By BARBARA BOWERS Special to The Citizen
Michael Kinneer set two cups of coffee on the table in his front garden. The "skinny" patio at his home on Seminary Street is about three feet wide and seats four people, if they don't mind sitting in a row, although at the moment, there are just two of us in a face-to-face conversation across his all-weather wicker table.
Most interestingly, at the far end of the skinny patio, just in front of the flowering ixora, a plastic pink flamingo pokes its head through the white-picket fence.
"My neighbor was so impressed with my flamingo that she had to have a purple one for her fence," laughed Kinneer, of the two birds spaced roughly 10 feet apart; each head and bill extending about two inches outside the fence pickets.
The whimsical aberration along the recently completed sidewalk on Leon Street might have been child's play; but no, Kinneer is a single man, who doesn't take himself too seriously, and since 2009, has rented a condo at the corner of Seminary and Leon streets. However, as the former chief financial officer for Monroe County's school board, he's spent plenty of time with kids.
Within the tri-plex located here, Kinneer's two-bed/one-bath unit is centered between another 2/1 and a 3/1, where the purple flamingo lives.
"I like my neighbors and occasionally cook for them -- most recently a Key West shrimp boil that was served outdoors on newspaper-topped tables the way blue crabs are served in Annapolis," said Kinneer, who knows something about the connection between blue and food: He's a Cordon Bleu trained chef, who has extended his ample cooking repertoire from friends and neighbors to the public, in general.
"I just bought Sippin' Coffee House on Eaton Street," he said. "The heart of the operation is great coffee -- Colombian Supreme -- but I'll add to the breakfast and lunch menus; maybe a weekly special, or I'll make omelets, when I introduce 'Sunday at Sippin'."
The busy kitchen on Eaton Street features high-tech machines for the likes of lattes, espressos and buccis, but in Kinneer's kitchen on Seminary, the hard granite countertops are near empty of any kind of cooking gadgets. Nothing rivals the streamlined stainless appliances or clutters the tops of the Home Depot maple cabinets that were upgraded when the apartments converted to condos in 2007.
But then, clean lines and no-clutter suits more than Kinneer's kitchen: The geometric décor in his living room offers a masculine ambiance, and reveals his love of "simple lines," he said. "I downsized from 2,100 square feet in Fort Lauderdale -- I don't need all that space -- and I decorated the 900 I live in here with what I had there."
What he brought here from there is a Mondrian-like rug, which in the living room, is the base for two swivel chairs upholstered in checkered fabric and a black leather sofa. Above the sofa and next to the guest-bedroom door, a geometric painting fades into and out of earthy colors.
Behind the sofa, Kinneer's second passion takes shape in the form of his Roland piano.
"I like to play show tunes and what my buddy, Michael Robinson calls 'the great American song book' from the '40s and '50s." said Kinneer.
To underscore his musical interest, in the hallway between the kitchen and his bedroom, a giant collage picturing Gershwin's work squares up with another Mondrian abstraction on the floor; a long runner that leads to a dressing nook just outside the bathroom.
Several little nooks, or cut-aways throughout the four-room condo add dimension and depth to what would otherwise be standard walls. One, in Kinneer's bedroom, houses a sleek side table that compliments the slatted head-and-footboard of his Shaker-style bed.
"You probably noticed, I don't like hinges, drawer pulls, unnecessary decorative stuff," he said. "I want simple."
His simplistic interior surroundings extend outdoors. For instance, the bedroom door in Kinneer's suite opens to a basic concrete patio out back, where washer and dryer become the sculptural focus in a garden with lots of grass.
Then there's the skinny patio out front, where the pink flamingo is a conversation starter, even with the postman who saunters by while we're sitting, sipping coffee and talking about his new business venture.
"One morning last week all 24 seats in the coffee house were taken, but no one was talking -- not a single person," said Kinneer. "I know Sippin' is an internet café, but still, that surprised me."
So: Don't be surprised if some colorful plastic birds show up inside his other kitchen on Eaton Street and start some conversations.
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.