By BARBARA BOWERS Special to The Citizen
"I wanted orchids all my life, but they didn't do well in Lake Tahoe, where I lived and worked in a nursery," said Saundra Parker. "Now I'm into container planting."
Potted ferns and palms, a gardenia and other flowering plants line her verandah. Several species of orchids dangle from the steps of the apartment upstairs that cross above her private deck, and since February, when Parker moved into her first-floor apartment on William Street, she has already attached four phalaenopsis to the areca palms that guard her front door.
Her 400-square-foot unit is one of three in an 1850s great house that was renovated in 2007. Although the one-bed/one-bath apartment is compact, it's well appointed with contemporary amenities for indoor-outdoor island living. Upgraded with granite kitchen counters, on demand hot water heater, washer and dryer, Wi-Fi and satellite TV.
And the high-tech accoutrements share space compatibly with historical details. The original wavy-glass window panes and Dade County pine walls and floors are still in place.
"The natural wood and high ceilings have old Key West charm," said Parker. "It's just cozy."
To fit into the space, Parker says she had to do some serious measuring, after downsizing from the three-bedroom house she owned in Tahoe. Out west, her pet rabbit, Gizmo, had his own exercise room so he, too, moved into a smaller "bunny condo, which turned out to be a little too big for his new Key West space, between the window and front door in the living room," she said.
"After I got here, I ordered it by mail, but when it arrived it was way more than I expected.
"No more ordering," Parker said. "What furniture I didn't bring with me, I bought locally -- Fast Buck's at Home and Royal Furniture saved the day."
Because Parker figures Key West is "where ugly rattan furniture goes to die," she wanted an upbeat mix of modern and antique. Her living room's large upholstered footstool with a "chair and a half" from Royal is balanced by a low teak table, with four footstools tucked beneath it.
"I inherited that from my parents, who found the table in Hong Kong in the 1960s," she said. "It's hand carved and similar to the teak trunk in my bedroom."
The trunk is antique, purchased in San Francisco to compliment the Chinese altar that Parker uses as a vanity. The contemporary mirror hanging above the vanity and the vintage-looking armoire next to it are new from Fast Buck's.
The ambiance favors contemporary Asian, but Victorian items like the long fringe of a lamp shade add dignity and age to the bed's side table. The teddy bears atop the old trunk, which belonged to her daughters when they were kids, the jiggling fringe and the bedspread's red and gold paisley somehow diffuse the technological advances that lurk beneath the bedspread.
"It's a Tempur-Pedic Ergo System -- a bed that does what I want," said Parker.
The combination of Tempur-Pedic mattress with an adjustable base offers any number of ergonomic resting positions for head and foot. The wireless remote controls comfort from bed, it even clicks into massage mode; just the kind of techy instrument you'd expect from a pilot, who at one time, worked for a private air charter company.
"My grandfather and both my parents were pilots, who threw me in the back of a plane from the time I was two," said Parker. "I got my pilot's license when I was 18."
A big poster, "Fly to South Sea Isles...via Pan Am," hangs on one bedroom wall; a painting by the artist Dahlke hangs on another, testaments to Parker's many visits to Key West, prior to moving here.
But memorabilia from lots of trips abroad top household shelves: a Laotian traditional hat, an Egyptian parchment; from Kenya, a baboon skull on a wood-carved body: "I was particularly drawn to the baboon's raffia hair and shell inlay," said a straight-faced Parker.
Travel ranks almost as high among Parker's passions as the bunny. He hops into the bathroom and stretches out on the cool tile floor. Gizmo has the run of the house --a guard rabbit of sorts.
"He's litter trained, and I keep one of his boxes in the bathroom," she said. "I just love it that he uses the john."
The bathroom is centered between the living room and bedroom. With two entries -- one to the hallway and one into the bedroom -- the bunny could hop in circles all day long, but Parker also leaves the door open to his luxury townhouse in the living room, where he's content to lounge, snack, sip water, watch TV.
"Yeah, I keep the big screen TV on top of his party deck," she said. "I think he watches more TV than I do, and I know he has more square footage than I do."
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 email@example.com. Homes listed for sale may not be considered.