Located on a Lake Murray peninsula, a Mediterranean villa transforms a touch of the South Carolina Midlands into a picturesque taste of Italy’s coast. Home to Maria and Steven Mungo, this exotic house is perched overlooking a charming cove in the heart of Irmo and is known to family and friends as “Villa Maria.”
Entering the Mungo’s front foyer is like stepping across the Atlantic Ocean into an elegant European manor. Hanging from the tall foyer dome, a circular ceiling pendant illuminates intricate artwork painted by Mary Ann Haven, a Columbia artist.
“She was literally like Michelangelo lying on her back creating the work of art on our foyer ceiling,” Maria shares. “In the evening it is beautiful.”
Copper tones with a Mediterranean theme base the home’s interior design foundation. “I wanted everything to flow, and even though it is a big house, I wanted the warm colors and soft lighting to make our home feel inviting and cozy when guests walk in,” Maria says.
In collaboration with Ellen Taylor, owner of Ellen Taylor Interiors, Maria crafted the villa to exude comfort and a relaxed atmosphere. “We have worked together for 25 years,” Maria says. “In fact, she has worked with me on every house! We are like sisters and work really well together. When we decorated this house, we fed off of each other’s energy.”
Upon discovering Maria’s favorite home furnishings, Ellen worked around the specific treasures, allowing their style to influence a room’s design. “The decision making of all the details was the hardest part,” says Maria.
The Mungo’s foyer opens into an inviting sitting room enclosed by ceiling-high windows. Streaming into the elegant room, the natural light enhances the soft tones of the neutral wallpaper. “The wallpaper is like fabric — almost a gauze material. Because this room is large, it echoed, so we needed to add carpet along with the textured wallpaper,” Maria explains. The sitting room’s baseboards are beautifully painted by Georgia Lake.
The arched living room ceiling features Mary Ann’s creativity as well. Sectioned into a grid and structured with refined wood, each individual ceiling panel showcases her hand-painted designs. Inspired by Maria’s love for copper, gold and bronze tones, Mary Ann implemented those colors as her base for the sitting room ceiling. “She did an amazing job,” admires Maria. “The sitting room is one of my favorite rooms because it is quiet and bright with natural lighting. It is sunny and happy.”
Maria also expresses partiality toward her kitchen, a room of family congregation. Lois Kennedy, Maria’s sister-in-law and owner of Portfolio Kitchens, designed the Mungo’s kitchen. The Cambria countertops rest on a dark wooden island, surrounded by detailed cupboards. Each cabinet conceals specific kitchen appliances, creating a meticulously organized cooking space. “Lois lives in Washington, D.C., and it took two or three trips up to her studio to design this room. Her work is stunning!” Maria exclaims.
Hand-painted walls accentuate rich tones that adorn the kitchen walls. “Mary Ann started with a garnet color and then overlaid the garnet with a rich tan, making it look like a plaster wall of an Old World home,” explains Maria.
Maria’s fondness for her kitchen stems from her passion for cooking. As a Pilates instructor, Maria focuses her cooking style on gourmet clean eating. “My specialty is cooking fish, especially saltwater fish such as mahi-mahi,” Maria says. “Steven catches it, and I cook it. So our fish is always fresh.” The Mungos also cultivate fresh produce through Maria’s herb garden and Steven’s vegetable garden, stocked with flourishing tomatoes, corn and squash.
Maria began exploring different cooking avenues after Ward and Emily, their children, left for college. After creating simple, easy recipes, she shares them on her Facebook page named “Villa Maria’s Kitchen.” “I try to keep them easy so people are confident in their ability to make the dish. I want them to think, ‘I can do this!’” says Maria.
Near the kitchen, a stone wine cellar houses the Mungo’s exquisite wine collection. Maria and Steven share in the pursuit of wine collecting, storing their corked treasures in wooden shelves nestled in stone walls. Painted on the far wall of the snug room, a picturesque villa positioned on an Italian coast enhances the cellar’s exotic ambiance. “We recently went to Napa for the first time and had a ball!” shares Maria. “However, my favorite wine in our collection is Almaviva from Chile. When Ward studied abroad in Chile, we toured the Almaviva winery. It is absolutely beautiful.”
Located in the right wing of the home, Maria and Steven’s master bedroom overlooks Lake Murray through large windows dominating the wall space. A leather chaise lounge positioned adjacent to the windows compliments rich tones of the wooden sleigh bed. Mary Ann painted the color-blended walls, beginning with a solid base coat and glazing through with different colors. “I wanted the copper and bronze tones to be prevalent throughout our entire home, so our bedroom is based on those colors as well,” Maria explains.
The same color scheme permeates Maria’s bathroom. A brown and burgundy toned tile wall contrasts with the prominent white bathtub, a feature chosen by Maria with Ellen’s help. “There are different colors from the bedroom but the texture is the same. The warm colors create a nice environment in the bathroom,” Maria says. “My bathroom is my retreat.”
Lying on the opposite side of the master bedroom, Steven’s bathroom caters to a masculine design. Dark wooden cabinets combined with a circular green tiled shower create a refined bathroom. “We like the idea of separate bathrooms and closets so everyone has their own space and are not on top of each other. It keeps everything organized, because you know, he is a little messy,” Maria says with a laugh.
A woman of Scottish heritage, Maria desired to blend cultures from her old home with her new one, and with Ellen’s guidance, she created the “Pub Room.” The Pub Room provides a comfortable area for the Mungo family to recline with a plush corner couch, flat screen TV, wooden pool table, finely detailed bar and ethereal artwork. “Since I am from Scotland, I wanted this room to reflect what a little Scottish pub is like … and it does!” says Maria. “It is such a wonderful place to relax.”
Outside of the kitchen, the patio extends into the Mungo’s manicured yard. The front portion of the patio is an extension of the kitchen’s tile pattern, creating a smooth transition from the home’s interior to exterior. “I wanted the entire house to flow, even to the outdoors,” Maria shares.
A negative edge swimming pool, surrounded by palmetto trees, casts an illusion of flowing into Lake Murray’s waters. Dark brown deck furniture accented with teal cushions decorates the patio and pool deck, while an outdoor grill and eating area provides a scenic space for summer meals. “I wanted the outside to feel like a resort. I didn’t want to look out at a yard and grass,” says Maria. “The negative edge swimming pool accentuates the resort feel, but I can’t spend much time in the pool because of my fair skin and red hair! I sit under the umbrella in the shade.”
While Maria consulted Ellen to decorate the home and patio’s design, Steven collaborated with the Mungo Homes team to build the actual structure. Wayne Rogers of Lexington created the architectural design through 12 months of designing and planning. Undergoing an 18-month building process, the Mungo’s house was constructed in 2007 by Sovereign Homes, a division of Mungo Homes that builds higher-end houses in the Columbia market and is led by Project Manager John Ryall. “Every builder should have to build themselves a house every few years,” says Steven, CEO of Mungo Homes. “The process creates great empathy for what our customers go through, and I learned a lot.”
When constructing their Mediterranean villa, Maria and Steven aspired to create a family retreat, balancing the allure of a vacation with comfort and warmth. This exotic house transfigures Lake Murray into Italy’s Mediterranean coast, yet for the Mungos, it is simply home.