DULUTH — DeBora and Charles Bernick didn’t have curtains in mind when they designed their home in Duluth's Park Point neighborhood. Standing in their dining room on Minnesota Avenue, it’s easy to see why.
On a July afternoon, Lake Superior waves rumbled in front of their floor-length windows. “This is like artwork every morning,” DeBora said.
“It’s a million dollar view,” Charles added.
In June, the Bernicks listed their four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom mansion for $2.5 million.
The home touts five levels with marble floors in the dining room, granite countertops in the kitchen, steel stairs, a security system, a panic room, a wine cellar and heated floors throughout.
The first floor is an open-concept kitchen, an entertainment area, a TV room and a dining room. To protect the floor-length windows, there are roll-down shutters outside the home.
Upstairs, there’s a large walk-in closet in the main bedroom suite, along with matching beachwood nightstands, a headboard, bathroom cabinets and wet bar. Tucked around the corner in the suite’s bathroom is a toilet — and a urinal.
“This was one of our only fights. He never puts the toilet seat down, so he put a urinal in,” DeBora said.
Climb the stairs to the top-floor tower that has a 360-degree view and an angled couch with a small bookshelf. It used to be a little getaway space for the Bernicks, but most recently, it acts as a reading nook.
Most of the furniture and artwork was specially made for their home: the living room rugs and iridescent wall hangings above the fireplace. They designed their green marble dining room floor to match the green on their wedding china.
Asked if these specially made pieces are staying with the house, Deb said, “They could.”
Standing inside their lower-level wine cellar, you’ll hear a low buzz. The space stays at 64 degrees — perfect wine temperature.
Bottles with foil caps in red, silver, burgundy and gold jut out from their compartments along the walls. Tiny name plates identify what is what. In the center of the room is a glass-plated table, revealing hundreds of wine corks.
Charles holds a wine bottle that’s as long as his torso.
As with the rest of their home, DeBora dreamed this up, and he made it happen.
“I’m the designer. I do things you can see, and he does what you can’t see,” she said.
Other personal touches can be found in the details.
Near the floor on the kitchen island, DeBora activates a built-in dustpan/vacuum that can suck up whatever you sweep up. Under the sink, there are two pipes for recycling. Place a plastic bottle in one, and it flows down the chute to a bag in a basement storage area off the garage.
Built into the wall of their pantry lies the dumbwaiter, which is a small freight elevator that carries food from their three-car garage straight into their pantry.
In the dining area, DeBora designed a built-in hutch with a hot-plate top that keeps food warm for serving.
DeBora and Charles started working on their dream home right after they were married. At the time, they were in their 20s, they didn't know where they were going to live, and they’d never designed and built a house before.
They purchased six lots and tore down a rental to make space. They hired an architectural firm to construct the home’s engineering, but other than that, DeBora designed it and Charles did everything else — cutting the stone flooring, installing the heating system, etc.
Neither had ever designed or helped build a home before their own. It took them about a year and a half, and the home was built in 1995.
Building their home together “allows you to see your partner's strengths and areas of expertise. I'm not good at design, but I'm good at manufacturing, engineering and assembling,” he said.
"I didn't realize that he knew so much. … I’m the designer, I do things you can see, and he does what you can't see," she said.
And, their shared creativity and drive helped bring them together.
“Yeah, that was the attraction,” Charles said.
“We’re not ones to sit down and just relax,” DeBora said.
And that’s made clear in their accomplishments.
DeBora used to own Duluth Brides by DeBora Rachelle, and her prom dress designs have been featured in “27 Dresses,” in Seventeen magazine, and on the red carpet. She has designed for Amanda Bynes, Ashley Tisdale and Brooke Hogan and is currently designing bed sheets and writing a book.
Charles moved here to buy Duluth’s Pepsi franchise. He also builds motorcycles, is a professionally trained chef, a pilot and parasailer.
She retired in 2008; he followed in 2011, and what’s next is warmer climes. "We love it here, but we're both retired now and why live in the cold?" she said.
They have plans to build in Coachella, California, where their new home will have similar traits to this — but they’re trading a lake view for mountains. They also have plans to build a place in Pike Lake.
It has been a lifelong home for their son, Chaz, who was born when they were finishing construction.
"He wasn't much help," joked Charles.
Chaz, who is still living at home and is in the process of building his own house on Miller Hill, said he remembers playing on the beach in the front yard when he was a kid.
"I think I'm ready to go, but it's definitely been a good place to grow up," he said.