Mega-Mansion Developer Doesn't Live in One
So it's presumed that the flamboyant real estate maverick, 43, would have a
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- When daredevil developer Frank McKinney's newest concrete-and-marble mega-mansion hits the market, with well over a dozen bathrooms and as much square footage as a strip mall, it will cost a cool $135 million or more. Several dozen of McKinney's palatial estates already dot the coastline of South Florida, most of which resemble mini-resorts more than homes.
So it's presumed that the flamboyant real estate maverick, 43, would have a grander, more ornate personal residence than any he's sold. That presumption is wrong.
McKinney, his interior designer wife, Nilsa, 45, and their 8-year-old daughter, Lara, live in what is essentially a 72-year-old starter home -- 3,000 square feet, two bedrooms and three bathrooms.
"I consider the homes I build works of art, with the Atlantic as a canvas," he says. "But after being in $100 million homes all day, this is so refreshing to come home to."
Of course, there are the two guest cottages behind the house he has been in for the past decade, providing another 1,200 square feet, three more bedrooms and three additional baths.
"This is the way we like to live," says McKinney, who bounds from the house two steps at a time, dressed in jeans, his curly blond hair rubbing against the collar of his jacket. For those who find his over-the-top homes garish, he says, "my house is the antidote."
Built in the 1930s by Fontaine Fox, the cartoonist behind the then-popular Toonerville Folks strip, the home was fashioned after one of Fox's whimsical characters, the Toonerville Trolley. The chocolate-colored clapboard house with fanciful lines and a shake roof is nestled behind a jungle of giant sea grape trees and across the street from the Atlantic Ocean.
The spacious whitewashed living room where "guests always end up" suits Nilsa's casual island style. (She grew up on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.) An oversized cream cotton loveseat with large pillows and two matching chairs and ottomans provide an intimate conversation area. White bookcases frame the red brick fireplace; an original-to-the-house white Franklin stove warms the family on cool evenings in the adjacent family room.
Peeling a couple of stickers left behind by neighborhood kids off the mahogany baby grand piano, Nilsa smiles good-naturedly and says the room "is very kid-friendly."
Five French doors overlook the lush tropical landscape and oval pool and lead to a huge porch that encircles the house. During the holidays, when family gathers, the doors are left wide open so the children can run back and forth from the house to the pool. "Those are the most prized moments for me," McKinney says.
Though it's early, workers are already setting up dinner tables and chairs outside because the couple is entertaining college students who are here on spring break constructing a Habitat for Humanity house. McKinney spends half of his time working on charity projects because "it makes me feel alive," he says.
The couple's Caring House Project Foundation helps build self-sustaining villages around the globe. "I feel like I live in two worlds," McKinney says. "Working beside billionaires one day and those who have nothing the next."
Back inside McKinney's own home, Fox would recognize the white wooden kitchen cupboards if he were to return. The kitchen is much as it was when the home was built, except for new stainless-steel appliances and a pine floor that replaced the original kitchen tile. "We've only changed the light bulbs," McKinney jokes, pointing out that the new hardwoods haven't held up as well as the original Dade pine flooring throughout the rest of the house.
A king-sized bed with a custom beige-silk headboard and matching comforter dominates the sparingly furnished second-floor master bedroom. But one glimpse of the spectacular, unimpeded view of the Atlantic through the French doors that lead to the couple's balcony makes everything else anticlimactic. McKinney points to the low railing on the deck that allows the great view. "You couldn't do any more than that because of safety codes."
Not surprisingly, McKinney says, "we spend a lot of time here." Sitting on one of the two dark green Adirondack chairs, he confesses they have difficulty finding a vacation spot as nice as their home.
Every day, he walks Lara the seven blocks she takes to school. And though it's almost unheard of for oceanfront property, the couple left two acres behind the house undeveloped with only a gravel path for accessibility. A rubber skull and a few other "scary" remnants remain from Halloween, when McKinney transformed the quarter-mile route into a haunted trail. "The way I live is really contrary to the way I make my living," he says.
Sure, they could move into more palatial digs, but "I can't replace the lifestyle."
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