Keys Homes
Sunday, November 10, 2013

By BARBARA BOWERS Special to the Citizen

Jane Geer is not the first person who sailed to Key West and decided to stay a lifetime. Nor is she the first person to scale down from a big house up North, although the swing from 3,000 square feet outside Annapolis to a Key West-size condo always presents challenges, especially in Geer's case because her place in the 500 block of Margaret is small, even among the most compact: Her 2-room/1-bath unit is all of 361 square-feet, not including the outdoor porch turned living room.

Of course, the instant attraction and decision to move here was rooted in other issues--retirement from 40 years of nursing; daughters grown up and out of the big house in the 'burbs; interest in community, historic architecture and the small-town environment.

Then there's the phenomenon of serendipity that took shape in the form of a well-priced property: This was the right place at the right time, even though it offered "no opportunity to measure," Geer said. "I had to make everything fit on a wing and a prayer."

The barrel wicker chairs, a Deco-like credenza and the gold-gilt mirror in her outdoor living room are prime examples of how well she arranged the fit with some items she shipped from her home in Maryland: They sit compatibly in the 6-by 10-foot awning-covered space, overlooking the shared back garden.

Even the minor changes Geer made to the porch-cum-living room fit nicely with the interior remake of her first-floor unit.

"I replaced a high picket-fence wall with spindles that matched the rest of the porch rails, and from the existing awning, I dropped clear-plastic windows to protect the area from rain," said Geer.

This outdoor living space is accessed from the kitchen through two French doors, creating an indoor-outdoor household hub. The kitchen even features a second French door to the garden's brick patio aerating, brightening and opening a standard galley beyond just ceiling and four walls.

To get the most out of this skinny space, "the kitchen was completely renovated with the help of decorator Stephanie Hellstrom," Geer said.

The kitchen's only wall without a door is lined with counters and cabinets, floor to 10-foot ceiling. Lazarus Cabinets was responsible for this fit, and appliances designed for small spaces were resourced mostly online: gas-cook top, a convection microwave, an 18-inch dishwasher. The ladder to reach the up-high shelves--some located behind bubble-glass doors--tucks next to a narrow and deep stainless-steel refrigerator.

The all new, but vintage look compliments the old Dade County pine throughout the condo. White crown moldings, and the original moldings around the doors and windows, stand out from Geer's gold-green and-purple paint scheme.

"I really wanted to expose some of the original wood," she said, "but the wall between the kitchen and my indoor living space was patched at one time with some lesser quality wood."

The "no go" to reclaim the DCP was also encouraged by 13 or so coats of paint on the walls so one more wouldn't much matter. Instead, Geer focused on how to make the primary 200-square-foot room function efficiently as a 3-in-1combo of bedroom, office and guestroom.

By opening up a closet, she enlarged the room15 feet; just enough to insert a third of her queen-size bed into the nook. This produced an unfettered walkway across the room from front door to kitchen doorway, with her "bedroom" on one side, a wall-less office suite on the other.

The result is similar to a master bedroom with a sitting area, except Geer selected a chair-and-a half to accent her glass-top desk and office storage and voila! Another perfect fit; the chair converts into a single bed, and when necessary, becomes her guest room.

Geer's efficient decorative style didn't extend much to the bathroom, which is almost half the size of the 3-in-1 living room. She did buy a new vanity, though, and a Home Depot mirror and cabinet. In here, the closet remained in place for her clothes, and the tub was already there.

This is a big tub and shower. How big? So big it features its own six-over-six, double hung window; a wide-tiled rim that edges the tub that spans the bathroom's width; a tub that doesn't really need a shower curtain, although one is hanging inside it. Given the size of her overall living space, and the careful reworking Geer had done to fit everything into it, this is one luxuriously big tub.

"I can fit a lot of people in here," laughed Geer. "In fact, I can have a tub party," which, in a town that really knows how to party, could be a "first."

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 Homes listed for sale may not be considered.

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