Italian Affair: Midge & Pat Mulcahy

Mark Davidson

Designer style and Italian architecture set the stage for this custom estate of an Italian villa – one that happens to have been masterfully built at BIGHORN. Few who drive past the BIGHORN gates would ever suspect that a home so nearby could reveal this sort of Italian countryside feel – or that it could be so meticulously filled with centuries-old details, thoughtful custom accents, and a gallery of exquisite antiques personally curated by its owners from renowned regions across Italy.

The Midge and Pat Mulcahy estate at 119 Navtem Place is one of several spectacular BIGHORN residences that was born straight from the imagination of its homeowners. These distinctive homes fit right in with BIGHORN’s signature blend of styles – elegant works from prominent architects reknown the world over. Midge and Pat are among these homeowner visionaries who have forever left their legacy on the community and their imprint on the landscape by designing their own awe-inspiring home right at BIGHORN, with none other like it in the world.

After traveling throughout Italy on multiple occasions, Midge worked closely with architect Gordon Stein to design and develop not just a single home but a necklace of individual abodes that look and feel like a rustic Italian village. Her interior designer background, experience working for a design-build firm, and education in art history served as the ideal springboard for this ultimate design challenge.

A well-chosen team of professionals helped Midge combine the rich abundance of historical items she brought back from Italy into a fairytale estate that looks like it was plucked from the Italian countryside and placed gently on a generous plateau overlooking the Mountains course.

“I love the lot’s enormous privacy and unique surroundings,” says Midge of the elevated perch on a very private cul-de-sac tucked up beside a rugged swath of mountainside. “We can enjoy the beautiful Santa Rosas as well as panoramic views of the 1st fairway.”

Exuding unmistakable charm and transportive European ambiance, the home’s Italian romance is smartly tempered by a straightforward sensibility, defined by simplicity and unfussiness. The harmony results in a highly polished gem designed to recall the rustic appeal of Florence and Rome. The Venetian plaster adds to the authenticity of the home and its three detached guest suites create their own private village all around a lush rose garden courtyard filled with flittering hummingbirds and a bocce ball court. How very Italian!

On cool evenings, the couple might find themselves in the living room, relaxing beside one of three antique Peperino stone fireplaces that Midge hand-selected. The lava-like stone is found only outside of Rome. Gorgeous Corzine sofas beckon beneath wood-beam ceilings while an expansive, antique three-section bibliotheca cabinet fills an entire corner. Rare books, antique finds, and Italian collectibles are displayed from behind its towering glass doors.

Custom murals that arch around the doorways have an in-house artist to thank. Midge commissioned an artisan from Rome to spend months in the home, adding his skillful touch. Beyond the living room, his work is showcased on a grand level across the dining room’s barrel-vaulted ceiling. There, hand-painted shields from the Palio di Siena horse race mingle with Italian family crests. Feasts unfold around the carved walnut dining table from Parma that can seat 14. The carved walnut and leather dining chairs date to 1840, while another of Midge’s discoveries – a regional hand-painted on gesso buffet – is a treasure from 1720.

During the day sunlight streams into hallways from high set windows. At night, the warm glow from antique iron sconces creates a romantic ambiance. This attention to detail prevails in every aspect of the home and creates and authenticity that easily transports one to the hills of Tuscany. Midge points out the practicality of the house as well. “The home is so well built that it’s incredibly comfortable and naturally temperature-controlled year-round.”

The couple, who came to BIGHORN 15 years ago, fully appreciates Midge’s masterpiece. They had been married for two years when they made two significant investments in 1999 – the first was the lot for Midge’s Italian dream home; the second was a BIGHORN villa to live in while she built it – nearly a three-year labor of love. “This is all her,” Pat smiles. “I really don’t have any taste, so I’m happy to follow hers!” At the time, he was commuting between BIGHORN and St. Louis, where he served as CEO of Ralston-Purina. After an incredible career, he retired in 2006 as Chief Executive Officer of Energizer Holdings, Inc., for which he remains Chairman of the Board.

