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By Val Schoger; Photos by Beck Graben and Sarah Shipes


Waterfront living

Northwest Florida’s prime residential real estate can be located quite easily by looking for the most beautiful spots on the water. Whether beach, bay, or other body of water, beautiful and unique real estate is often close by.

For many, proximity and access to the water opens up an entirely different outlook on life. It may be that exposure to the elements, wind, water, and sun, are part of the heightened sense of being and add intensity to life. A walk to the water prompts deep breaths, makes the eye wander to the horizon, and will affect the soul.

Beautiful waterfront homes are the stuff of which dreams are made. Several Bay County waterfront homeowners are sharing their views and insights on waterfront living on the following pages. With unique features, designs, locations, and history, each home also speaks volumes about the homeowners and their goals, dreams, and aspirations in life.

Northwest Florida’s climate, minus the humidity, is very similar to the climate in Southern Italy or Spain and Florida mansions are often highlighted by Mediterranean influences and reflect the concept of bringing the outside in, namely the beautiful views of the water.

A perfect example of Mediterranean style, complemented by modern comforts and latest building technologies, can be found in the Panama City Beach subdivision of Finisterre, where Alabama natives Tomi and Mike Selby have built their second home. The spectacular finishes and unique features of the home were shown in Panama City Living’s May/June 2012 issue and we are now following up with Tomi and Mike Selby to find out more about the “living” aspect of this stunning residence.

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Almost every room offers a view of the waters of North Lagoon and St. Andrew Bay. Some rooms offer additional vistas of flowing water and soothing sounds. “Fountains are a huge part of the overall architecture of the property,” says Tomi Selby. “The largest of five fountains sits in front of the house. Inside, twin Tribecca fountains face each other across the first floor of the gallery hall. The pool features a stone Neapolitan fountain cascading onto a sun shelf, complemented by a cascading waterfall at the opposite end of the pool.”

In the planning stages Tomi Selby had a very good idea of her future home and selected the architect and building contractors accordingly. “I have dreamed of this home since I was ten-years-old. The key to building is choosing the right architect and contractor to fit your personality. This was a large project, especially since we lived four hours away . Our selection of Graben Construction was key to a wonderful experience. Nathan Graben is a phenomenal builder and his wife, Heidi Graben, is an outstanding interior designer and project manager.”

Tomi Selby talks about the unusual design aspects of the house that she especially enjoys.

“The architecture includes large, open arches, windows, courtyards, and outdoor spaces. The entire design was focused on taking advantage of the gorgeous views and enabling the flow of the sea breeze throughout the house. One unique design aspect is the 24-feet of sliding glass pocket doors that disappear into the walls, seamlessly connecting the main living area with a large outdoor living room, the perfect setting for relaxing and entertaining. It allows us to enjoy the best of both worlds, a room with a view that opens to the outdoors. All of the rooms have phenomenal views from private balconies but my favorite part of the house is the solarium. In the mornings, I enjoy yoga to beautiful sunrises and the evenings offer incredible skyline sunsets, truly a blessing.”

How much time in the year do they spend in the house? “Not enough,” states Tomi Selby. “Mike and I both grew up enjoying the beautiful beaches in Panama City Beach. We love Grand Lagoon. In less than ten-minutes we can be deep-sea fishing, diving, relaxing on the beaches of Shell Island or enjoying outstanding local cafes and restaurants. Two of our favorites are within walking distance, Capt. Anderson’s and Andy’s Flour Power.”

Tomi and Mike Selby have built a successful business and are dedicated to their customers and employees. Tomi explains, “We are the owners of Information Transport Solutions, Inc., an employee-owned business with offices in Alabama and Georgia. Soon we will be adding an office in the Panhandle area. I started the business in 1993. At the time I worked for the Department of Defense, USAF, during the day and ran my small business after hours. Today we are a technology integrator and telecommunication services company with just under 100 employees. We provide services to customers throughout the southeast in government, banking, healthcare, and education facilities.”

The home seems to offer a perfect balance for the Selbys as the counterpart to technology and business might just be: Water. Tomi Selby seems to confirm this theory. “We spend all of our time enjoying the water,” she states.

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The family’s main residence is located in Alabama and, while it is distinctively different, it shares the proximity to the water. “Our home in Alabama is also a waterfront home. Located on beautiful Lake Martin in Alexander City, it is totally different. The beach house was designed around my personality and our lake home was designed specifically for my husband and our daughter. We all love the water so incorporating all aspects of the outdoors, large open spaces for entertaining and accommodations for our families were all critical components of both properties. However that is where the similarity stops. Our home here is more elegant, offering a warm inspiring feel. We used lots of stone (marble, granite, travertine, onyx, sandstone, limestone) inside and out with private courtyards and spaces for entertaining. The lake home is rustic, all wood, rock fireplaces, flagstone patios, and lots of space for our family and friends.”

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When Tomi speaks of the most enjoyable features, it becomes clear that the residence is more than a retreat, it is a place she can call home. “One of my favorite areas is an orchard created to remind me of my grandmother and the tremendous influence she had on my life. Her love for the outdoors, growing her own fruit and vegetables inspired me to create a little oasis in her memory. The orchard includes a lemon tree, lime, orange, grapefruit, tangelo, pomegranate, plum, peach, fig, and avocado trees, along with blueberry bushes and a small vegetable garden. A little bit of heaven on earth.”


About The Author

Val studied communications and marketing in Germany and holds a marketing degree. She had a corporate career and has worked for nine years in media, PR and marketing internationally in Germany, England, the Caribbean and the United States. During an extended sailboat cruise n 2003, she traveled to the Gulf Coast and subsequently to Navarre, Florida and was immediately smitten with Northwest Florida. She started her first business in 2004 in Fort Walton Beach and as of July 2013, she became the sole owner and publisher of Panama City Living Magazine. She obtained her Merchant Mariner Credential (Captain’s License) right here in Panama City at SeaSchool and enjoys being on the water when she finds the time.


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