By BARBARA BOWERS Special to The Citizen
Winking Elvis is gone, and while a lot of things intentionally changed with last year's makeover of the doublewide trailer at 112 Bay St. on Stock Island, the funky holographic image was not meant to be among them.
"It just disappeared off the front door," said Richie DePierro, who bought the waterfront property in 2012 with his partner Stanley Passo. "I'll see if I can find another one."
DePierro has made a living finding the precise item to fit into the exact place: As noted in a June 2012 Keys Homes article that featured the soon-to-be overhauled Bay Street property, he's a Yankee entrepreneur who owns houses in Sag Harbor, the Antique Center on Montauk Highway and The Furniture Garden in Water Mill, South Hampton, N.Y.
Upon finishing the trailer project, DePierro promptly imported from New York the living-and-dining room's exquisite furniture; some vintage, like the four rattan chairs that boast twisted arms and a crackled finish, all bound by leather in place of standard bamboo strapping that usually binds rattan joints.
New is an exotic slab-wood dining room table, with sleek and contemporary chairs in the same wood, designed specifically for DePierro by New York artisan woodworkers. These seats and chair backs are inset with bamboo strips, and while the kitchen cabinets show off some unique mountain laurel knobs made from broken tree branches found in Sag Harbor, bamboo is the decorative choice for much of DePierro's southernmost home. For instance, new bamboo floors in the kitchen and both bedroom suites reflect their golden-base color onto all-white walls.
"Mostly the makeover was about painting everything white, but I had the wainscoting added all around the living-and-dining room to soften the interior's metal effect," said DePierro. "Michael Vellone did the work."
Another bit of interior redesign was the bathroom in Passo's bedroom, which was completely renovated into a walk-through to the kitchen: "A door had to be cut into the wall and the bathroom shower rebuilt," DePierro said. "I wanted something simple like fiberglass, but Michael said 'I'm not putting in cheap fiberglass,' so the shower is finely tiled from ceiling to floor."
The almost unnoticeable door separates new white tiles in the bath from old white-porcelain tiles on the galley-kitchen counters because DePierro figures "you don't have to throw away everything that's old."
The most noticeable change in the kitchen is the gallery lighting in the ceiling and the black-iron screens on either side of the entrance from the T-shaped living area.
"Yes, I brought a three-paneled screen from New York and took it apart," said DePierro. "I think its banana leaves are more appropriate in Key West."
Most appropriately, the tropical outdoor ambiance floods indoors through scores of windows -- just on the long wall of the living room, eight of them are side-by-side -- to highlight the mix of Balinese art, metal lizards and a sea of ceramic fish, all made in Key West.
A cypress-knee lamp found at the Salvation Army store adds just the right touch of Old Florida to the décor and the trailer culture that DePierro preserves with panache.
From the get-go, island ambiance with minimal maintenance was high on his property selection at the Harbor Shores trailer park, where the low condo fee for the small piece of Paradise at the water's edge helps him escape his properties and work world up North.
"This is heaven, sleeping beneath a warm breeze blowing through my bedroom window, listening to big birds splash in the surf next to my deck," he said.
A new doublewide deck sits atop the old one, and stops just short of the seawall, where a reclining Buddha overlooks a mini-beach of pea rock on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Antique Adirondack chairs line this deck, beneath the shade of a massive coconut tree and lush vegetation surrounding the entire property.
"Every day I'm buying more plants -- I can't stop," said DePierro, of the autograph trees and palms, the flowering shrubs and vines that grow up the lattice work overlaying the metal exterior.
"When we started this venture last year, my partner Stanley was not so sure he would enjoy being here. Last week, he took spring break away from his teaching job at New York Medical College, but he didn't want to go back -- Stanley loved it here so much he didn't really mind that I went down the street, found another trailer and bought it."
"You have to have space for guests somewhere," DePierro reasoned.
Barbara Bowers is a Key West writer and host of a radio talk show about owning and maintaining property in the Florida Keys. To suggest a home to be featured in the Keys Homes section, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Homes listed for sale may not be considered.