photos by Barry Fitzgerald
The "Heart of Old Town Key West" is one of the oldest and most intriguing residential neighborhoods on the island with an architectural treasure trove of charming and extraordinarily preserved historic wooden Key West houses. This is the island's "z spot" - where the southernmost city in the U.S. reaches its pinnacle point at a whopping 16 feet (or so) above sea level, and you find 1800's story-book-lane names like Passover Lane, Catholic Lane, and Poorhouse Lane. The Island Interlude vacation rental is situated almost smack-dab in the center of the island, in this picturesque and quirky neighborhood with hundreds of renovated Key West houses dating back to 1845 and Key West's famous and most fascinating 19-acre historic cemetery dating back to 1847.
To walk the provocative heart of Old Town Key West neighborhood is to become mesmerized by the timeless charm of the historic island houses, the tiny corner grocers and occasional eatery which is exactly what happened to the enterprising owner of this property. What started as an "island interlude" grew to become an "owner builder" labor of love and commitment, when this unique property blossomed received a major makeover that was long overdue.
Recent Key West House History: I recall riding my bike past this property during the initial phases of the reconstruction and witnessed first-hand how this Island Interlude Key West house was saved from the wrecking ball. By necessity the "original bones" of the house were almost taken down completely, except for the careful sparing of two steadfast historic heart-pine rooms. The original old Key West house had stood as one tiny tin-roof wooden cottage with the front door facing the lane and a back door to a sprawling yard. The new owner saw all the potential and himself touched every wall in the re-creation of this island home that today displays the most authentic elements of Caribbean historic architecture while at the same time offering the most luxurious attributes of any private Key West pool-garden style island home.
The new owner's pain-staking commitment was to provide a magnificent re-fit of the original tiny lane-side cottage keeping the all historic architectural charm, while at the same time achieving the end result of a private 4 bedroom /4 bathroom wooden villa meeting all the most modern luxury standards. Updated and expanded the property has maintained its authenticity continuing to stand as one residence while being redesigned as two separate wooden structures joined with a Caribbean-style covered wooden walkway-porch. French doors open to outdoor porches surrounding the center of the property and tropical Key West living is made complete with bricked courtyard next to lap swimming pool with waterfall and tropical landscaping all around. The addition of private off-street bricked parking has brought the charming property to meet the most modern luxury standards.
Interior Design and Layout: We begin our tour facing the front of the property. Walk through the inviting private bricked driveway to the trellis garden gate that takes you to the front entrance of this Key West house. Enter the main cottage in the front of the property from a door just down the covered walkway, and you're inside the island-elegant spacious great room that includes the full kitchen with breakfast bar, dining area with large wooden dining table and living room area complete with large flat screen TV. When this part of the house was re-designed, the owner added a classic saw-tooth roof and kept the wooden beam ceilings open all the way up to the roof line creating a tall soaring effect. Designer lighting against the varnished wooden ceiling creates an authentic elegant "down-island" feel that reminds me of a wonderful villa we once rented in St. Barth's.
Off to the left between the kitchen and living room is a short hall-way that leads to the 2 front spacious bedrooms and 2 full bathrooms, plus laundry room. The bedrooms in this front cottage still have the original gorgeous 100+ year old heart pine walls and floors that have been pickled and varnished to enhance the wood grain. The bedroom to the left (as you walk down the hall) provides a queen size bed and en suite bathroom, and has the unique feature of a door that leads to the original front porch creating a private sitting area with a view of the lane. The bedroom to the right has 2 twin size beds that can easily be pushed together to make a king size bed. The full bathroom for this bedroom is off the hall just outside the bedroom door.
Walk back out to the living room, and two sets of single paned double French doors lead to covered logia and the spacious bricked courtyard and lap swimming pool. Using an authentic Caribbean design the owner redesigned and expanded the floor plan by sending a long covered porch-cum-walkway from the original front cottage toward the back of the property. This connects to a second new cottage that looks original and now houses 2 more bedrooms and 2 more luxury bathrooms. The master bedroom in the back cottage offers a king size bed, large walk-in closet, en suite bathroom and French doors that lead directly out to the swimming pool. The 2ng bedroom in the back cottage is set to function as a bedroom and / or a private office space with the use of a versatile "high-end" (translate comfortable mattresses) trundle bed, that is shown in our slide show as a lounging couch, but can be made up to be used as 2 twin beds or a king size bed (if the 2 twins are pushed together). This bedroom also has an en suite bathroom.
Island Decor: Completely refurnished in November 2008, the owner chose an understated island decor with an upscale lift in the sense that each room in the villa takes on its on personality and style. The interior designer chose casual and comfortable island furnishings of honey and white wicker and overstuffed lounge pieces covered in soft textured stripes. The overall effect invites you to "put-up-your-feet", relax and take in the tropical ambience. The living room / kitchen / dining area is painted and furnished in calming earth tones of aloe green and lemon and are a perfect compliment to the tall varnished ceilings and wide slat wood floors. I am especially fond of the front bedrooms in the original front cottage that still display the 100+ year old heart-pine wooden walls and floors.
In the back cottage the designer added some key lime, pistachio, and mango colors to the bedroom and bathroom walls just to liven things up a bit. Another feature I really enjoy is how each bedroom, closet space and bathroom displays an authentic personality and unique style.
GROUNDS: The bricked courtyard in the center of the property with the lap swimming pool and waterfall, and covered porches connected with wooden walkways are the focal point for the grounds. Multiple sets of single-pane French doors line each cottage and open to the courtyard bringing the indoors out and setting the stage for true Key West tropical style living. "An outdoor dining table and chairs are set just outside the kitchen and chaise lounges are set around the swimming pool." The entire property is fenced and has a locking gate. A revered feature of private off-street parking is provided at the front of the property just to the right of the house. A variety of palm trees and tropical landscaping appoints the property in the front and in the center courtyard. The front of the property has charming and romantic curb appeal with white picket fences and vintage brick pavers.
Front Cottage - 1 Queen Size bed, 2 Twin beds (can be pushed together to make a King size bed), Queen Sleeper sofa
Back Cottage - 1 King size bed, 1 trundle bed (can be made as 2 twin beds or a King size bed
Amenities: Lap swimming pool with waterfall, large vintage bricked courtyard, tropical gardens, expansive porches, fenced yard, private off-street parking. Fully equipped kitchen, central a/c, telephone, color cable TVs, stereo, washer / dryer. Linens and towels are provided. Catering can be arranged. Maid service can be scheduled.
Area: Located in one of the most historic and provocative areas of Old Town Key West, this villa is almost smack-dab in the middle of Old Town neighboring Key West's historic early 1800's grave yard. Be sure you take the time to explore this beautiful green-space that encompasses 19 acres of the island; "people are just dying to get in." This residential street is close to a diverse variety of shopping, offices, entertainment, restaurants, bars, and historic churches. Just a couple of streets from Truman Ave where you find an impressive array of historic Victorian and cottage style residences and established Key West businesses. From this area you can walk to the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration and the Key West Historic Seaport Harbor Walk in 10 to 15 minutes.
Activities: Center of Old Town Key West just 3 streets from the middle of Duval Street. Historic and authentic neighborhood features story-book lanes, historic grave yard, tiny local grocers, and a few restaurants. Just 3 streets from art galleries, wonderful eateries and internationally famous fine restaurants. Sailing, boating, diving, museums, nightlife, all features Old Town Key West has to offer.
Restrictions: Smoke free house. Only well behaved children. Smoking permitted outside only.