By Val Schoger, Photography By Rick Cooper and Matt Koehnemann
– – You might call retired Lt. Col. Mark Ladtkow and wife Andrea homebuilding veterans. They previously built three houses and have developed a list of must-haves for their new and forever home. The location had first priority and they found their ideal building lot in a small development in the northernmost part of Lynn Haven, north of the Bailey Bridge.
Mark, Andrea, and their three children have lived in Great Britain, five American states, and eleven different houses during his 24 year military career. Their longest and most recent stay of nine and a half years was in Hawaii. “You can’t afford this kind of waterfront living in Hawaii,” Mark Ladtkow states in appreciation of the building and property values in Northwest Florida. Originally from California, Mark was first stationed in Bay County during pilot training in 1993, followed by 24 years of active duty as an F15 and F22 pilot that brought him back to Florida five times. “We have moved to and away from Bay County three different times throughout the years. We now call it our home,” they state. The two older children are in college and the youngest son, Landon, is a student at North Bay Haven Charter School.
Since retiring from active duty, Mark Ladtkow has continued his career at Tyndall Air Force Base as the Civilian Lead Instructor for F-22 Pilots. Andrea works as a teacher’s assistant at Bay Haven Charter Academy Inc. Preschool in Lynn Haven, only a ten minute commute from her new home.
After the purchase of the waterfront lot, the family started looking at floor plans and favored the Arthur Rutenberg home designs. Modifications to the plans were needed to fit all their needs. Mark jokes, “I asked our building contractor today if they would name our floor plan the ’Ladtkow Floor Plan’ instead of the ‘Turnberry II.’ We had a lot of customizations that diverted from the original plans.” In fact, they remember changing the designs four or five times. It is understandable that they took extra thought and time. As Mark explains “This is the house we will grow old in.”
Among the custom designs and upgrades are the infinity pool and custom features such as an oversized walk-in shower, a large fireplace, the built-in refrigerator, farm sink and gas stove in the kitchen, the foam insulation in the attic, an added window in one of the rooms that overlook the bay and an “all important” outdoor kitchen with grill, fridge, sink, granite countertop,
The family gives credit to their contractor, local custom homebuilder and Arthur Rutenberg representative, Brian Baber. “Brian bent over backwards to give us what we wanted which is to see the water whenever we could not be on the water.” Indeed, there are waterviews from every room and the proximity to the water is one of the main features when entering the spacious living area.
Once the custom-fitted floor-to-ceiling sliding doors are opened, the feeling is that the indoor and outdoor areas are one. “The living room, dining room, and kitchen flow together to the outside. My favorites are the outdoor areas,” says Andrea Ladtkow. “We try to watch the sunset every day. It is just very beautiful and tranquil.”
“In the mornings, the bay is often like glass and it is a pleasure to look out onto the water. We often see dolphins playing right in our backyard,” adds Mark.
Apart from the beauty and setting, the Ladtkows have built their home with foresight. Several of the building improvements add long-term value to the house. Mark explains, “Our electrical bill is extremely low thanks to the foam insulation in the attic. It was a $5,000 investment that we will break even on in the next 5 years.
Our utility costs are extremely low.” He also explains that the entire house and all electrical systems can be monitored from their smartphones. “Our monitoring system will tell us our energy consumption throughout the day. It is integrated with all other electrical equipment and will give us remote access to operate all electronics such as the A/C or washer and dryer.”
Landon’s favorite area is the infinity pool, of course, and it seems that Leila, the family dog, feels the same way.
The boat dock is the last item to be completed. All plans and permits are in place and soon the family will be able to save the trip across the bridge to the boat ramp to put their 22 ft. boat in the water. “Our typical summer weekend consists of at least one day spent on the water. In a few weeks we will only have to walk 190 feet on the dock and get the boat ready to head to Shell Island on Saturdays.”
Being able to hop onto the boat and be in Shell Island in 35 minutes is one of many conveniences the Ladtkows look forward to. “It only takes 15 minutes to get to the mall or downtown Panama City and a lot of the restaurants and shops. Getting to the airport only takes 15 minutes. We feel that we are close and within easy access of everything,” says Mark Ladtkow and, with a contented smile, he turns around to Landon and both get ready to take the kayaks to the water’s edge to seize the day.
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