The Greater Tampa Bay Luxury Home Tour offers a peek at million-dollar mansions

THONOTOSASSA - There's nothing understated about homes that get picked for the Greater Tampa Bay Luxury Home Tour. They are chosen for their million-dollar views, soaring ceilings, opulent furnishings and spalike retreats. They are chosen to give the rest of us a peek at the good life - a life of Sub-Zero refrigerators, infinity- edge pools and private movie rooms.

Stonelake Ranch, a 685-acre community on Lake Thonotosassa, is home to two of the 15estate homes on this year's tour, which begins Sept. 28. "People walk in and they just say, ‘Wow,' " said Keri Albritton, a design/build specialist for custom homebuilder John Cannon. Cannon's 7,073- square-foot Carramar model is one of the largest homes on the tour. The house, situated on a canal with direct lake access, features floor-to-ceiling bowed glass windows in the living room to maximize the lake view. When it's 21 feet from floor to ceiling, there's plenty to admire. "This is a view window," Albritton said. "You wouldn't put a window like this in a house if you were looking out on another two-story house." The seven-bedroom, seven bath house is built for indoor and outdoor living, with disappearing sliders that open completely to upstairs and downstairs lanais.

Another popular feature of the $4 million crib is the temperature controlled wine closet off the butler's pantry. Cannon gives each model home a personal touch by decorating it with framed photos of his kids and the family dog. John Cannon Homes has sold three homes in Stonelake Ranch and has three under construction and three more lots. Nearly half of the 160 lots are on the lakefront or have canal access. The interior lots are typically larger and can accommodate riding stables.

Next door, Alvarez Homes will invite guests to tour its newest model, the 6,113- square-foot Audrey. Bobby Alvarez is building 11 homes in Stonelake Ranch. The Audrey is valued at $2.9 million. "Every home we do is different," Alvarez said. "Even the model is a presold home. We're leasing it back for a year, then the buyer moves in."

Craftsmen are working nonstop to be ready in time for the home tour. "It's down to the wire," Alvarez said. "We're really cranking it up." The three-story Audrey features four bedrooms, five full baths, two half baths and separate two-car garages. "Every room in the house, with the exception of the study, has a lake view," Alvarez said. The exterior is "modern Mediterranean" style, and the interior will use curved walls and sleek finishes to give it a contemporary feel. The bottom floor is designed for entertaining, with a media room that opens out to the lanai, outdoor kitchen and pool.

Although much of Tampa's housing market is in a slump, Stonelake Ranch is thriving. It has sold 95 lots. "It's one of our hottest areas," Alvarez said. Buyers are attracted to the large lots - they average more than 3 acres - and natural setting, Alvarez said. Miles of riding trails wind through the community, and all residents can utilize the private lodge and boat launch on Lake Thonotosassa. "We're excited about the tour coming through," sales representative Marcia Welsh said. "It will be nice for them to get a chance to see the community."

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