Margit Bisztray 2015-02-28 04:46:31
Real estate office-turned-residence reflects Lynn Kaufelt’s love for Key West’s culture In 1998, Key West real estate agent and cultural leader Lynn Kaufelt and her late husband, David, discovered that a house on Flagler Avenue in the Casa Marina neighborhood that they had coveted for years was finally up for sale. The couple was in a perfect position to buy it: They’d sold their home on Casa Marina Court several months earlier and were biding their time in a rental, waiting for the next right fit. The Casa Marina Development Office, a real estate agency, built the house in 1918 to sell the surrounding home building sites. In the 1930s, the hotel turned it into a private casino before its current role as a private home. Shaped like a pie slice on the corner of Flagler Avenue and Reynolds Street, the concrete-block house encompasses 2,100 square feet (three bedrooms, three-and-a -half baths and an office space) on a 7,000-square-foot lot. The location has a top pedigree as well; the mansion George Reynolds (of Reynolds Street) built for himself sits across Flagler Avenue. Across on Reynolds is Henry Flagler’s stately Casa Marina Resort, overlooking the Atlantic since the 1920s. The basic layout had changed little since the initial translation from commercial space to residence. But the Kaufelts expanded upon it, employing the talents of local architect Robert Delaune and landscape designer Raymond Jungles to delightful effect. It became the perfect setting for the couple’s collection of art and books. David, who died after a long illness in 2014, was the author of novels including American Tropic and The Winter Women Murders, whose heroine is a real estate lawyer and reluctant sleuth. The most significant change involved converting an open but covered back porch into an enclosed (or about-to-beenclosed) living room. Since the walls of the house are a foot thick, Jungles suggested they create a transition to the new room by using a bold, framed arch of the same thickness – visibly lower than the ceiling and painted a vivid cerulean blue. In other words, rather than seamlessly blending old and new spaces, the arch makes a visual statement of their unification. Jungles also introduced the Kaufelts to the work of Mexican architect Louis Barragan, whose design inspired the palette they eventually selected for the house: desert earth tones with splashes of primaries. In addition to making Jungles’ cerulean arch idea a reality, Delaune’s contribution included extending the roofline of one of the “wings” an additional five feet to accommodate a guest bathroom large enough for Lynn’s dream feature, a black slate bathtub. Beyond the newly enlarged bathroom is a door to the outside that usually remains open, leading to the orchid garden. The original building design consisted of a main room at the center, entered through the front door, with wings to either side of it almost like a boomerang shape. When it was first converted to a residence, the large main room became an all-in-one living room, dining room and kitchen, while the two wings each became a bedroom with bathroom. Access to the bathroom in the right-hand wing, which contains the master bedroom, had formerly been through the main room. But for added privacy, the Kaufelts chose to wall over the entrance and make the bathroom accessible exclusively through the bedroom. Sequestered behind two sharp turns and painted a green so dark it almost looks like black, the master bedroom is like a luxurious cave designed for unfettered sleep, while the master bath is a cool haven of bright wall-to-wall marble. In addition to a grand Chinese sleigh bed, the eclectic bedroom furnishings include a star-shaped mosaic table purchased in and shipped with great travail from Morocco, as well as a rocking chair upholstered in a lively leopard print. Over on the left wing, the architect carved a new third bedroom (for son Jackson), a new living room and a tiny office from what was formerly one large room. Both the full and half bath in this portion of the house are covered floor to ceiling with checkered tile. Lynn credits late designer Angelo Donghia, who once owned the octagonal Richard Peacon Jr. House on Eaton Street (known locally as “the Calvin Klein House” because the designer briefly owned it) for this inspiration. “He had this great, boldly checked bathroom. I loved it.” The Kaufelts permitted no superficial decorative embellishments to be added to their house. The architecture —described by broad, uninterrupted planes of Barragan-inspired colors—is, for the most part, the décor, with minimal distractions. A 7-foot-high red grid of a bookcase, filled with books, adorns one entire wall of the living room. A generous round Italian dining table, encircled by aluminum café chairs from France, occupies one side of the main entrance. On the other side, a new kitchen features Corian and Carrera marble countertops and Viking appliances. The back wall of the house remains open except in the worst weather, and leads out to the pool. When the Kaufelts took possession of the house, there was no pool and not much of a garden. They originally wanted to build a pool in the front yard with a bridge leading over it to the front door. Alas, the city’s historic review board would not permit it. Instead, they put in a long pool parallel to the rear of the house with a tall fountain spilling into one end of it. The vertical plane of the fountain also conceals an outdoor shower. Strikingly minimalist, the pool is itself like a sculpture, and the landscaping behind it is lush but uncomplicated, dominated by a central traveler palm spread out like a huge open hand. From the other side of the pool, or better yet, from within it, one is afforded the best view of another Kaufelt enrichment to the house: a stunning primary-colored mosaic mural by local artist Debra Yates. It runs the length of the exterior wall. And so it is with the entire Kaufelt home: the art and the architecture complement one another perfectly. The art collection includes works by renowned local artists including Lincoln Perry, Susan Rogers, John Martini, Roberta Marks, Lynn Sherman, Cynthia Wynn and the late Duke Rood. Among these hang works by David Kaufelt himself, who painted in addition to writing fiction. David Kaufelt’s legacy continues through his books and in the success of the Key West Literary Seminar, which he founded in 1983. Lynn Kaufelt, who recently stepped down after a long term as president of the Seminar, continues to serve on the board and each January welcomes new writers and readers to the island where so many have lived colorful, literary lives.
Published by Key West Magazine. View All Articles.
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