photos by Barry Fitzgerald
Perfectly staged in the island's city center, this spectacular downtown Key West rental received a major upscale renovation to become the premium Penthouse on Duval. Just completed in June, 2009, this unique private Caribbean style penthouse is the perfect prescription for some lofty relaxation. Perched just above the fun and frolic of the 700 block of Duval Street below, you're sure to capture the 'urban life' that stirs this tiny tropical island.
The Way It Was: If you've ever strolled up bustling Duval Street in downtown Key West, then you've also been touched by the timeless charm of historic Key West-Victorian structures that house the local establishments. Peaked tin roofs, horizontal wood siding and enchanting gingerbread trim were classic trade marks when these early 1900's downtown buildings were first built. And one popular property design embodied a mercantile space below with a residential home 'up top', complete with wide covered sitting porches designed for gazing below at the 'comings and goings' of island life. Nowadays, while most of the 2nd floor spaces on Duval Street have turned completely mercantile, an exceptional few have kept their 'up top' residential spaces. If you set your gaze to the upstairs sitting porches, you can't help but imagine what it must be like to live up there with a 'bird's eye view' of the street. And in the case of this "Penthouse On Duval" its pure dream-worthy pleasure inside... and now you have the opportunity to stay here and experience it for yourself!
The Way It Is: Two things became clear to the owner-designer when she first caught glimpse of this 2nd floor centurion space. One was that this remnant of a 19th century abode was right in the center of Duval Street and would make an absolute ideal Key West vacation rental; while the other was that it had been through too many years of wear and neglect and would require a complete and total make-over. But the Alabama based artist-owner (who has re-designed several properties she owns with her husband) is no stranger to creative challenges. They both love the Caribbean ambience of Key West and it's historic architecture, and after several years of diligent planning and undying tenacity through a myriad of 'renovation wars' they've completed the daunting challenge of turning an 'old sows ear into a stylish new silk purse'... and what a beautiful accomplishment it is!
When you walk through the newly designed interior space the rooms artistically unfold before you with a colorful spirit that is at once playful and downright deluxe. Each and every room is unique in design and each is set with beautiful furnishings, custom wall colorings and floors, and unique and colorful island art work. Even the powder rooms in this property stand as gorgeous little 'art alcoves' that reflect the artist-owners commitment to bringing art into everyday life activities.
Layout: Since the exterior of this Old Town building is under the protective eye of the Key West Historic Architectural Review Committee (HARC), the Duval Street facade must always retain its historic persona to help preserve the original character of the island. In order to re-design the upstairs to become luxurious and spacious, permission was obtained to increase the height at the back of the building to create two floors of living inside plus a large private back deck outside, with parking beneath.
With a commitment to historic preservation and modern day comfort, the new upscale Key West rental was thoughtfully reconfigured so that it can be rented as one larger 4 bedroom unit or as two separate 2 bedroom units. When rented separately, an inconspicuous 'lock out' door in the central hall works to securely divide the property.
City Island View - Situated on the Duval Street side of the building, this festive Key West rental unit features the original front porch that spans the width of the building with a commanding 'front and center' view of the 700 block of Duval Street below. The porch connects to the stunning great room which has soaring open beam ceilings with designer lighting and tan wicker paddle fans. The owner-artist hand selected a wonderful selection of eclectic furnishings to pull the entire presentation together. Custom colors and unique artwork take their cue from the Caribbean Sea with vivid turquoise walls and oversized diagonally placed sand colored floor tile. I love how the owner has paired the oversized curvaceous cream colored sectional with the round dark wood accent tables, and how a playfully painted artisan dining table is set off with traditional white wicker dining chairs. A collection of unique lamps and carefully chosen artwork complete the perfect great room picture.
The fully equipped designer kitchen flows easily from the dining area with a tiled breakfast bar and two chair back stools. Gorgeous mahogany cabinets and shiny stainless steel appliances have been tastefully placed to add a modern interpretation of tradition of the L-shaped kitchen. From this point of view, the cook can entertain while enjoying a complete view of the porch and Duval Street below.
The master bedroom, with king size bed, is situated just off the back of the living room. Dark mahogany furniture set against cream colored walls and a sky blue ceiling give a West Indies feel to the space. The entire master bath is an art piece in and of itself with rounded counters tiled in mini aqua tiles and a brilliant smattering of sea shells that covers one entire wall and frames the Jacuzzi bath tub. The 'sea shell wall' has become a signature of this owner-artist in her renovation and design work. The precious powder room on the first floor is like a little monument to the islands with a shutter framed mirror, a hand made pedestal counted 'tiled' in sea shells and glass. Even the wash basin in reminiscent of green colored sea glass and an electric photograph of a deserted island takes the decor over the top.
