The Air Up There

words by juliet johnson
photos by wally sears
Could Bradley and Annika Wallace be considered angels who walk among us? They’ve
certainly created a slice of heaven out of a 4,300-square-foot penthouse with expansive exterior spaces and spectacular views of the city and St. Johns River. Annika, a corporate lawyer in the healthcare sector, commutes to work Downtown via SkyWay and is an active board member of Downtown Vision Inc. Brad is a neurosurgeon at Baptist Health. Together, they have built a
“forever home,” 21 stories in the sky.
The couple bought a San Marco Place penthouse unit in 2007 BK (before kids). Both avid foodies, upon moving in they decided to upgrade the appliances.
At least, that’s how it all started.  “It snowballed from there,” chuckles Annika. “While we were looking at appliances we thought we might as well rework the cabinets, which caused a kitchen remodel. That impacted the living room, and a year and a half later, we had customized and rebuilt everything!”
The Wallaces admit they may not have been perfect interior re-design clients. They were keenly involved in every decision; Brad even taught himself CAD (computer-aided design) to show, rather than tell, designers what they wanted. Like most couples today, they started their journey by looking through magazines and on websites like Houzz. The result of all that inspiration is an urban oasis, with decor in muted tones that complements the stunning views. Sprawling expanses of glass, walnut, cypress, leather, steel, marble and travertine create a stable, natural and timeless anchor to the fast-shifting cloudscape and rolling traffic seen on highways down below.
The open floor plan includes a modern kitchen, a long dining room, an even longer living room and a sunroom anchored by a giant Buddha.
The kitchen seems superfluously functional for such an urban home, but these two professionals are more domesticated than one might imagine. Walnut cabinets, a six-burner gas cooktop,
double oven and a handy pot faucet ensure they are well-equipped for gourmet adventures. Stone countertops and a stainless steel accents add to the urban vibe.
The Wallaces’ art collection is largely the product of local artists, save for the painting anchoring the dining room (the work of a New York City student). The piece was so large that, once framed, it didn’t fit in the elevator—and had to be walked up 21 flights of stairs. “It just barely made the turns, thank heavens, or we would have had to pull the thing up and over the balcony,” says Annika.
The dining room table, which comfortably seats eight, is made of reclaimed wood from the Suwanee River, and was refinished locally. Floor-length Dupioni silk drapes anchor the view, while contemporary leather chairs complete the eclectic look.
Though the condo is ultra-modern, many of the furnishings add a natural element. Walnut paneling leads to the sun room, where two sleek leather recliners from Scan Design allow for decompressing after a long day while taking in the view.  Nestled in the middle window’s paneling are round brass circles which, when pulled, reveal a panel that drops down and becomes a thin desk—just the right size for a laptop or tablet.
The upstairs bedrooms (there are two, including the master) are a nice counterpart to the rest of the home. The master suite includes an office, a vast bathroom, a substantial walk-in closet, morning kitchen and the bedroom itself, which offers wrap-around views. An accent wall in dark gray raw silk wallpaper lends warmth and style while a pair of pendant crystals offer delicate showers of light. In the master bathroom, Calcutta gold marble surrounds sinks, a giant soaking tub and the shower and a heated rack keeps thick towels warm. Luxurious? Sure, but it pales in comparison to the outdoor entertaining area—the true focal point of the home.
The main deck outside, originally just a concrete slab, is now a multi-room garden accessed from both the living room and sunroom on the first floor. Plants thrive in raised beds, bordered by Pennsylvania blue stone. In winter, the air is pure and bracing—of course, it’s warmed somewhat by overhead heaters and a handsome fire pit. Naturally, the Wallaces’ abode is a “smart home,” wired for sound with an electronics panel that controls the lighting, heating, air-conditioning—all what you’d expect from self-professed “city people” with a flair for design and a deep-rooted fervor for Jacksonville.
“We probably have gone more modern with this space than we would typically go,” says Annika. “We intended to balance out traditional pieces. Overall, we like an eclectic look and tried to add a bit of coziness, as well.” The result, she says, is a space that doesn’t feel like a typical condo. “It feels like a real house—just in the sky.”