Black Woman Designs Snipes' Florida Mansion

By Norment, Lynn; Cobb, Vandell | Ebony, November 1997 | Go to article overview

Black Woman Designs Snipes' Florida Mansion


Norment, Lynn, Cobb, Vandell, Ebony


THE Mediterranean-style Florida a hideaway that Wesley Snipes calls home is--as it should be--a reflection of the talented actor: It is warm cozy and down-to-earth, while its enormity embodies complex themes and philosophies. The 7000-square-foot, multimillion-dollar abode is breathtaking and inviting with a spiritual aura. "It's definitely got a vibe," Snipes says. You gotta he right if you come in here. If you don't, the boogeyman will get you.

Cecil Hayes, the interior designer who created the aura that Snipes needs to feel at home, two years ago was introduced to the actor by his mother, Marion Snipes. Hayes, who has been in the design business for 24 years, says she did not immediately grasp all the implications of his philosophical concepts about angles and lighting. For hours and hours over a period of two days, they talked about his concepts and desires, and then the actor was off to make another movie--Murder at 1600. It was nine months before Snipes would see the house or Hayes again, but by that time she had translated those concepts into a living space that is comfortable for Snipes. "She didn't know what I was talking about at first," Snipes recalls, "about having the spirit and the vibe correct, and how they affect the emotions. But as it progressed, she started to really dig it, and you can tell that she put her heart and soul into it."

At the same time, she also put Snipes' soul into the dwelling. She came to understand his desire to have all the elements--fire, earth, air, water and metal--integrated into the design. "That keeps it harmonized," says Snipes. "You've got to have running water, you've got to have wood. The metal its for stability; the water is your spirit. Also, it's very romantic."

Especially so since candles are strategically placed throughout. And there's plenty of running water; from the colorful tile "waterfall" that greets visitors in the foyer to the pyramid-shaped oriental fountain in the living room to the huge aquarium filled with African cichlids that separates the foyer and the enclosed patio. From every room on the back side of the house there is a luscious view the lake (part of the Butler Chain of Lakes) with a private boat dock. That's where Wesley's 75-year old grandmother, Ruthie Mae Dukes, affectionately called Nanna by all, loves to fish. Nanna lives not too far away in her own home, but she loves this house in particular, she says, because of the lake.

A few steps down from the marbled foyer is a wet bar and doors that open onto the patio that looks out onto the lake. To the right is the living room with its huge, elongated table in three parts, the center section of which is 10 feet long, and the two outer sections six feet. Each section begins and ends in a triangular shape. The table, like much of the wood furnishings in the house, was designed by Hayes and constructed by her brother; John Hayes, or her husband, Arzell Powell, at their company in Coconut Grove, Fla. Around the tables are two beige, curved sofas loaded with pillows covered with African mud cloth and animal prints. On each side of the fireplace are carved wood panels (constructed by Posvell) that frame ornate carvings made in Nigeria. Two intricately carved wooden chairs featuring eagles with spread wings for backs also were made by Nigerian artisans. A baby grand piano sits to one side beneath a trio of Haitian paintings. The walls are covered with grass cloth and the motorized window treatments carry the same natural theme. Ceiling-to-floor, inverted pyramid, stainless steel columns set off the windows.

Across the foyer is the elegant dining room with its masterful, oval burl wood table that seats 12; it is surrounded by plush, upholstered chairs, which like most of the upholstered pieces, were made at Hayes' shop. …

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