Home & Garden

Fancy Houses simple treasures

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by Leslie Williams Johnson

The first clue that the glorious European-style house isn”t just another pretty face on the Chateau Elan block is found on the elegant oval plaque affixed to the home”s exterior.

At first glance, all seems ordinary – the homeowners” surname, The Desai”s, and their house number are handsomely displayed – until the last line quietly introduces the moniker, "Chateau Nirvana."

A gift from the homeowners” adult daughters, Pankti and Palak, the plaque is a playful harbinger of what”s inside Drs. Jay and Rekha Desai”s dream home.

Though a striking 10,000 square feet-plus, it is nonetheless "still a home," says Jay Desai. "It shouldn”t be too formal."

While residents of upper echelon communities have the means to lavishly furnish their homes, what several homeowners cherish most is quite simple: a room”s layout, travel collections, an outside vista or even widely-attainable portraits.

"I don”t want a museum," says Jill Kersh of her 23,325-square-foot Sugarloaf home and guest house, whose feel is inspired in part by works of the popular "Painter of Light," Thomas Kinkade.

Once again this holiday season, people will have the chance to walk through luxury homes and see what the "other half" loves about their big homes during two separate fundraising tours.

The "It”s a Wonderful House" Holiday Tour of Homes at Chateau Elan, is Nov. 17-19 and features four homes. The tour”s Silver Sleigh Cafe will offer not only food and beverages but information about the tour”s sole beneficiary, the Gwinnett Children”s Shelter.

The "Feel the Warmth" 2006 Holiday Tour of Homes put on by The Women”s Club of Sugarloaf Country Club will showcase five homes and begins Nov. 30, running through Dec. 3. The tour includes the Cozy Cafe and Unique Boutique. New this year are a special holiday arrangement gallery and the "Share the Warmth" booth during the tour, giving patrons information about the event”s charities and the chance to donate to them directly.

Organizers say the Chateau Elan tour raised $168,000 last year and has a goal of $200,000 this year for the Gwinnett Children”s Shelter.

The Sugarloaf tour”s charities include the shelter, the Foster Children”s Foundation, the Duluth Cooperative Ministry and SPECTRUM Autism Support Group. Tour representatives say the fundraiser brought in about $180,000 last year.

The Gwinnett Children”s Shelter”s executive director, Nancy Friauf, says it serviced 328 children in its shelter program in 2005. It receives state reimbursements, but about 50 percent of the shelter”s operating budget comes from other sources, such as the holiday tours and additional fundraising events throughout the year.

"Providing safety and warm beds and good meals are absolutely critical," Friauf says. The children also require services to support their emotional and education well being. "We want to be a place that really has an impact on their future."

Perfection is not the goal

Kersh”s home certainly isn”t as old as the multi-chimney abodes depicted in some of Kinkade”s creations – the family only moved into the new-construction home in March 2004. But she thinks her looming Old English-style stone house, also influenced by the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in Asheville, still incorporates the inviting, realistic feel found in the painter”s work.

"All the chimneys aren”t perfect," she says, pointing to one of her Kinkade pieces. "The stone is not perfect."

It isn”t so easy to find flaws in Kersh”s residence.

With up-close views from Sugarloaf Country Club”s 18th hole, the home is the perfect spot for viewing the BellSou