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Keys Homes
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Life after kids

By BARBARA BOWERS Special to The Citizen

Bindy and Mike Blatt are on their third kitchen -- an almost natural spinoff from 29 years in the same house. The most recent kitchen makeover at 3003 Airport Road was finished last year and it "was all Mike's plan," said Bindy. "While recuperating from a motorcycle accident in 2009, he watched a lot of home decorating programs."

Tips from the likes of HGTV shows led Mike to the big and irregularly shaped kitchen island that holds together the L-shaped great room. The island is centered and angled for a seamless flow from the living room into the formal dining room.

Although the marble countertops and cabinets are new, the kitchen is still in the same-old corner of the L, where it was located when the house was built in 1969. The Blatts liked and wanted to save the footprint, but they didn't like the small rooms so shortly after they bought the property in 1984, they embarked on their first kitchen remodel by knocking out a wall that separated living room from kitchen and dining room, thus creating their great room.

Back then, the couple was raising three young children: Shane, Chance and Tara. The 4-bedroom/3-bathroom house suited a family of five "just fine," Bindy said. "Mike and I had a bedroom suite separate from -- but near enough to -- each of the kids' rooms. The boys could share the hall bath, and Tara, who was only five at the time, had a bedroom suite with a girl's bath all to herself."

Similar to the kitchen, all three bathrooms have been overhauled over the course of time; most recently after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

"I really loved the sunken bathtub in the boys' bathroom, but the flood filled it with saltwater and it was never the same," sighed Bindy.

By this time, all three kids had left the nest -- Shane and Tara off island; Chance still here, the owner and operator of Jolly's on Stock Island -- so the couple decided on a muscle-massaging Jacuzzi tub to replace the sunken one. They also engaged their neighbor, Wayne Garcia, to upgrade the other two en suite bathrooms.

In Mike and Bindy's bath, Garcia sent Travertine floor tiles marching up the walls to catch splash from two luxurious showerheads--in the ceiling, a rain-showerhead; hanging on the wall, a boat-shower head.

Because households and family needs change regularly, what was formerly Chance's bedroom has become the "diploma room," laughed Bindy of the row of college diplomas hanging on the wall behind the sofa. "The room transitioned nicely to a TV space for us and our three grandchildren, but I bet they sneak out the French doors to the swimming pool just like Chance did, when he was a kid."

The big pool and deck area have grown up -- gone are the diving board and slide. Grandchildren don't know to miss these water features, but when the kids come home to periodically roost with mom and dad, they notice the changes; especially that their childhood bedrooms have grown up, too.

A more sedate taupe color replaced Tara's pink walls, and then all the trophies "have moved to the attic. I even have a full-size Barbie dollhouse in the garage," said Bindy. "The kids have claimed most of what they want, but soon they have to review the pile accumulating because I am planning a yard sale for next week."

Yard sale goodies are stacked high in the garage, across from the bump out, where a few years back, to enlarge the master suite, the closet was reframed into unused garage space. Oh sure, a new Harley is parked there in front of the closet-bump out, which is tucked in next to the washer and dryer -- another household modification since there's less laundry to do.

Bindy says that during Mike's latest redo of the kitchen, he removed the washer/dryer from the interior, and in the former laundry-wall space, he built in a wet bar. When the grandbabies visit, the bar might get some Kool-Aid mix, but mostly adult drinks are mixed there. And it features a sexy wine cooler, and shows off a marble counter that matches the kitchen's big island.

"That piece of marble was so heavy, and because the stove is inset into it, to get the precise cut it had to be cut in our backyard," said Bindy. "Mike picked out the marble, and it picks up every color in our furniture."

The marble's light-to-dark contrast includes varying shades of white, grey and brown, which compliment the soft tan of the formal dining room table; the dark brown of the wicker-and-rattan swivel rockers in the living room; the aged brown of the tea table in the foyer.

This table is one of Bindy's family heirlooms, an antique passed on to her that features a lift-off glass top for serving guests. It's a treasure from her childhood, when tea was; well, more popular in the U.S. than wine.

To save the tea table as well as space, Bindy has cleverly placed it beneath a contemporary high-top table in the foyer, and intentional or not, the message is universal and clear: Life goes on after the kids are gone.

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 barbara@bbowers.com. Homes listed for sale may not be considered.