Tour This Tiny Key West Cottage
An 800-square-foot home in Key West's historic Old Town neighborhood gets lovingly restored for a family of five. See the charming interiors.
Designer Blair Gordon took a vintage-meets-modern approach in renovating Natalie and Bobby Brooks small (less than 800 square feet!) 19th-century cottage in Key West's Old Town neighborhood. The couple, who purchased the house as a winter getaway for themselves and their three young children, wanted to maintain its architectural authenticity but also give it a simple, kid-friendly design. "Houses in that part of Key West should have a certain bohemian feel. But a less cluttered look was better suited to this family," says Blair. Here are his tips for preserving vintage character while adding modern style.
1. Update the Best of the Past.
In keeping with the look of the historic neighborhood, where houses feature shutters and decorative elements in shades such as turquoise and coral, Blair used a conch shell pink for the exterior. "I wanted to stay true to the house's roots," he says. "I kept asking myself, 'Would Hemingway sleep here?'" He modernized the look by reversing the scheme, tempering the pink (Touch of Pink by Benjamin Moore) with a dark wood stain on the shutters and gray paint on the porch floors. "The bright color makes this tiny house stand out," says Blair.
A warm palette of cream, beige, and taupe is a natural fit for the living room's vintage style. Geometric shapes, such as honeycomb pattern on the throw pillows or the trellis motif on the rug (from calypsostbarth.com), add a graphic punch to the muted palette. A range of textures, from the woven blinds (from blindsgalore.com) to the brass lamp to the lacquered coffee table, also enlivens the space.
For an authentic feel, Blair chose materials, such as the kitchen's iridescent mosaic tile backsplash, capiz shell pendant light fixture (from Neiman Marcus), and îpe hardwood floors, for their tropical island style. "They look like they came right out of old Key West," he says. "What gives them a modern edge is the way they're used."
Blair ran the tile, from Island City Tile in Key West, all the way to the ceiling; chose large-scale fixtures; and paired the dark wood floors with all-white walls, countertops, and cabinetry to give the classic materials a touch of the unexpected.
To make the headboard in the master bedroom, Blair enlarged a photograph of an antique French mirror, laser-cut a piece of wood to match the shape, and upholstered it in a large-scale print (from Osborne & Little). Nailhead trim not only echos the the detailing but also highlights the headboard's oversize, dramatic silhouette.
In the bath, Blair picked one shape—a circle—for nearly every item, from the penny tiles to the round mirrors. "When repeated, the simple shape puts a mod spin on vintage-style elements," says Blair. The juxtaposition of the custom vanity's graphic inset panels and Louis-inspired feet illustrates Blair's marriage of new and old in a single piece of furniture.
Nothing says "beach house" like a wall-mounted sailfish. In the bunk room, Blair turned that coastal icon into modern sculpture with glossy white paint. "It wouldn't be Key West without a little conch culture, but there's no reason to go overboard," he says. The nautical bunks also got the white paint treatment.