Text by Lisa McEwen I Photos by Steve Cory
oving into a new house brings with it plenty of tasks — finding the right furniture, hanging artwork and displaying family photographs — all the duties that magically help turn a house into a home.
Dr. Mathias and Danka Daniels are accustomed to the routine — they’ve moved several times as Mathias pursued his training and career as an orthopedic surgeon. From the Monterey Bay area to Dallas and points in between, the couple and their 2-year-old daughter, Eleanor, have learned what they prefer in a city and their home.
Now that they’ve settled in Visalia, where Mathias is building his practice as a spine surgeon at Orthopaedic Associates Medical Clinic Inc., they are focused on making their newest home, a 7,500-foot Mediterranean beauty in the Bella Sera neighborhood, a comfortable and relaxing spot for their growing family. A baby boy is due in August.
A tour of the local area in 2019 with their Realtor included Exeter’s Badger Hill and various neighborhoods in Visalia. Ten hours later, they knew that they were meant to put down roots in Visalia.
And their new home offered something for every member of their family: proximity to schools for their children, Kaweah Delta Medical Center and Mathias’ office, and the city’s hub for Danka’s philanthropic pursuits.
“We love being here and a big part of that was what was right for our family,” Mathias said. “Danka and Eleanor needed to thrive, too.”
THE ROAD TO VISALIA
The couple’s personal story is as beautiful and dynamic as the home they are settling into. One evening in 2017 following a surgery, Mathias decided to decompress with a burger and beer at Sly McFly’s, a revered establishment on Cannery Row in Monterey.
Danka, a native of Serbia who worked in sales at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, was in town helping a friend move. Mathias and Danka began a conversation at the restaurant and soon started to date. Six months later, he proposed and they married in January 2018.
With daughter Eleanor in tow, they were ready to begin a new chapter in their family adventure and Mathias accepted a position in Dallas.
“It only took about eight weeks to realize it was not for us,” he said. Heat and humidity were the biggest culprits. They both noticed how much they loved California’s climate and public open spaces, perfect for enjoying nature and hiking. When an orthopedic position opened in Visalia, they found not only a more affordable cost of living but quick access to the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains — the best of both worlds.
They immediately fell in love with the Bella Sera development and their new neighbors. Danka said she loves the “Little Europe” feel of several neighboring subdivisions on Akers Street — Chardonnay, Siena and Marseille.
Coming from a two-bedroom condo in Dallas to their spacious home in Visalia has had a few challenges — mainly procuring the right furniture and artwork, made more difficult during a pandemic. But they are happy to take their time.
“We are not rushing to fill the space,” Mathias said. “When we make a purchase, we like to think of it as a purchase we will keep forever.”
“It is one of my favorite rooms…It is quiet and I can study there before surgery.” – Dr. Mathias Daniels
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
One of the home’s features is its attention to high-quality finishes and detail. The couple gives accolades to the previous owners, Dr. Alan Sproles and his wife, Sarah. From a magnificent entry through double front doors handcrafted in Bali to ornate ironwork throughout the home, no detail was overlooked, and the Mediterranean theme is carried tastefully throughout.
Each room effortlessly flows into the next, making large gatherings or quiet evenings at home equally enjoyable.
“I knew that this would be my kitchen…I just love it.” — Danka Daniels
One of Danka’s favorite rooms is the kitchen, with its distressed cabinetry, granite countertops and thoughtful design. It is ideal whether she is cooking for a large group of friends or just her family. The space immediately caught her eye when she initially toured the home.
“I knew that this would be my kitchen,” she said with a smile. “I just love it.”
A small half-circular nook with floor-to-ceiling windows is one of Mathias’ favorite spots to relax in. An off-white leather Eames chair that has traveled with him throughout the country takes center stage. “It was one of my first purchases after so many years of being a poor medical student,” he said with a laugh.
Mathias grew up on the East Coast, where his mother owned an art gallery and helped form his appreciation for original art. He spent 15 years in New York City as a college and medical student, where one of the benefits included a free museum pass.
“When I had a free Saturday afternoon, I could go to any museum in the city,” he said. “The best part of being a poor student was that museum card.”
As he has advanced in his career, Mathias has begun collecting art at auctions, some of which is on display in their home. If a guest is not paying attention, he or she may miss the two Pablo Picasso pencil sketches in the kitchen.
Around the corner in the game room, which features dark red walls, a floor-to-ceiling map of the world, fireplace and pool table, three pieces by American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat are featured. Mathias said he is drawn to Basquiat’s work because of its influences from the latter stages of Picasso’s career. The artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent had a meteoric rise in the global art world and collaborated regularly with Andy Warhol. He died at 27 years of age from a drug overdose and is buried in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Cultivating conversation is important to the couple, and the best spot for that in the home is the great room, which is yet unfinished. While they are still determining what furniture it will include, they agree that there will be no television in the room in an effort to encourage their family members and guests to engage with each other without a screen to distract them. They are also looking forward to hanging additional artwork in the large space. Soon, they also intend to replace carpeting with hardwood floors to match the rest of the house.
For movie watching, the family enjoys gathering in the home theater, which features three rows of seats and even a tiny leather recliner for Eleanor. The couple recently upgraded the technology in the room and found the space to be quite convenient during shelter-in-place requirements.
Upstairs, guests will appreciate the handsome library, where Mathias prepares the evening before a surgery. Dark-stained wood shelves are lined with books of many subjects in a rotunda-type fashion, with exposed beams creating the appearance of spokes on the ceiling.
“It is one of my favorite rooms,” he said. “It is quiet and I can study there before surgery.” Studying entails reviewing charts and all imaging studies of a patient, including CTs and MRIs. He will also go through the entire surgery, step-by-step, in his head at least once.
With a new baby on the way, the couple is looking forward to preparing a nursery, which is conveniently located just off the master bedroom. At the moment, it contains Danka’s office furniture, where she manages their rentals in Monterey and San Francisco, as well as carries out her philanthropic work with Visalia Breakfast Rotary and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Tulare County. She is also studying for a real estate license, which she will use to help others find their dream homes, just as she and Mathias found theirs.
Attention to detail extends from the home into the backyard, where a large grassy area houses a play structure perfect for playdates with Eleanor’s friends, and the area is also large enough for the family’s pets, Blue, a Swiss mountain dog, and Buck, a German shepherd. Guests also have the option of staying in the backyard guest quarters, complete with a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Several friends traveling from the Bay Area or Southern California have stopped in to stay, and the couple is grateful for the property’s many features that make it an enjoyable, relaxing spot to entertain guests or enjoy their little family.
An extensive patio welcomes guests to stay for dinner or take a swim in the pool. Or, a combination of the two, as the area features a step-down kitchen and swim-up bar.
“I have done a lot of grilling since we have moved. I just love being out here,” Danka said. “We are ready for summer.”