Both love to golf; Pat also enjoys bicycling as well as stretching and weight lifting in the BIGHORN Fitness Center. “More importantly, we love our friendships at BIGHORN,” he says. “Even though we lived in St. Louis for more than 30 years, our closest friends are here.”

Those friends joined the family during a surprise party held at the home for Pat’s birthday – a night the couple recalls fondly. “I thought I was going to dinner with a friend at the Club,” Pat laughs. “But the kids showed up and the party lasted a few days!”

Work balances with play, of course, when Pat retreats to the cozy office with stone fireplace, wood-beam ceiling, and golf course views. The couple’s big, adorably serious cat, Harry, often keeps Pat company there, but will hide when the couple head out for a casual game of bocce ball.

“We kind of introduced bocce to BIGHORN after we picked it up in a resort town on the Adriatic,” Midge says. The travel-savvy couple went to Italy with a group of BIGHORN friends two years ago, then last year took a safari and golf trip to Africa. Next stop? New Zealand, Australia, and Tazmania. “We go with other couples who are really good travel mates,” Pat explains. “We’re all at the same point in life and want to see the world with our buddies instead of a big group.”

Friends always love to visit the Mulcahys’ slice of Italy. From the front door to the back entertainment patio, the experience Midge created is seamless and breathtaking. A tiered path creates a dramatic introduction to the south-facing four-bedroom residence. Past the towering vault entry, ancient, first-cut stone flooring from Israel and antique Italian tile leads into the home. From there, endless ways to entertain – one of the couple’s passions – await.

A striking antique three-panel bar that may once have been used as a traveling baptismal font in Italy now makes a fashionable wine and cocktail center. Outdoors, custom teak furnishings combine with a disappearing flat-screen television, fireplace, water-efficient turf lawn, spa with plunging waterfall, cast wishing well, and the pool, which Midge describes as “simple and patterned after one I liked in Italy.” A pair of custom tables that have become a favorite gathering spot are inlaid with antique Italian tiles that Midge collected specifically for this purpose.

The master suite enjoys its own views of the pool and Mountains course 1st fairway. Straight out of a Florence storybook, the suite features a carved wood four-posted bed, checkerboard floor of wood and terra cotta tiles, and double doors from Italy that have been painstakingly taken down to their original paint – an ethereal robin’s egg blue. “When I found them, they were painted white, so I asked the artist to strip them down and see what was underneath,” Midge relates. “When I saw this incredible blue, I decided to keep the doors just as they were originally.”

On a whim, Midge created the open double rain shower in the spa bath from an Italian fountain – a bold accompaniment to the heated Spanish tile floor and trio of high windows enhanced by hand-laid mosaic tiles. “And the carved white Carrara marble tub is just like you see in all of the old Italian villas,” Midge adds.

The heart of many Italian homes, however, is the kitchen. For the Mulcahys, one of their favorite memories is the night their favorite chef – a Sicilian chef from St. Louis – catered for a large crowd during a BIGHORN BAM fundraiser they hosted. “Giovanni was here prepping for a week,” Pat recalls of the chef who knew Sinatra and cooked for Ronald Reagan and Oprah Winfrey. “It was a spectacular meal and everyone loved it.”

With all the charm of Italy’s culinary heritage, the inspired kitchen impresses with two walnut prep tables, one topped with gleaming Cavendish Grey Classic Carrara marble. “Italian kitchens don’t have islands,” Midge notes. “So I chose these long tables like one would see in Italy. The marble-top one is perfect for rolling out pasta or dough. Its long, built-in flour drawers go all the way to the middle.”

Dual granite farmhouse sinks, high-performance appliances, morning room seating, custom pendant lighting, a stone fireplace, and pitched wood-beam ceiling complete the Italian flavor. Truly enchanted throughout, the residence is so welcoming that it feels like home, even to first-time visitors.

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