Keys Homes
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Instant makeover

By BARBARA BOWERS Special to The Citizen

The "little granny" house that Vicki Gordon bought in 1998 has been restructured, retouched and remade into a thoroughly "Modern Millie," all in just two months.

"I bought 1406 Leon in August. Hurricane Georges hit in September, and the renovation was complete in time for Thanksgiving that year," said Gordon, who, since 1997, has owned Barefoot Appraisal Co.

Although her dining room table expands to seat 14 comfortably, the house's redesign melded the indoor living space with the outdoors through walls of floor-to-ceiling fixed windows, and the 1998 reconfiguration into a great room allowed her to cater to a dinner crowd of 40 or so people then, and now.

The instant makeover reflects Gordon's community involvement with builders, plumbers, electricians and more, who jumped on the project to remove stodgy vinyl floors and lay stone tiles throughout.

When she asked nicely, the screened-in porch that used to run along the Washington Street side of the house was immediately framed and enclosed, adding office/sitting space to two of the three bedrooms.

These days, double-glass doors with phantom screens open to the garden from each.

It's taken a little more time, but the lush garden at this corner lot has morphed into the likes of Shangri-la, where a sexy black swimming pool and cozy covered and free-standing deck offer guests privacy, behind a 6-foot concrete plaster fence that matches the house exterior.

Gone is the old chain-link fence that wrapped the corner; nothing is left of the former gravel driveway that curved in front of the granny house, and connected the two streets.

There is a driveway, though, and a garage and a dog run at the back edge of the property. The doorway from the garage into Gordon's bedroom suite is not the usual guest entry, of course, but this is where we are, with Sprout, the Brussels Griffon canine.

Sprout -- "seven years of pure excitement," said Gordon -- barks enthusiastically to Stretch the double-yellow Amazon parrot, who's shouting, "Mama. Where are you, Mama?"

Until Gordon picks up Sprout, the animal repartee echoes with the gusto of an electronic alarm system through all 2,000 square feet of concrete wall and floor space.

When we return to the kitchen, Gordon offers an arm to the bird perched above the sink.

"I've had Stretch for 36 years, since she was a baby," said Gordon of the parrot that hops onto her arm.

"Dead bird," she said, and Stretch drops over to hang upside down. Stretch rights herself, Gordon repeats "dead bird" and Stretch drops dead again.

This could go on and on, but the business of Keys Homes must go on, too: Gordon explains that after enclosing the long screened-in porch and getting rid of the sliding glass doors that formerly accessed it from the living/dining room, she created a front entry and vestibule for the new great room, which features floor-length fixed-pane windows.

"I took out the wall between the living room and kitchen and replaced it with the big island bar, where the Thanksgiving spreads are laid out," she said. "The kitchen was all mid-'70s laminate, and now it has sliding, rotating, self-cleaning everything -- I like to cook."

The kitchen's marble counters reflect the hardness of tile floors and the original stone fireplace that was left in place. An overall earthiness includes the neutral colors of a sectional sofa, the warm brown dining-room table, grass-rope chairs tucked beneath the island and the wood-carved mermaid in the foyer, which seems to undulate with the splash of a nearby water feature.

"I'm a Taurus, an earth woman," admitted Gordon. "I love nature; plants and animals, coral and wood."

The natural wood frames of the windows were accented in 2005 with a full-wall wine cooler in the dining area. That same year, Gordon had full-wall wooden cabinetry built into the bedrooms and sitting rooms. Instead of wine bottles, here, linens and lady things and irons are stored.

"See these creases?" she asked, and pointed to her khaki shorts. "They are the direct result of two walk-in closets and a complete laundry room with standing ironing board. Every day I'm starched and hit the ground running."

Gordon's daily makeover is a little more limited, though, than the one that still holds its own from the household remake of 15 years ago: "By nightfall, I'm like an old crow with collapsed wings," she said, as Stretch instantly takes issue with that remark.

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.

More Keys Homes Stories