By BARBARA BOWERS Special to The Citizen
The man-sized hallway in 508 William St. leads to the living room on the backside. Amid the clean lines and neutral colors of contemporary Italian furniture, cows are front and center in a modern-impressionist painting.
If, instead of following the hallway straight back, you change course and head up the exquisitely spindled staircase to the owner's bedroom suite, Cornbread's raccoon grabs your attention.
"The artist's name really is Cornbread," said Dr. Bill Porter. "We liked the animal's folksy appeal."
The big, yellow-eyed raccoon painting acts as a headboard and stands out behind the king-sized bed, leans against the knee wall of the front gable roof between two dormers. Four of the roof's six dormers filter light into this, the only room on the second floor. Of course, the ensuite bathroom fills the other two dormers, with a walk-in shower that almost counts as a room in itself.
Up or down, the minimal-modern decor was fashioned by JANGEORGe before that talented designing duo departed Key West. But the playful and sophisticated animal art; now that is the inspiration and whimsy of Porter and his partner, Carter Norris.
"We bought the pig from Moooi (the colloquial Dutch word for beautiful) Designs," said Norris, referring to the pig with a glass-tabletop sprouting above its head. The full-size pig stands guard at the top of the stairs, where the elegant curve of the handrail surrounds and guards the staircase opening. A faux zebra rug pops out from the dark-wood floor, and picks up the off-white upholstery of chairs in the sitting area, as well as the simple white covering on the bed.
Two vertical, unframed paintings of Hitchcock-esque birds -- all in flight in a repeat pattern -- are near the green slab-marble floor of the bathroom.
Both bathrooms in the 2,100-square-foot house are works of art: big, bold and "moooi." Upstairs, the walk-in shower has two Swiss rain-head showerheads and white subway tile, floor to ceiling. Downstairs, the spacious bath also has marble-slab floors, a water closet and cathedral ceiling.
Before Norris and Porter bought the property in 2009, architect Tom Pope designed the first-floor bathroom in conjunction with the guest bedroom addition. Bed and bath share the cathedral ceiling, plus the bedroom has double-cedar closets and two sets of French doors that match the other two sets on the front porch.
Out front, these doors are original to the house's 1855 construction, and showcase only two panes of glass split in the middle by dark wood. They offer entry into the front TV room, which is connected to the wide hallway that connects the front to the back living room, which stretches the width of the house: on one side, French doors open to the dining deck, on the other side to the pool deck.
"The pool and covered gazebo were here, but we installed the bar and louvered wall in the sitting area," said Norris, whose business is marketing consulting, but around the house his job is exterior upkeep and gardening. "The foliage may look minimal, but it seems like I'm always cutting up something."
Interior design and maintenance is Porter's sphere of influence, where he got "Jan and George's stamp of approval for most everything," including the color blast from the cows on the living-room wall. From it, primary colors radiate across an Italian chaise lounge, chosen to decorate what might be the dining room in some homes.
The painting is by an artist named Friedman, found in Atlanta: "I was determined not to put a rooster in this house," Porter said, then clarified, "Roosters are fine as animals, just overused as art."
Art, in general, is not overused in the men's home. It's been carefully selected to focus interest and color in a traditional wood-frame house -- high ceilings, wide crown molding, Dade County pine -- decorated with hard-chrome edges in furnishings and space-age lighting.
The cool and casual-chic interior is incongruently barnyard warm, but not all the art is animals. For instance, an abstract painting by one of Porter's patients hangs in the kitchen, which completes the L section of the living-dining space. Its reds offset the grey tones of stainless Viking appliances and generous amounts of soapstone on the island and countertops.
Masculine, slick and mostly unused, Porter said of the kitchen, "I dust it on a regular basis."
These guys dine out a lot. And clearly, they don't take themselves too seriously.
They occasionally take their "take out" outside to the awning-covered dining deck, where a table can accommodate six. A bit farther back, two chairs that came with the house define a sitting area next to the outdoor shower and around the corner from the bicycle garage.
With adjustable backs carved in a classic fish face, each wooden chair has an eye hole, gaping mouth, and a removable slatted base that resembles a fish spine.
"We're glad fish came with the house instead of cats," Norris said then quickly added, "Not that cats aren't fine animals ... ."
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.