ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - In writer Steve Berry's home - just as in his historical thrillers - everything has meaning.
The best-selling author doesn't hang a picture, display a statue or add a book to his bookshelves unless it relates in some way to his novels, his travels or the writers who inspire him.
"Everywhere you look, there's a memory," says Berry, 55, whose ninth novel, "The Emperor's Tomb," was released last week.
A reminder of that book stands guard near the front door of the Berry home: a life-size replica of one of China's Terracotta Warriors, prominently featured in the novel.
Since April, Berry and his wife, Elizabeth, have been remodeling and decorating their 5,800-square-foot dream home overlooking the first tee at The King and The Bear at the World Golf Village, a development west of St. Augustine.
Inspiration for the decor comes from the exotic locales in Berry's books, which include "The Venetian Betrayal," "The Romanov Prophecy" and "The Alexandria Link."
Working with interior designer Cari Anne Carrube of M & E Cross in Palm Coast, the couple is transforming a contemporary Florida home into a cozy retreat touched with fantasy.
To give the two-year-old house a patina of age and permanence, such as the historical landmarks in Berry's books, they engaged faux-finish artists Jeane and Carla Fradsen of Art & Soul in Palm Coast. Inside and out, the mother-daughter team is using a variety of finishes, including marble, stone and wood.
In the dining room, they incorporated a subtle fleur-de-lis motif into the wall finish - a nod to the room's French theme, which was inspired by a tapestry from the Cluny Museum - the setting for several scenes in Berry's "The Paris Vendetta."
Like most rooms in the house, even the master bathroom doubles as an art gallery. Among the featured pieces is a painting of Venice, a Templar sword and a medallion of Charlemagne's seal - all items Berry's fans will recognize from his novels. There's also a sketch of the Spanish Steps in Rome, the setting for a real-life romance.
"That's where Steve proposed to me," says Elizabeth, who wed the author in 2006 - a second marriage for both.
Berry hangs all his own pictures - quite a challenge in a house with soaring ceilings. He does it, he says, when no one else is in the house to overhear his salty language.
A two-story wall in the living room features a mix of prints and paintings gathered on the couple's research trips to cities that include Aachen in Germany ("The Charlemagne Pursuit"), Melk in Austria ("The Amber Room"), and the Copenhagen waterfront in Denmark, a favorite haunt of Berry's hero Cotton Malone.
There's also a painting of Orange Hall, a landmark in St. Marys, Ga., the couple's former hometown.
Dozens more sentimental favorites hang on the stairwell walls, along with framed posters of the six Berry novels that climbed into the Top 10 on The New York Times best-seller list.
Upstairs is the domain of Berry's daughter, Elizabeth, 12, and his wife's son, Eli, 8. Their playroom decor is inspired by Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens, the setting for a key scene in Berry's latest novel. But their bedrooms reflect the interests of the children - a "Star Wars" theme for Eli and a safari motif for Elizabeth.
Downstairs, the wood-paneled study was designed around a large painting of Germany's Aachen Cathedral, built by Charlemagne in 805 and a key setting in Berry's "The Charlemagne Pursuit." The study also houses first editions of Berry's novels, which have been printed in 50 countries and 37 languages, as well as the books by his favorite authors, including Frederick Forsyth, David Morrell, James Rollins and Dan Brown.
Perhaps his favorite room is his "man cave" - a former two-car garage converted into a combination writing room, library and sitting room with faux fireplace. Paneled in burled maple, with an inlaid-wood ceiling and built-in bookshelves - the work of Andrei Zborovsky, a Russian carpenter - this study houses his many travel guides and his collection of James A. Michener novels.
Back inside the main house, he points out the bare wall above the living-room fireplace.
"I won't put just anything there," he says. "We'll leave it blank until we find the right thing - something with meaning."