Camelot on Siesta Key

By staff April 1, 2004

Bob Boulette builds home for a living. So when he asked his wife Donna Hart what kind of house she wanted him to construct for them, she jokingly replied that she had always wanted to live in a castle. A year later, in true knightly fashion, Boulette carried his wife over the moat and working wooden drawbridge of a little stone castle, right in the heart of Siesta Key.

"We bought this shack on a little street close to Siesta Village, a really hideous little two-bedroom place, and then we completely renovated it," explains Hart. "The location was great and the property backed up to a pretty canal, so we decided to create something different."

In the year that it took to raze and rebuild the house on Avenida de Mayo, the couple started collecting furniture and accessories for the interior. Together they searched for English artifacts, weapons, suits of armor and coats of arms. Hart spent hours digging in the back rooms of dusty antique and curio stores for crowns, chain mail and miniature knight figurines. Garage sales yielded vintage weaponry, while catalogues provided sources for authentic iron sconces and light fixtures.

Hart discovered a paper mural paying tribute to a knight in the Goodwill bookstore and painstakingly affixed the entire piece to her foyer wall. Hand-carved wooden thrones were discovered in a Sarasota shop that imports English reproductions. Shields were hung on the walls and banners flung over the banister. The couple bought swords and robes just for fun and then friends began calling. "People would see a stone gargoyle in a garden store and call me to tell me about it," explains Hart. "Friends bought us linens with royal insignias. The neighbors began showing up with this piece of furniture or that item that had been sitting in their garages but would be perfect for the house. Our castle became everyone's project. And we were not striving for authenticity. We did this just for fun."

The structure of the castle was created by tearing down most of the original dwelling, save for three walls. The foundation was expanded for a larger footprint. Walls went up two stories high, so the entry could be vaulted with an imposing wooden staircase and spacious landing. Floors were done in gray and green slate and tile-trimmed alcoves were built into the walls. One enters the castle by walking down a stone path across an expanse of green lawn, crossing the drawbridge and opening double French doors. The floor plan now boasts four bedrooms and four baths with multiple balconies, family room, sitting room, kitchen and several small sitting rooms. One can look down into the foyer from an upstairs corridor and numerous small high windows enhance the effect. In the backyard, Boulette also built a detached two-story air-conditioned workshop crafted to resemble a miniature castle.

And, yes, the drawbridge actually works at the touch of a button, winding the rope around "wheels" fashioned from old wooden barstools. Bob likes to claim the drawbridge is only closed to in-laws and the IRS; all other guests are invited to come right into his castle.

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