By BARBARA BOWERS Special to The Citizen
"We did a major renovation of our home in Chicago so we didn't want to come to Key West and go through that again," said Pat Connell, who has visited the island since 1989.
By 2010, she and her husband Robin Lunn decided it was time to buy a turnkey property; one that had little to no work involved. And the 20 or so years of renting houses around the island reinforced that their second home would feature outdoor living around a pool and deck.
Connell said the garden and six sets of double doors that open to it -- four sets from the great room and two sets from the master suite -- sold the couple on the Packer Street property.
But what to do with that giant brick oven in the backyard; a structure so unusual that even Key West's Historic Architectural Review Commission was stumped about how to handle it.
"It took up the half of the back garden that the pool didn't occupy," Connell said. "The walls were 6-to-8 feet high; some of them, as well as the curved-brick roof, had almost caved in entirely. The oven was degrading so badly it had become dangerous, and finally, the city building inspector allowed us to dismantle it.
"We think this was the oven of a Cuban bakery that was on Margaret Street, and we wanted to retain as much as we could of the bricks and baking stones."
This meant, of course, that Connell and Lunn had some work to do, but the revamped rear garden enhanced the outdoor living space the couple wanted. They reused most of the oven bricks to create walls for a more contemporary tropical amenity: an outdoor shower. Its floor is made of some of the 12-to-16-inch baking stones, and the rest make up counter space for the new grill and gazebo.
Old coral pilings embellish the flower beds and the charming blend of old and new in the garden salutes the old and new construction of the house, which in turn marks an even more tasteful blend into this Cuban-influenced neighborhood of old and new buildings.
Connell said she doesn't know when the house was built, but sometime before 2005 the former owners renovated the original shotgun house that faces Packer Street. They kept in place the three-bay porch and entry to a long-side hall, which now features three doors: One into a front office/bedroom, one into a second bedroom and another to the guest bedroom suite.
This hallway dead ends at the rear L-shaped addition, where the master suite and great room overlook the garden. Central to all this is the kitchen.
"I really love to cook, and while the big kitchen isn't exactly state of the art, it has plenty of space to work in; tons of cabinets, which I've outfitted with every pot and gadget available," Connell said.
The kitchen's wall of light-maple cabinets is behind the long granite-topped island that stretches in front of one set of double doors and points to the living and dining area, where three more sets of double doors face the pool. Across from these doors, guests officially enter the house through the double-front doors facing Packer Street.
Although plenty of light filters through glass doors, it's subdued in the big rooms by neutral colors. Most of the ceilings, some vaulted, are finished with brown-bead board, Saltillo tiles top the floors in the older house; hardwood in the new addition, and much of the overall 4-bedroom/3.5-bath house was painted in shades of "very brown," said Connell. "We've slowly added color."
For instance, the bedroom with twin beds is now yellow. The office/bedroom is white, with white built-in cabinetry and a leather hide-a-bed. The white guest suite is accented with blue area rugs and a blue bath. The hallway bathroom is coral in color, but all the bathrooms feature black-and-white tile floors, including the spacious master bath.
The master suite is a wing set apart for privacy, and fits smoothly into the house's overall design for easy care and easy indoor/outdoor flow, in part, so the couple can embrace the laidback Key West lifestyle; in part, because "when we're not in town, we rent it by the month," said Connell.
Connell and Lunn, both attorneys, travel extensively and recently rented a house in Tuscany, where Connell cooked pizza in a wood-burning outdoor oven.
In Key West she makes ice cream, but no matter where Connell is, "I make my own bread," she said. "Even if we could have saved that old Cuban oven, I don't think there's enough wood in Key West to oven-bake bread."
Barbara Bowers is a Key West writer. To suggest a home to be featured in the Keys Homes section, send an email to email@example.com. Homes listed for sale may not be considered.