The moment visitors pass through the gated entrance, it’s clear that Ron and Kate Wallace’s 9-acre Milton estate is extraordinary.
A sweeping view up the long, flat driveway that glides along manicured lawns to the portico of the U-shaped, one-story home is the first impression. Halfway to the front door, two small ponds with rock waterfalls appear, one on each side of the drive, hinting at the owners’ attention to visual details.
This story originally appeared in the June/July 2016 edition of Living Northside Magazine.
“It took three years to put all this together,” Ron Wallace says. The former UPS head of international package operations retired from that position in 2002 and moved into his house three years later. “I did much of the design myself. I can visualize things, and I have an unusual imagination.”
Wallace says he approached the project with a few key goals in mind.
“First, I was going for a California style with a lot of columns and archways,” he says. That objective was met in the columned entryway and, most dramatically, along the home’s main corridor topped by dramatic groined ceilings.
The second goal was to showcase his extensive array of collectibles.
“I’ve lived all over the world, and many of the things on display are gifts that were given to me during my travels,” he says. “I also have a lot of antiques, so I wanted a place where I could display them, too.”
Many of those memorable items — a collection of Chinese dolls, helmets Wallace wore when he played semi-pro football in Germany — show up on shelves that line the walls of his study and the library. They also appear as decor: Two full-size hobby horses that stand in the expansive great room are hand-carved, wooden creations that the Wallaces painted with antique finishes.
They don’t look cramped in the expansive, marble-floored room, which has a soaring 25-foot ceiling and a rear wall of curved glass. From the center of that ceiling, an imported French, wrought-iron chandelier dangles from the center of a dome.
Since the house only has one level of living space, all of the rooms, from the guest bedrooms to the breakfast nook, share that 25-foot ceiling, but clever decorating with oversized tables and chairs work to keep the proportions in line. It also means there’s room to be dramatic, as in the master bedroom, where there’s enough space to position the bed on a raised platform and then to top it off with a leather canopy.
The couple also built convenience and comfort into the floor plan. Wallace, who owns the Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub and the mixed-use development Crabapple Mercantile Exchange in Milton, designed a study that doubles as a working office, complete with a round conference table where meetings are held daily. (For a short while 10 years ago, when Milton was first incorporated, city council meetings were held in the study.)
An exercise room is outfitted with the latest equipment, as well as a sauna, steam room and heated massage table. The home theater, decked out in red velvet that hides the sound-absorbing mat in the walls, has nine reclining seats and a giant screen that is fantastic with 3D, Wallace says.
But beyond the living areas, Wallace also added two spaces that make the home particularly unusual. The first is a Polynesian room that could easily double as a tiki bar. Black lights create a florescent glow on the ceiling. A fireplace is topped with a thatched mantel. Faux ferns, palm trees, and tiki statues and lanterns abound. Steps drop down to a horseshoe-shaped wooden bar lined with cane and bamboo chairs.
There’s no particular reason for the room, Wallace says. He adds that, despite the home’s three bars, the couple doesn’t imbibe.
“When we were building the house, things got a lot larger than I meant them to be, so I turned this extra space into the Polynesian room because it’s different,” he says.
While a private tiki bar may not be all that unusual in an upscale house, what Wallace created in one entire wing is truly eye-popping. The avid collector of western memorabilia stores his favorite items behind the re-built Main Street of Tombstone, Ariz.
But this is not just a stage set, it’s a meticulously detailed recreation. Visitors can cross the motley concrete floor, imprinted with horseshoes and wagon wheel tracks for authenticity, up onto the raised wood sidewalk and through the doors of the hotel, saloon, general store, Wells Fargo office, Amelia’s gentleman’s club, undertaker’s and sheriff’s office.
Behind the storefronts are museum-quality displays of vintage spurs, gin bottles, rifles, sheriff’s badges, saddles, poker sets and “Tombstone” movie posters. The saloon boasts an authentic 1890s bar, faux kerosene lamps, game tables and a stage area with a back-wall mural copied from the movie’s original set.
“I designed this space to fit the town of Tombstone’s main street, then moved everything in here on a flatbed,” Wallace says.
Having a home with a rebuilt movie set in one wing certainly adds uniqueness to a property — a fact not lost on Wallace, who says he’s thought about how it might one day impact the home’s resale prospects.
“All I know,” he says with a laugh, “is it will take a special bird to buy it.”