By SNOW PHILIP Special to the Citizen
Some houses welcome you with a smile, and this house, tucked at the end of Sunshine Drive, is one of them. In fact, a Buddha face looks up at you with a smile as you enter the front garden.
The Kelleys' pleasure in their home is obvious from their smiles, too. This house is exactly what they wanted.
Sylvia and Frank Kelley lived happily for several years in a 50 foot by 50 foot duplex on Watson Street. But happily was not to be forever after.
One day, they realized that as much as they loved the house, they longed for a larger living room, bigger bedrooms, and more outdoor space with lots more plants than they had. They found an empty lot at the end of what was then an empty street, hired Jeff Hagel to be their builder, and in 1996, moved into 1623 Sunshine Drive.
For the first floor, Jeff copied much of the Watson Street house's footprint but with the brilliant and transforming addition of an 8-foot wide L-shaped deck that has access from both the living room and the kitchen. This deck is one of the glories of the house, and accomplishes what the Kelleys wanted in terms of a larger living room and a decent-sized kitchen.
The roof augmented by awnings extends over this outdoor space and provides shade as well as shelter from the rain. A comfy seating area and the dining table occupy the deck and can be used whatever the weather. From this vantage, you can admire the 65-foot lap pool, which is replenished with water spouting from three fishhead fountains from Whitehead Street Pottery.
The pool is surrounded by a lavish garden; the Kelleys have the extra outdoor space and the plants that they'd missed in their Watson Street home.
To begin at the beginning, you walk through the front gate and smile back at the smiling Buddha, ascend a stairway to the front porch, and choose one of two front entrances to go into the house. A metal sculpture of a chicken greets visitors and shows the way into the first floor from the doorway on the right into a sitting room. From there, you proceed into the kitchen, and then out onto that wonderful deck, although a little jog to the left would have taken you into the living room.
There's an easy flow from room to room with cohesion provided by Mexican tile floors throughout the first level. The more-than-decent-sized kitchen features a tavern table from Mystic and an antique American set-back cupboard, beloved of termites. The living room has one of those wonderful high ceilings that do so much to create a feeling of spaciousness, and that feeling is further augmented by easy access onto the deck.
One of the Kelleys' favorite pieces of furniture is in the living room, an 18th century red-painted four-drawer chest. Sylvia's "desk" which holds her computer, is a sewing machine table scooped up from the street after Hurricane Wilma.
A powder room decorated with papier mache buses from Haiti and the guest bedroom with ensuite bath complete the first floor.
More of Frank and Sylvia's collection brightens the guest room -- a copy of a Diego Rivera mural, and the Carrie Disrud painted chest of drawers would make any guest feel welcome here.
On the living room stair landing, a wooden French statue of a Kenyan policeman beckons you up to the second floor. Pre-9/11, he was able to accompany the Kelleys home on the plane as baggage. A feeling of openness prevails on the second floor too; there are no doors after entry into the master bedroom suite from the hall. The bedroom is to the right; the bathroom with a clawfoot tub is to the left.
There's a third level also. There you will find Frank's office, bright and sunny, and furnished with his father's treasured rolltop desk. The outstanding piece of art work in the office is a "Jackson Pollock" done by a Kelley granddaughter when she was three years old.
Much as Sylvia and Frank love their sunshiny house on Sunshine Drive, they also love to travel and many of their possessions reflect their wanderlust. A replica of a Chinese rice scoop holds keys and sunglasses. Please don't slip on the Moroccan camel saddle blanket, which makes a nice little rug. A planter on the porch came from Maine. Three masks from Santiago de Cuba, a Scottish breadboard, and a mummer statuette from Newfoundland attest to the eclectic nature of their travels as well as their taste in decor.
In the nearly 20 years that the Kelleys have lived here, they have had only one second thought: they redid their upstairs bathrom. Otherwise, the house has always been and remains exactly what they wanted.
Snow Philip is a Key West resident and dilettante who will be filling in this space occasionally for Barbara Bowers.