In love with Florida, one couple headed south and discovered a fresh island cottage under a mango tree.

By Elizabeth Raines Beeler
June 05, 2008
Jean Allsopp

In Key West, some houses brighten the landscape as much as thelime trees and vibrant sunsets the island is known for. Take CasaMango, the vivid cottage tucked beneath the oldest mango tree intown. Originally a two-room bungalow, the 1928 structure gained arambling, imaginative feel thanks to several additions andrenovations, but retained just enough of the authentic shotgun planto allow tropical breezes to blow straight through.

West Virginians Don and Betsy Harrold spent years vacationing inFlorida and searching for a home there. "We just slowly movedfarther and farther down the coast, scratching the rest of thestate off the list," Don says. Then they reached Key West.

On this island, any style goes. Don and Betsy walked throughenough homes to realize that some locals saw beauty inHemingway-esque dark wood interiors. But that look wasn't for them."We wanted a house with a lighter atmosphere," Betsy says. "A fun,happy house that would really feel like a vacation home when ourthree children and five grandchildren visit." After looking atabout 30 homes, they finally found what they wanted. The cottagewith the turquoise floors was the one they couldn't pass up.

With a soothing hue already underfoot, the Harrolds enlistedSuzanne Brown of Gordon Alvarado to further the effect. "We wentthrough several palettes, but I just loved the bright ones," Betsysays. Drawing inspiration from the tree out back, they coated thehome's exterior in vibrant mango. "Traditionally, homes in thetropics have blue ceilings to give the illusion of sky and to deterbees and hornets," Suzanne says. "You can sit on the sofa and feellike you're outside."

The interiors came together in a spectrum of ocean blues. Whitewalls, upholstery, and architectural accents allow the sea-inspiredhues to pop. In the living area, an Akari paper lantern by20th-century artist Isamu Noguchi hangs overhead, lending a modernedge. Below, sea glass shades swirl in a custom coffee table.Functional curtains with velvet trim and tiebacks soften the lookand provide a visual divide between the living and dining areas."It's a bit of island, a hint of bohemia, and a touch of traditionall at once," Suzanne says. "That's what I love about islanddesign. You can create a room in any style and still have it readas tropical."

At the Harrolds', the line between indoors and out is blurry."Pop open any window and you can smell a variety of fragrances,"Betsy says. In the living area, a wall of doors extends the spaceonto a courtyard, where the soothing palette continues. Turquoisedecking surrounds an aqua-tiled pool and leads to two smallbedrooms. While the home has two conventional baths, the Harroldsusually opt for the outdoor shower shaded by the mango tree'ssinuous branches.

"We spend six or more months a year here in Key West―neverenough," Don says. In a town full of color, on an island thatpunctuates Florida's vibrant Keys, they've found their own brightspot.