Mid-Century To Modern

With A History That Encompasses Unique Island Architecture, Old Town Key West Is Now Home To One Couple Bringing A Touch Of Modern to The Tropics

Story Credits

David Smith, David L. Smith Interiors, Key West, FL
Barry Fitzgerald, Richmond, VA
Ales Bursa, Sky Limit Construction, Big Pine, FL
Landscape Architecture:
Craig Reynolds, Craig Reynolds Landscape Architecture, Key West, FL
Text by:
Mary Thurman Yuhas
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Location, location, location … and good bones instantly caught the eye and the imagination of one couple looking to style their own piece of island paradise. Outdated and in a state of disrepair may not sound appealing to most, but when this couple discovered an available ramshackle, mid-century house in historic Key West, they were thrilled.

To bring the 2,800-square-foot-home, complete with a pool house, up to its potential, the couple commissioned designer David Smith. With a vast background in rejuvenating historic homes in this highly sought-after area for more than 20 years, the designer was up for the challenge. And because Smith’s clients own homes all over the world and have an extensive art collection, he was able to “borrow” from them. “In general, I pair my client’s style of living with the unique character of the Florida Keys,” Smith says. “I felt this house was calling for ‘tropical modern’ with a strong edit.”

Taking a cue from the home’s clean lines and concrete structure, the designer opted for a simplified, modern design within a tropical setting that blurs the boundaries between inside and out. Smith dramatically increased the number of windows and vaulted the ceilings to create an open feel. “This is the third house I’ve designed for this couple, so I understand what they want,” he says.

Lush landscaping surrounds the outdoor living spaces in privacy. “I was tasked with converting a drab Old Florida property into a dynamic, clean and modern space where the owners’ sculptures could be displayed throughout the garden,” landscape architect Craig Reynolds says. The gardens provide the perfect backdrop for the outdoor entertainment areas, where chaises recline poolside and sleek ledge loungers offer in-water contoured comfort.

Smith enclosed what was once the veranda with folding hurricane-grade, Euro-walls to create a seamless indoor/outdoor living area. Now called the lounge, the space was designed for comfort with a white, leather-clad sofa that easily converts into a large daybed perfect for a midday nap. Predominant inside and out is the eye-catching painting of the woman in red, titled The Eyes Have It, by artist Jean Pederson.

Nearby, the owners’ collection continues to intrigue with the late Native American artist Rick Bartow’s contemporary piece that explores the link between the natural and spiritual worlds. Acquired during their travels to Myanmar, the couple’s antique bronze Buddha sits atop a sculptural wood console. “The console seems to undulate when you walk past it,” Smith says. “It is one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen.”

Opting against a traditional arrangement where furniture is placed against the walls, the designer selected two petite “Island” sofas to center the living room. Drawing from the home’s interior palette of gray, taupe and white, Smith selected accents infused with all three hues.

Stacking glass doors slide open to infuse the monochromatic dining room with the colors of nature. A glossy white, dining table with its sculptural honeycomb base lines the standout space, where a white sideboard appears to float beneath artist Adele Cleves’ colorful contemporary, Tokyo in the Rain.

Emphasizing the architecture of the home and gardens, an uncluttered, ultra chic aura presents itself in the master bedroom. Here, one of the clients’ most loved paintings, an untitled piece by artist Juan Kelly, provides the artistic focal point above the bed. A black “Vermelha” chair keeps the space looking crisp and modern, while a plush area rug adds just the right amount of indulgence.The adjoining master bath is spa-like and simplistic. A deep-soaking tub enjoys the luxury of the natural light that spills through a large frosted-glass window.

The pool setting with its courtyard design is perfect for tropical fun. A strategically placed garden Buddha head adds a touch of Zen on one end, while “Binque,” the whimsical sculpture by local artist John Martini, seems to beckon all to stop by and visit the pool house that has been renovated into a charming guesthouse and home office.

It took about six months to complete the project, and the clients are delighted with the outcome. “They make the most of its fabulous location that is near the best of everything Key West has to offer,” Smith says.