the tropical oasis pool.

If Knick and Pam should go missing, just peek inside their private “motel room” cottage hidden at the rear of the property. It’s the only spot that’s “off-limits” to the kids. “I have no time for vacations, so every home I’ve ever built, I try to make it feel like I’m on vacation,” explains the president of YouBar Builders.

Barger, whose office is on the home’s ground level, designed and built this Key West-style home on Boyce Street, West of the Trail. His aim was to sell it as part of a five-lot parcel he purchased, cleared of its 1930s predecessors, and then subdivided into three buildable lots. He had drawn the original design for the house six or seven years ago, but never built it. Once construction started, Barger liked what he saw so much, he kept the house for his family – Pam, the kids, Sadie the mutt, a snake and a gerbil.

Barger’s a fast worker, too. He broke ground on the house in July 2000 and moved in by December. That’s when the public first took special note of the property. During Christmas, Barger continued his decade tradition of prize-winning holiday light displays with a dazzling, giant Santa on a moving surfboard, lit up on the front lawn. Some of the Christmas bulbs remain entwined in the lush foliage year-round. Playing with the landscaping and outdoor lighting “relaxes me,” says the builder of Fred’s, Cafe L’Europe, Epicure and a host of other prominent restaurant and residential projects.

The architecture of this tin-roofed, low-maintenance frame home is what Barger calls a “Key West/Florida hybrid.” It’s a fusion of “a lot of thoughts and trips” to places that have special meaning to the “self-taught” builder. “Balconettes” off the bedrooms on both sides of the front facade, for example, were added to give the kids cozy outdoor sitting areas.

Barger says he chose two subtle shades of tan paint for the hardy plank man-made siding in deference to his neighbors. He was issued a warning: “No Cape Cod colors or we’ll move out!” They were referring to the bawdy painted lady that Barger used to live in, in McClellan Park. It sported shades of orange, red, green and rust. “I’ll let the neighbors ease into these colors and then break out my colors,” the affable builder jokes.

Barger is a casual, denim-clad guy who likes to surround himself with warm woods, earthy textures and an eclectic bunch of memorabilia. “I’ve always been into collecting different things,” he says. That includes a Harley motorcycle and two vintage sports cars. The prize is a gleaming black and white 1967 Cobra formerly owned by David Robinson, drummer for the band, The Cars. The garage, with its blac k-and-white linoleum, Coca-Cola memorabilia, Corvette bumper and Fire Chief gas pump, resembles a ’50s diner.

To show off his carousel horses and their shiny brass poles, Barger mounted them on a floating soffit that rises above the kitchen’s oak counter and eastern knotty pine cabinets. At night, they’re bathed in the glow of recessed and hidden rope lights.

“I don’t like a new house to look like a new house,” Barger says. So he textured the walls in rough plaster, adding a soft, suede-like faux finish. A burlwood table, an old pine and ornamental iron antique carved cabinet, and a mounted caribou head, add to the rustic feel. Barger chose a pre-finished pioneer oak for the floor of the 22-foot high entry hall, inlaid with light and dark woods in a geometric pattern. The double metal-front doors are inked to look like wood, as is the spiral staircase that winds above the living room. It leads “to a loft area, a place to hang  out if I ever get time to paint again,” Barger says.

He’s an accomplished artist, with several paintings on display throughout the five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath  home. In the office, a portrait of his late grandfather, Knick, explains the unusual spelling of Barger’s first name,  as well as that of his daughter, Knickole. Barger’s painter’s eye is reflected in the rich “Sunrise and Sunset” Italian quarried stone flooring that makes the  master bathroom a lavish sanctum. He discovered the two colors of rosy stone while building a Tuscany-style  mansion on Siesta Key and has exclusive rights to its use. Each 12-inch square of the mosaic design is  painstakingly cut and inlaid with 4 x 4 tumbled stone accent pieces. The result is an elegant, purple and blond  expanse that extends into the deluxe walk-in shower. In an inspired moment, Barger solved a design problem involving Pam’s favorite way to relax. She loves to soak  in the Jacuzzi tub and watch TV, but the couple didn’t want the television to be visible all the time. So Barger hid  the screen behind a floor-to-ceiling mirror. When you turn on the remote, the TV picture emerges like a ghostly  apparition, seemingly imbedded “inside” the glass. When the image is off, the TV disappears again. “I always try  new stuff out on myself first and see if it works,” Barger says. “Then I try it on my customers.” Barger also experimented with a cutting-edge stained concrete floor in his huge downstairs billiard saloon. He  marbled the surface with three colors of paint and gave it a glossy sheen under three coats of polyurethane. The  effect, he says, is very cheap – and very cool.

In this party zone, visitors leave “North Carolina” upstairs and enter “Kentucky Tavern” country. Under the  eastern knotty pine ceiling are lots of Budweiser accessories, a billiard table, professional arcade games, a full  bar with a “Knick’s Tavern” sign and even a pair of swinging saloon doors outside the “ladies room.” Another  interesting piece of history is the weathered, carved wooden corbel salvaged from the banquet room of the El  Vernona Hotel.

The adjoining media room boasts 16 direct speakers, three levels of leather sofa seating and a 74-inch digital  TV. “We rent it from the kids,” Barger jokes about the popularity of this cinema haven. But his favorite part of the house is the backyard. A melange of “Old Chicago” brick covers the patio and  surrounds the barbecue pit, waterfall pool and gazebo. Barger created the fish pond himself and laid out the  coral, limestone and marble rocks amid exotic plantings in his own landscape design. A bridge over the pond leads to “The Hideaway” retreat where he and Pam treasure their privacy. Barger says  he was inspired by the late, lamented Azure Tides tiki bar on Lido Beach that he and Pam will sorely miss. A  hammock, netting, fish and parrot props and low voltage lights in the trees are pure Margaritaville. The plaque on the cottage wall says it all for this home: “May your time be filled with relaxing sunsets, cool drinks  and sand between your toes.”

Caption: Above: White lights illuminate the Key West-style home on Boyce Street. Below: Carousel horses are mounted on a floating soffit that rises above the kitchen’s oak counter. Opposite: Builder Knick Barger with his 1967 Cobra, which once belonged to a member of The Cars. Left: The master bedroom features a Jacuzzi tub, a television and Italian quarried stone flooring. Below: Matt Barger (shooting), Rick Humbert and Sean Wilkinson enjoy a game of pool in “Knick’s Tavern.” Above: Sean Wilkinson, Matt Barger and Rick Humbert (back row), and Megan Humbert and Kerri Bertolino enjoy the tiki hut in Barger’s “beach-y” back yard. Right: When Knick Barger and fiancee Pam Humbert need privacy, they retreat to a cottage at the rear of the
property.