By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub
Photography by Dan Forer
City & Shore Design Writer
John Dasburg, and his wife, Mary Lou, were celebrating the birth of their grandson with root beer floats at Gainesville’s Karma Cream when they started a conversation with a friend that would cost them $3.5 million.
Bernie Machen, who was there with his granddaughters, planted the idea. Machen, former president at the University of Florida, was the first president to live off campus but he convinced the Dasburgs that the new president should have a home where he could both entertain alumni and live comfortably. Dasburg, a former member of the UF board of trustees, is known for his generous gifts to the university.
Loyal Gators, the Dasburgs agreed. John, CEO of ASTAR Air Cargo in Miami, has degrees in business, engineering and law from the school; Mary Lou has a law degree.
“President Machen knew I was vulnerable, and he got me in a moment of vulnerability, Dasburg says. “He said, ‘Now that you have a grandson, wouldn’t it be nice if the new president’s house had your name on it?’”
Keith Koenig, president of City Furniture and former chairman of the University of Florida Foundation, offered to donate furniture for the residence of new president Dr. W. Kent Fuchs. Koenig estimates he donated furnishings worth just under $100,000 from his showroom and with the help of his friend Alex Bernhardt Jr., CEO and president of Bernhardt Furniture. Bernhardt’s custom dining room table that seats 14 is the signature piece.
To create the interior design, Koenig brought in Dianne Davant of Dianne Davant & Associates. She is also vice present of interior design for City Furniture.
“I got to know Dianne many years ago,” Koenig says. “She is the best designer and has done celebrity homes. She is well regarded in the industry and has done both of my homes. At the time, the president’s home was under construction and they didn’t have a designer.” (Davant is married to Lee Moffitt, a UF graduate, an attorney and former speaker of the Florida House. He is best known for helping fund the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.)
Davant’s challenge was to integrate donated art, such as James Bates’ painting of Mr. Two Bits, for the media room. The art is based on George Edmondson, Jr., who is known for leading the “Two Bits’ cheer at games from 1949 until he retired in 2008. Fuchs wife, art historian Linda Moskeland Fuchs, went through the archives and found old photos in sepia to hang on the wall. Other pieces were donated by alumni and on loan from the University’s Harn Museum of Art.
Another challenge was how to integrate Gator colors of bright orange and bright blue into the décor. Davant introduced more subtle versions in pillows and throws.
“The media room is a casual area to entertain guests and enjoy football games and every other sport, Davant says. “The media room is their cozy space but large enough to entertain friends.”
When Davant began her design she had free rein because a new president had not yet been selected. She designed the first floor for entertaining alumni and friends. The second floor is their private residence.
“We approached the furnishings with a classic, timeless feel and a neutral palette, honoring the region’s natural beauty and keeping the focus on fabulous Florida-themed paintings alumni have so generously made available,” she says.
Ponikvar Associates designed the home; the builder was CPPI. The energy efficient home that is built with sustainable materials received the Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in late 2015.