Bill and Roxanne Bean are coastal people, and although their home state of Texas has plenty of coast, it just wasn't the right coast for the Beans. So they did what many coast-starved people have done and vacationed in Key West.
They always took a piece of local art back home to Texas to remind them of how much they'd enjoyed their brief stay in the Southernmost funny farm. Finally, weary of the commute, in 2011 they packed up their Key West memorabilia and household goods, ecstatically abandoned their lawnmower, and moved here.
Settling into a house on Royal Street, they tackled a familiar project: Bill says they've gone through life beautifying one property at a time. When they had beautified their first Key West home to the max, they sold it and moved to 1612 Catherine St.
"I think we're done with beautifying properties," said Roxanne. "Now that we've got this house the way we want it, we're going to concentrate on the garden."
Their new house appealed to them because it had a front wall for privacy and an intriguing back deck in which they saw great possibilities. But it also had two features that wouldn't do at all: The house had one of the very few lawns on the island (the seller offered to include his lawnmower in the house sale, but the Beans declined), and the yard space that wasn't covered with grass was covered with concrete.
This did not make a promising site for a garden. Bill's beautifying mode is to tackle the worst project first, so they jack-hammered and tossed the concrete and kissed the lawn good-bye.
With some help, but doing most of the work themselves, they then rehabbed the house, which had been flooded by our old friend Wilma. They installed new drywall, bought new appliances, added all new trim, and replaced the floor, which Roxanne says looked as though someone had been trying to dig out through it for 29 years.
At Barbara Bowers' suggestion, a narrow door between the kitchen and the rear deck was expanded into a set of double glassed doors. They refurbished the kitchen with Silestone counters that have a lovely blue fleck picked up by the blue walls, and they doubled the size of their bathroom by punching through what had been the closet in Bill's office to incorporate that space to accommodate bathroom fixtures.
Then they went wild with paint. The colors they chose for the interior and exterior are eye-catching and fun. The front facade is brilliant turquoise; and although the interior colors aren't quite so bright, you can't miss them -- pink for Roxanne's studio, green in Bill's office, aquas in bedrooms and living rooms, suntan yellow in the bathroom, blue in the kitchen, and yet another sea color in the hallway. All of these colors in a 994 square foot house have an effect both stimulating and soothing -- a neat trick.
A storage space was created in a hallway closet, where Roxanne keeps the supplies with which she crafts beautiful greeting cards. In the back yard, The Grotto (surely the most romantic name possible for a shed) houses laundry equipment and tools.
When they felt that the house was done that intriguing back deck and former lawn summoned. The deck's 450 square feet have been fitted out as a dining room without walls that blends easily into the garden.
The Beans' knees took a beating as they laid out brick walkways and a circular area for their breakfast table. After spreading 49 (really) trunks full of mulch, they planted everything that they hoped would be low maintenance -- Key limes and Meyer lemons for citrus, a variety of palms including arecas for privacy, heliconias and three kinds of bananas, pineapples, papayas, orchids, a pride of Barbados, and more palms.
Several Key West purchases from their earlier visits here found their way into the garden as decoration, and they added a hot tub and a fountain.
The front yard, shorn of its concrete, was planted as another garden and given its own circular space for their lunch table. With that, the Beans felt that their last beautification project was done. Bill says that going into their garden now is "going out to play."
Roxanne says that this house is the culmination of all that they've done right with previous houses over the years. She can't even remember much about how this one looked before they got their hands on it.
"It's the perfect house for us, exactly what we want, and all that we need," she said.
Snow Philip is a Key West resident and dilettante who will be filling in this space occasionally for Barbara Bowers.