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Naples builders specialize in constructing dreams

OK, who wants a fire-breathing pool?

Or how about a 9,000-square-foot luxury penthouse overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, where the stone flooring alone costs $360,000?

Anybody out there have any interest in a guesthouse, garage and cabana fashioned out of one of the earliest schoolhouses in Naples?

For custom-home builders Sean Morton and John Wasmer — who in 2007 founded Morton & Wasmer Builders on Fifth Avenue North in Naples— the answers to the above questions have been a resounding, “I do!” “I do!” and “you’re darn tootin’!”

Morton, a 1989 St. John Neumann Catholic High School grad who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Rollins College in Winter Park, said that when it comes to adding all the bells and whistles to custom-built homes in Southwest Florida, Naples’ elite come up with ideas that would put Barbie’s Dream House to shame.

“People want what they want,” said Morton, whose company — among hundreds of other commercial and residential projects — is responsible for building a silver spoonful of multimillion-dollar abodes in Port Royal. “They may have thought about building a custom home in the past, and now they’re at the point their lives when they want to execute. So they seek out the appropriate team to build their dreams.”

And, yes, Morton said, sometimes those dreams include fire-breathing pools.

“We recently completed a whole-house renovation for a client where we took the entire house down to the sod and studs,” explained the former project manager for Kraft Construction (now known as Manhattan Construction). “When we renovated the home, we put in a $160,000 pool with a fire feature that shoots flames about a foot out of the water in a feeder portion nobody swims in. It’s a pretty spectacular feature.”

Wasmer, a skilled carpenter and former owner of the Flat Iron Café in the popular Flats district in downtown Cleveland, said turning spectacular ideas such as that one into spectacular realities for his clients marks one of the most enjoyable aspects of his job.

“What I relish most is making the client happy when it all comes together,” said the Buckeye State native who — much like all Cleveland sports fans — never gives up on the idea that “there’s always next year,” no matter how badly the Browns, Cavs and Indians might break his heart on an annual basis. “Most people we work with aren’t going to do another project, because when they come down here, Southwest Florida represents their final place to live and enjoy. So the greatest satisfaction in my line of work comes from just making them happy and turning over a great product to them.”

Despite having helped found the company that currently employs about a dozen just prior to the economic downturn, Wasmer said he and Morton were fortunate enough to take a weaker punch to the jaw than most.

“Everybody took a hit, but we were very steady through that time,” said the St. Edward High School graduate who regularly vacationed in Southwest Florida while growing up. “I think we were able to absorb more of the impact of the times because we’re a smaller firm. So we weren’t focused on growing at the time; we really just concentrated on managing the times and moving through them.”

Now that he and his business partner have successfully navigated their way through those economically trying times, Morton said he and Wasmer could get back to their work of adding some rather unusual features to custom-built homes in Southwest Florida that wouldn’t seem all that out of place in a “Hardy Boys” mystery novel.

“We’ve put in secret spaces for clients to hide their valuables, but nothing like pulling a book on a bookshelf and having the entire wall turn around to reveal a secret room,” he said with a laugh. “However, we did recently renovate a library in a condo where just the woodwork cost $200,000, so that was certainly an interesting accomplishment.”

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A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine.

I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil existence, that I neglect my talents. I should be incapable of drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than now.

When, while the lovely valley teems with vapour around me, and the meridian sun strikes the upper surface of the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few stray gleams steal into the inner sanctuary, I throw myself down among the tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth, a thousand unknown plants are noticed by me: when I hear the buzz of the little world among the stalks, and grow familiar with the countless indescribable forms of the insects and flies, then I feel the presence of the Almighty, who formed us in his own image.

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