Confessions of a Key West House Lover

My love affair with Key West houses started over two decades ago. I thought I was taking a short get-away to Key West, Florida, and well – the rest is history. The ‘quick trip’ lingered into an extended stay that never really ended as I was carried away by the exotic island lifestyle. Before I knew it I’d had fallen in love with the story-book Key West houses and charming old-world neighborhoods.

As I ponder back on how this happened, I recall how truly enamored I was by the entire laid-back island scene. As I strolled down the tree-lined streets past 1900’s Victorian houses tucked behind white picket fences, I had no idea that these memorizing moments would inspire my vacation rental business.

Few world destinations have such an awesome display of original century-old Victorian and Caribbean architecture, as Old Town Key West. Old island houses stand like art pieces in our modern times – porches preened and freshly painted gingerbread trim are lushly framed with tropical landscaping. Standing today as tributes to world explorers of the 1800s, when seafaring traders were ship builders-cum house builders, the huge collection of old wooden Key West houses were crafted without blueprints or modern tools.

Pulling from their memories of homes left behind, the original Key West builders were influenced by New England Victorian, Bahamian, African, and Creole designs. The display of architectural diversity we enjoy today was built in a fantastically spontaneous way!

I found an old Key West map showing how ‘Classic Revival’ estates with spacious porches sprang up next door to tiny 3- room ‘cigar makers’ cottages. Small Bahamian houses with wide porches and low roof lines were nestled up to grand romantic Queen Anne mansions. Then the entire collection of these diverse structures became neatly unified with shiny tin roofs and block-after-block of white picket fences, and a glorious showing of tropical flowers.

As I rapidly fell in love with the neighborhoods of Key West I started dreaming about owning my own Key West vacation rental cottage. I imagined and pondered what it could be like to fulfill my infatuation. I was no stranger to renovating and decorating houses, and in fairly short order, my fantasies became focused, and the next thing I knew I owned my first ‘fixer upper’ in Old Town Key West!

Built-in 1918, my old shot-gun Key West cottage was “born” the same year as my father and somehow that made it feel like destiny. Good thing ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder because even though the floor listed to the left and the paint was peeling, it had ‘good bones’ and I threw my heart-and-soul into making it shine! Thank goodness I was no stranger to hard work since back in those days I had no budget to speak of and had to do most of the labor myself.

With undying determination my tiny cottage was charmingly refreshed, romantically decorated, and ready to live in within several months. I loved it dearly and named it “Eureka” after the town I grew up in since for me it represented new beginnings.

In those days I rented my cottage mostly by word-of-mouth and it was becoming a popular Key West vacation rental at the same time that the internet marketing of vacation rentals was just catching on. It seemed to naturally grow into a unique business when internet marketing of vacation rentals was just beginning.

In a few years, I fell more deeply in love with Key West houses and acquired more properties to renovate and decorate. With the same commitment as my little Eureka cottage, I offered them for rent as unique vacation rentals. Within a few years, time people were asking me to help decorate, market, and rent their privately owned historic Key West houses.

This is an excerpt of my new vacation rentals blog.

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