By BARBARA BOWERS Special to The Citizen
In real estate, there's much ado about "curb appeal," that first impression of buyers to the exterior of a house, whether it's the wide verandah and pastel porch swing, or maybe, wildly exotic landscaping or just the opposite--a tidy, manicured lawn framed with white-picket fence.
Such standard attractions, though, weren't on Nancy Stock and Bruce Woodard's radar when they bought at 833 Eisenhower in 2004, although from the street, the three-story structure built in the 1980s offered its own brand of curb appeal: private parking at the front and beneath the building that contains nine condominiums.
Not so instantly apparent are the views across Garrison Bight via each condo, the communal pool and the clubhouse. From the back, 833 Eisenhower has water appeal, no matter that it's enjoyed from a fairly non-descript concrete building.
"The building got our attention," said Stock, who owns a second-floor unit with Woodard. "We liked that there were only nine units in the building, that many of the owners have been here from the beginning and the association has been well managed."
The 20-year veteran of kitchen and bathroom design also said the condo's interior really didn't matter much, either. "Whatever space I see, I can make it work," said Stock, who four years ago, sold her business, Kitchens of Key West. Now a partner in Signature Spaces, she is the force behind an upcoming tour of kitchens in Key West during the 2013 Wine & Food Festival to raise funds for the restoration of the Little White House's kitchen.
She even raises the occasional sledge hammer when visions take the shape of backsplashes, spiffy appliances and sexy artisan tiles.
"The day we closed on the property, we went to the condo and found people cleaning the kitchen and cabinets. I had a sledge hammer in my hand and I said, 'please stop'," she laughed, probably more at the memory of the quick reaction by the cleaning crew than the unnecessary effort to spit shine the premises because "I was there to take out the cabinets."
Stock and Woodard took out more than cabinets; they took out walls and reconfigured the long hallway entrance to bring it into the living area's open-floor plan.
They laid new tiles--bathroom, kitchen, floors--throughout the 1200 square feet. They raised the ceiling two feet in some rooms, and to gently integrate the working kitchen with the living area, they added a ceiling curve, reinforced by a contemporary S-curve lamp they hung above the kitchen island.
This kitchen peninsula is more than a countertop for informal indoor dining; it separates the couple's public space, which includes formal dining on the screened balcony, from the privacy of their two bedroom suites.
"When we opened the hallway, we got more space by removing the pantry originally located there--I put in plenty of kitchen cabinets so I didn't need a pantry--but I needed a laundry space that we inserted into a master bedroom closet," said Stock. "You can't imagine how convenient that is."
One bedroom wall is all-louvered customized doors with boat pulls for handles: "I didn't want to get caught on door knobs," she said.
Such subtle streamlining also was applied to the master bath's shower--no threshold to trip over, just a glass shower-wall to let light in from the window behind it and to reduce the cave effect of otherwise small bathrooms.
A single crab tile embedded in the shower wall at eye level is a wink to "the many great tile artisans in Key West,", and an antique wardrobe in the bedroom is just one of several furniture pieces painted by the late Jeffrey Beal.
"He was a friend; I miss him," said Stock. "The other armoire he painted has become the china cabinet next to the wet bar we installed, and an extension of my kitchen."
Beal's vivid colors enhance the L-shape kitchen-living area's casual mix of reed furniture, antiques and broadcloth-covered footstool and chair. Other artists' works splash color across the living room's "gallery wall", but a nautical theme flows as quietly as water throughout the house. If you're not paying attention, you could miss the boat pulls on the doors, and several wooden sailboat models blend into wooden tables.
A brass boat lantern anchors a corner of the sofa, which Woodard converted into an electric lamp. He's the condo association president these days; the go-to guy who keeps the building in tip-top shape, and keeps his tools in the ground-level storage room that came with the condo.
"We're both sailors," Stock said, "we used to race a lot, and did I mention that a boat slip came with the condo?"
Oh yeah, in Key West, there's much ado about real estate on the water.
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.