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I Have Found Me a Home

November 4, 2011

It’s the title of a Jimmy Buffett tune, but it works for this post.

Our house was featured in the Key West Citizen two Sundays back, and the photographer (Mike Heinz) was kind enough to send us the photos.

It’s the oldest house we’ve lived in (1899) and also the smallest (750 sq ft).  It was pretty drab when we bought it; white outside, Miami Vice coloration and drab furnishings inside.  The kitchen was a horrid little hole, with outsized appliances and yellowed peeling white laminate.  Black floors.  Mint green and peach walls.  A world of ick.

One of the things the Pheebs and I discussed was the idea of doing the liveaboard thing for a year or two before buying.  Even the landlubber, that didn’t fly with the Pheebs, so we bought this house.  At the time we bought it, the average asking price of a house in Old Town Key West was just under a million dollars.  This was a bargain by comparison, a solid little house needing interior renovation.

Why such a small house?  Easy.

I’d calculated the amount of living space used in our sprawling custom California ranch, a house big enough to swallow a party of 50 and not seem crowded, and quickly discovered we lived in about a third of it, or less than 1000 square feet.  Even then we didn’t use all of each room; the kitchen and mastersuite were enormous.  We were on the verge of being empty nesters – so, we wanted to “live small”.

The challenge of living small is almost all the applicances and componentry sold in the US is designed to fill McMansions – 3500 square feet of I’ve-made-it bigness.  Huge refrigerators, ginormous bathroom fixtures – all too big for a tiny house.

So – I pulled out graph paper and sured the internet in search of “right sized’ suff with which to make our small house comfortable and livable.

The result?

A custom galley kitchen, made larger by the removal of two walls.  Floating cabinets (a fun engineering exercise) kept airflow betweeen the two spaces, creating a quasi great room (bamboo flooring throughout) with applicances all Energy-Star rated and apartment sized to integrate with the space.  There’s a laundry behind the bifold doors, even!

The guest bath was a challenge.  The space too small and the fixtures too big, if you had the need of a midnight constitutional and sat down before the door closed – you were stuck with an open door.  Four feet by five, not counting a coffin of a fiberglass shower.

In keeping with the home’s age, we envisioned the bathroom being remodeled after 30 years – which would put the water closet in the Art Deco period.  The really bright thingie in the ceiling is a light tube – brings daylight in from the roof; really brightens the space.  Subway tile and black/white motif are an inspiration from the rest rooms at the Henry Ford Museum, circa 1929.  If you stay with us – this is your bathroom.

The guest bedroom is tiny.  We let the girls pick the color – a Bahama Blue, then put a day/bunk bed in the space to afford changine room for visitors.

Lenore Troia has a song entitled, “Everyone Has a House Guest in Key West”, and this is absolutely true come the holidays.  To accomodate extra guests during those two weeks in our two bedroom cottage, we added a bamboo Murphy Bed in the living room.  It looks all the workd like an entertainment center – but it’s not. We don’t watch TV, but we can accomodate a total of five guests for short periods of time!

The Pheebs lights brightness and green, so that’s our bedroom.  Bright and green.  We’ve our own private bath off the bedroom, larger and appointed with custom fixtures from England.

Well, there you have it.

We’ve lived in this cottage of a home for over three years.  It’s never felt small, as one lives outside as much as one lives indoors in Key West.  We simply love it, as it’s perfect for the two of us.

One final note, BTW – In a town where the average utility bill can approach $300, ours rarely exceed $100.  Living small has its economic benefits.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joseph T permalink
    November 4, 2011 3:56 pm

    The kitchen mirror does the trick! Sat here for 2 minutes trying to decide just how big the space really was. May I never take an IQ test.

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      November 4, 2011 4:11 pm

      Thanks, Joe!

      The house came with full-length mirrors on one wall; the second home we’ve had like this. We’re not huge fans of them, to be honest, but when they’re partially hidden (we’ve bookcases along that wall), the little which does show adds to the space.

      I like the Escher-esque confluence of the mirror, the wall, the cathedral ceiling and the loft storage space in the upper left hand corner of that shot. It was an unintended consequence of the design – and a fortuitous one at that.

      I’d goofed on the floating cabinets, though – I should have splayed the supports to keep the cabinets from swaying when opened/closed. Fixed it with marine life line hardware at the end – busier than I’d liked, but it got the job done.

      It was fun to design.

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