El Retiro

El Retiro, now known as Pinewood Estate, provides a window to a time when detailed craftsmanship was a part of one’s home just as strolling in one’s garden was a regular pastime.

In the unlikely location of Lake Whales, Florida lies the most beautiful house from another era. It nestles just perfectly into the surrounding gardens. Of course it would, as El Retiro was created afterwards in order to take full advantage of the views.

Designed by Charles Wait, the Spanish-style home was built in 1932 for the widower Mr. Charles Austin Buck. He lived there alone except for his 7-9 servants who kept the 12,000 square foot house in order. Mr. Buck being the well-traveled successful business man selected and procured finishes from around the world. Cuban terra-cotta floor tiles are laid in a different pattern in each room.  Hand-painted Tunisian tiles decorate walls, stair risers and are set into plaster creating points of interest here and there.

The front entry to El Retiro, Lake Whales, Florida.

The front entry to El Retiro, Lake Whales, Florida.

The hand-made finishes and extravagant details throughout the large home make it feel intimate despite the large size.

The foyer of El Retiro, Lake Whales, Florida.

The foyer of El Retiro, Lake Whales, Florida.

The right door, seen above, leads to the powder bath. The left door opens to stairs leading down to the butlers pantry and kitchen.

Each set of the many wooden doors has a different pattern.

All the patterns of Tunisian tile used in El Retiro are represented here on these risers.

Large arched pocket doors slide into the thick exterior walls leaving screen doors to keep the Florida bugs out of the formal living room.

A large party room has a sitting area on one end, seen above in this charming vignette, and a dance floor on the other end.

The lighting of the photo makes the bedroom look hot, but actually it felt like a breath of cool air with its poster beds dressed in white and blue bedding.

Charming chairs surround a tiled table in one of three screened-in porches.


Neighbors living in the Mountain Lake development entered through this alternate front door accessed through a side garden.

Deeply recessed windows, tile, and hand-wrought iron make the exterior as special as the interior.

William Lyman Phillips, working for landscape architect Frederick Olmsted, designed the extensive gardens. This lovely vista is created by a large pair of pots, a tiled riser, and an allée of trees separated by a gravel path.

A view from within the Moongate Garden looking back at the house.

Why oh why don’t people build smaller homes so they can afford to put this sort of detail into today’s homes? So much timeless beauty here.

Next door to the property is Bok Tower and Gardens which you can read about here.

Contact Casa V to create a beautiful home that will stand the test of time.