Keys Homes
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Paying Attention

By BARBARA BOWERS Citizen Staff

If you can't hear the sound of Key West's real estate revival, you're not paying attention.

Until recently, all over town you could hear a nail drop, but these days at 1424 Grinnell St., the crash, boom, bang of demolition is reverberating as loudly as the buzzing of saws and pounding of hammers, during the makeover of this one-story, two-family structure.

"It was a duplex that Greg Kerr owned," said Cory Held, a local Realtor, is partnering with Kerr to renovate the property. "He wanted to get out of the rental hassle so we're turning this into a single family residence."

In its original configuration, the 1950-ish cinder-block structure featured two units, with a combination of four bedrooms and three baths. Even back then, only close observation revealed that the big corner lot sported separate living facilities - one apartment facing Grinnell Street, and another facing Von Phister.

Well done in its day for both structural soundness and its sensitivity to the Casa Marina neighborhood of low rise single-family homes, the dated geometric design will retain its 2,860-square-footprint, but with a sleek overhaul to the interior and exterior.

Most exciting, a row of 13 clerestory windows at the front of the house descend in trapezoidal size from the peak of the roof's centerline. When complete, these windows will crown a new facade of stone, louvers and plaster, all dramatically structured around the double doors of the recessed formal entry.

Where windows used to be on the Von Phister side of the house, three-panel folding-glass doors in each of the three bedroom suites will offer convenient access to the garden; the privacy of each suite is protected behind a concrete fence that surrounds the entire property.

The only entry onto the grounds is through the fence's gatehouse on Grinnell, and a rolling-gate entrance to the driveway on Von Phister.

Designs for patios, pool and landscaping are currently in the works, under the direction of Craig Reynolds.

Demolition has already begun and Held said that, "just by knocking out one wall between the two units, we created the great room -- from the front door, you can see all the way through the house to the back garden and pool."

The plan is to have interior louvered panels separate living and dining room from the kitchen, where "a huge island and Gaggenau appliances should please any chef," she said.

The great room makes up the left-half of the house, and each of the three bedroom suites, as well as a half-bath, is entered from the right side of the great room. At the moment, a poster of Audrey Hepburn oversees the transformation going on in one bedroom; dangling curtains in another is all that remains of a phantom four-poster bed.

Marble tiles, Terrazzo and well-worn carpeting make up floor coverings right now, but they are soon to become 24-by-24-inch porcelain tiles throughout.

In Key West, the hallmark of thoughtful reconstruction echoes inside a lot of storage and closet space, which this house will have, of course. But currently tucked into a closet in the vicinity of what's to be the owner's bedroom suite is an old-fashioned Star wall safe.

Although this duplex was initially built like a fortress -- and much attention to detail will keep the single family house in that condition -- the wall safe is one more security feature, which is likely to stay in place.

Thirteen-foot high ceilings will add to a spaciousness of interior design that has yet to be determined. Contemporary seems likely. Or not; maybe mid-20th century furnishings will drive the look; maybe a blend of antiques and Art Deco, for just about any decorative style will compliment the tasteful redesign of the structure.

Whatever the choice, Held promises to invite me back to review the finished product. So pay attention; another Keys Homes feature on 1424 Grinnell is coming soon.

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.

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