I find architecture and interior design from various regions very inspiring and intriguing. So when traveling from Winnipeg to Key West Florida I made the time to check out the architecture and interior design of Old Town.
On my first visit to Key West I had no time to find out the history of the region. I had walked off a cruise ship only to be overwhelmed with beauty for a very short 6 hours of paradise. My time was limited, so I walked the streets and admired the architecture, and beautiful foliage. Being intrigued and drawn to not only the beauty of the Key, but also the kindness and warmth of the people, I knew I needed to came back the following year. When I did I stayed a week.
My favorite structures in Key West are of course the conch houses. Each so unique in its own way. The small bungalows with front porches that allow neighbors to visit, the mansions with balconies where residents sit and relax in the evening while they sip on a cool drink. The eyebrow houses with their somewhat hidden upper floor windows.
I wondered about the people who designed and built these homes. These early builders to the region knew and understood how to build homes that were designed to deal with heat, humidity, termites and adverse weather such as hurricanes. For instance, the features of the homes, such as the eye brow houses were designed to shelter the upper windows from harsh sunlight and help to keep the interior cool. Many houses have porches and louvered shutters to help interior living spaces with cooling. The exterior walls have been designed in such a way that allows air to flow between crawl space and attic. This allows heat in both the attic and walls to dissipate. There are even roof hatches, similar to those used on ships to help ventilate. All this before the invention of electricity, air conditioning, and fans. The houses are built on peers to help with cooling and ventilation to limit rot.
Some of the conch homes are almost 200 years old, which made me wonder how they managed to survive hurricanes and termites. The answer I found was a lot of the early craftsmen were ship builders from places such as Bahamas, England, and Africa. They used a combination of ship and architectural building techniques from each region to construct these homes. For instance, tonque and groove construction was used through out these homes, which provides the strength to with stand hurricanes. The early wood used, such as Dade county pine and South Florida slash pine was hard enough to endure rot and termites. This is how the architecture and interior deign of the conch homes have survived all these years from one hurricane to the next.
A lot of the architectural features of these homes can be very ornate. Each individual craftsmen building these homes seems to have placed their own individual stamp. For instance, some houses have a series of ginger bread men acting as trim on the porch over hang. Some of the residences, who seem to have more contemporary taste, but a love for the architecture and interior design of these old homes have renovated them and cleaned up the lines allowing a more contemporary flare. Some very tastefully done.
When hurricane Irma made its way to towards paradise, I wondered how the conch houses were going to fair. Having booked another one week stay, I was keeping my fingers crossed and hoped the conch houses would manage to withstand the severity of the storm. Especially the beautiful mansion that has been converted to suites where we stay.
The citizens of Key West are a hardy bunch, I remember one woman stating that she simply waited the storm out in her home because it was a conch house and she had nothing to fear. She placed her life in the hands of these early craftsmen and lived to tell about it. The caretakers of the Earnest Hemingway home remained during the storm to look after the descendants of Hemingway’s 6 toed cats. All placing their faith in the construction of the home as it has survived 150 years, and multiple hurricanes because it was built from limestone blocks quarried from the homes basement. On the web site of the place where I stay, a message 1 week after the hurricane stated that the property was mainly unscathed after the hurricane and would be up and running in 2 weeks.
More pictures to follow in the spring after my next visit to Key West’s Old town where I will explore more architecture and interior design from the region.
Inclusive Design Group, your Winnipeg Interior decorator