MID-CENTURY TO MODERN
Updated: Jul 7
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
DESIGN BY DAVID SMITH, DAVID L. SMITH INTERIORS, KEY WEST, FL
BUILDER ALES BURSA, SKY LIMIT CONSTRUCTION, BIG PINE, FL
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE BY CRAIG REYNOLDS, CRAIG REYNOLDS LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, KEY WEST, FL
TEXT BY MARY THURMAN YUHAS | PHOTOGRAPHY BY BARRY FITZGERALD, RICHMOND, VA
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 Outdated and in a state of disrepair may not sound appealing to most, but when this couple discovered an available ramshackle, mid-century house in historic Key West,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.
ABOVE: The form of artist and fabricator David L. Hymes’ wood console creates a sculptural focus beneath artist Rick Bartow’s animal iconography infused with wit. The artist’s use of white space is part of the dramatic composition
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.
ARTISTIC ELEMENTS SEEM IN PLACE IN THE LIVING ROOM, WHERE
LOCAL ARTIST LARRY ESTRIDGE’S FOLDED ALUMINUM SCULPTURE AND BUDDHA THUMBS BY PHOTOGRAPHER CHERIE LAPONT GRACE THE WALLS. ECCENTRIC, A CANDY RED PIECE BY SCULPTOR ROB LORENSON, IS PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED IN THE GARDEN.
ABOVE: Modern and minimal, posh “Island” sofas from Donghia face off in the living room. Here, Holly Hunt’s concrete “Blok Bench” cocktail table straddled with Lucite tables by designer David Smith centers the grouping. Hand-knotted in a tactile blend of Tibetan wool and silk, “Platinum,” by David Rockwell for The Rug Company, shimmers atop porcelain tile flooring from Italgres.
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.
ABOVE: Working magic in small places, the master bath manages to seem much larger with the help of Madeli’s “Euro” floating vanity topped in Caesarstone quartz, large picture windows, and a lot of white space. Gray mosaic glass from Island City Tile accents the wall behind Hastings’ deep-soaking tub that contributes to the spa-like ambiance.
“IN GENERAL, I PAIR MY CLIENT’S STYLE OF LIVING WITH THE UNIQUE CHARACTER OF THE FLORIDA KEYS,” DESIGNER DAVID SMITH SAYS. “I FELT THIS HOUSE WAS CALLING FOR ‘TROPICAL MODERN’ WITH A STRONG EDIT.”
ABOVE: Moss Studio’s rope-wrapped armchairs on the porch of pool house provide the perfect spot to read a book or kick back and enjoy one of Key West’s glorious sunsets.
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.
BELOW: Artist John Martini’s woman sculpture relaxes poolside, while on the Baja ledge, chaises from Ledge Loungers offer a cool respite from the sun beneath a Tuuci umbrella.
PATIO AND POOL AREA
Pool - Craig Reynolds Landscape Architecture, Key West, FL, Chaise lounges - Design Within Reach, Miami, FL, Accent table - Kartell, Miami, FL, Ledge loungers - Ledge Lounger, Brookshire, TX, Umbrella - Tuuci, Miami, FL, Armchairs, sofa and cocktail table - Restoration Hardware, Aventura, FL, Rope wrapped chairs - Moss, Studio, Santa Fe, NM, Orange accent table - Zachary A., Chicago, IL, Artwork - Debra Yates, Key West, FL, Colorful sculpture - John Martini, Key West, FL, Buddha head - Fast Buck Freddie’s, Key West, FL
Sofa - Roche Bobois, Coral Gables, FL, Red lounge chairs and ottoman - Ekornes, Denmark Interiors, Fort Myers, FL, Lucite occasional tables - Muniz Plastics, Inc., Miami, FL, Occasional table between chairs - Rolf Benz, Boston, MA, Artwork - Gildea Contemporary Gallery, Key West, FL, Area rug - ABC Carpet, New York, NY
Console - David Hymes, University Park, MD, Vase, antique bronze Buddha and accessories - Owners’ Collection, Artwork - Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM
Sofas - Donghia, Inc., DCOTA, Dania Beach, FL, Fabric - Castel, Miami, FL, Blok bench cocktail table - Holly Hunt Miami, Miami, FL, Corner armchair - Design Legacy, Mesquite, TX, Fabric - Kravet, Inc., Bethpage, NY, Wall sculpture - Larry Estridge, Key West, FL, Photograph - Cherie LaPont, Paris, France, Red sculpture - Rob Lorenson, Cape Cod, MA, Area rug - The Rug Company, Miami, FL, Flooring - Italgres, Miami, FL
Dining table and white sideboard - Roche Bobois, Coral Gables, FL, Chairs - Design Within Reach, Miami, FL, Centerpiece dish - Chiaroscuro Contemporary Art, Santa Fe, NM, Artwork above sideboard and tribal masks - Owners’ Collection, Artwork on sidewall - Nancy Ortenstone, Taos, NM, Console - Design Within Reach, Miami, FL, Flooring - Italgres, Miami, FL
Bed - Minotti, DDC Showroom, New York, NY, Vintage bedside tables - 1st Dibs, New York, NY, Artwork above bed - Juan Kelly, San Jose, Costa Rica
White desk - Rossetto, Italy, Artwork above desk - Bao Lede, Cape Cod, MA, Console - Tom Dixon, New York, NY, Black chair - DDC Showroom, New York, NY
Black-and-white artwork above console - Canyon Road, Contemporary Gallery, Santa Fe, NM, Drapery fabric - Kravet, Inc., Bethpage, NY, Area rug - The Rug Company, Miami, FL, Flooring - Patina Old World Flooring, Ventura, CA
Tub - Hastings, A&D Building, New York, NY, Vanity with Caesartone top - Madeli, Miami, FL, Wall sconce - Ginger Lighting, Santa Ana, CA, Wall covering - Island City Tile, Key West, FL
Windows - CGI, Hialeah, FL, Folding door system - Euro-Wall, Island Windows and Doors, Key West, FL