The 2nd bedroom and bathroom are located upstairs just off the hall. Elegant island decor was chosen for this bedroom. White cottage furniture, light wood floors, and a wicker paddle fan are set off with a colorful painting of an inquisitive pelican like the ones we find on the fishing docks all over the Florida Keys. Two twin beds have been arranged in this room so they can be pushed together to make a king size bed.
Starlight Siesta - Secretly situated at the end of a little lane that runs along the right side of the building, this Key West rental features a brand new back lounging deck that nearly spans the width of the building and provides a hidden space for stargazing in the city. The deck connects to a spacious great room which is elegantly furnished with West Indies style linen and woven grass furnishings. As with the front unit, a unique collection of lamps, accessories, and carefully chosen artwork complete this 'picture perfect' great room. In a beautiful contrast to the front unit, soft and relaxing colors were chosen for the back. I love the use of sky blue paint on the ceiling of the great room which helps to bring the outdoors inside. This practice is common for outside porches in Key West and its use inside is inventive and uplifting. The artistic powder room puts the great room over-the-top with rich gold toned walls, designer podium style vanity topped with a clear glass bowl sink, and unique lighting. A metal sculpture of sea creatures frames the vanity mirror creating yet another art space to enjoy.
The elegant kitchen connects flawlessly to the great room via an artistic island dining counter. Tiny sand-stone tiles set in the counter top are artistically placed on the diagonal and offer a refreshing change from overused granite that we see so much of these days. Shiny stainless steel appliances are set off with custom mahogany cabinets, designer lighting, and a grand size gold-framed decorator mirror that is set above the stove.
Both bedrooms with en suite bathrooms are just up the stairs on the 2nd level. The master bedroom, with king size bed, shows an eclectic collection of white wicker and golden bamboo furnishings set against sky blue walls and light hard wood floors. Custom lamps and unique ocean theme art and rugs accessorize the room. The bright white master bath is kept simple and elegant.
The 2nd bedroom and bathroom are also located upstairs just off the hall. Island decor with a nautical theme was chosen for this bedroom that has two twin beds that can be pushed together to make a king size bed. White cottage furniture mixed with rattan, light wood floors, and a wicker paddle fan create and inviting room which is artfully accessorized with a large scale model of a wooden sail boat.
NOTES: In the redesign of this property, all four bedrooms are situated back away from the street to obtain maximum quiet possible. Despite the prime Duval Street location we have noted how quiet the space is whenever we have been inside. You would never guess this gorgeous private Key West rental is here, given its central location in the 700 block of Duval Street. We congratulate the owners on such a remarkable transformation of a historic Key West building to become a spectacular Key West rental. Job well done!
Bedding Summary for front (City Island View) - Downstairs: 1 King size bed
Bedding Summary for front (City Island View) - Upstairs: 2 twin size beds
Bedding Summary for back (Starlight Siesta) - Upstairs: 1 King size bed, 2 twin size beds
Amenities: Wide porch overlooking the 700 block of Duval Street. Large back deck. Brand new artistic renovation. Two fully equipped kitchens, a/c, two washer/dryer units, telephone, and color cable TVs. Linens and towels are provided. Catering can be arranged. Maid service can be scheduled.
Parking: Private off - street covered parking for 1 compact car maximum located at the end of the lane underneath the deck. If you arrive by car, please plan to park it in your private parking space and forget about it. Enjoy walking or biking around the island.
Activities: Downtown Old Town Key West on Duval Street in the 700 block. If you are looking for the best place on the island to view the Fantasy Fest Parade - well this is it! Just a few short blocks from Mallory Square, Fausto's Fine Foods for grocery shopping, excellent downtown restaurants, night life, popular clubs, the Historic Seaport, and tropical shops. Sailing, boating, diving, museums.
Restrictions: Smoke free property. Only well behaved children. This property is not "child-proof" and is really best for adults. We do not accept guests less than 25 years of age unless accompanied by a family group or guardian. Smoking permitted outside only. Absolutely no pets. (Please don't ask!) This home is offered as an exclusive vacation rental in the most requested location in Key West.
Area: Walk out your door and down the lane to all you want to see in Historic Key West. Best restaurants, shops, galleries, clubs, Hemingway House Museum, Light House Museum, Custom House Museum, aquarium, Ship Wreck Museum, Southern Most Point of the U.S., close to beaches. Walk everywhere from here.
Depending on availability - can be rented as 2 Separate Suite Units, "City Island View", and “Starlight Siesta.”
Notes: This is upscale property is ideal for professionals and executives who have discerning tastes looking for a spacious, and luxurious accommodation on Duval Street.