Creature comforts are surrounded by picturesque preserves and river views in Neal Communities' River's Reach development.
The gated entrance leads into a neighborhood that feels more like a northern community with rolling hills and mature landscaping, but the land is true old Florida.
Set on 230 acres, River's Reach has more than 105 acres of designated open or recreational space, including lakes, nature preserves, nature trails and green spaces.
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Nestled among the lush foliage is the St. Johns II model.
The largest model in River's Reach, the two-story home measures just shy of 4,000 square feet.
Enter the home and find a familiar Florida-style floor plan with design elements that set it apart.
To the left of the foyer is the home's formal dining room and the living room is located straight ahead.
Sliding-glass doors in the living room overlook the lanai, pool and preserve beyond both.
Double doors to the right of the living room lead to the master suite, but another room one might not notice at first is closer to the front door. Walk through the angled door to the side of the foyer and find a large den with built-in bookshelves, recessed lighting and three high-set square windows. In addition to adding extra light to the room, the windows give it a designer feel.
From the living room, a doorway leads into the heart of the home. Beside the door is an unusual built-in shelving unit that ties the two spaces together. Open to both the living and family rooms, the shelf is an ideal place to display vases, artwork or knick-knacks.
Much like the rest of the home, the family room, dinette and kitchen are brightened by windows that also aim to provide vistas of the preserves beyond.
Arched windows above the built-in entertainment center, large sliding glass doors and an aquarium window in the dinette team up to bring a warm glow to the heart of the home.
The large kitchen features an island, expansive counter space and deep cabinets. Several people could easily share kitchen duties in the practical yet elegant room.
Between the kitchen and family room, a small hallway leads to two of the home's guest bedrooms as well as a guest bath.
A pocket door easily shuts the rooms off from the rest of the house for increased privacy.
The last of the rooms on the first floor is tucked away beyond the family room. The room's bath doubles as the pool bath. From the third downstairs bedroom, a sliding glass door overlooks the outdoor kitchen and pool.
If the weather isn't right for outdoor entertaining, the bonus room upstairs provides a great second option. Whether transformed into a game room or an in-home movie theater, there is room for fun.
A screened-in balcony off the bonus room comes with a beautiful vista of preserves. Bird watchers can watch with delight as native Florida birds make their own homes just feet away.
The model's fifth bedroom could easily serve as a second master. The large room with all its windows makes guests feel like they are in a tree house designed for adults - the view is all around.
Downstairs, the master suite doesn't skimp on space or views either. Angled windows on either side of a sliding-glass door add a panoramic effect to the master suite. Even one of the walk-in closets in the master suite features a window, making it easier to find matching shoes without even having to turn a light on.
The large master bath has two vanities, a glass-enclosed shower and a sunken bath tub. Unlike many master suites in modern homes, the master bath can be divided from the bedroom with a pocket door.
The five-bedroom, four-bath home with den and bonus room does not waste an inch of space, creating a large but liveable home. The St. Johns II is available in two different elevations.
Melissa Followell, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7920.
Neal Communities at River's Reach
Model: St. Johns II
Pricing: from the low $400,000s
Amenities at River's Reach: Gated community, large lots, river and preserve views, clubhouse and community pool.
Directions: Take State Road 64 east of Interstate 75, turn north on Upper Manatee River Road, follow it around to Rye Road and turn left. River's Reach is on the left.