“The house is a dream come true,” says Mrs. Myles O’Connor. “If you look at where we started, it is overwhelming how the home evolved into such a beautiful house,” she says, of the complete renovation of their Culbreath Isles residence.
The house, typical of the neighborhood, had small rooms, smaller windows, and a water view obstructed by the home’s enclosed design.
The O’Connors had lived in the home since 1979, and even with their three daughters grown and residing elsewhere, were not ready to give it up for an apartment or condo. The home was in serious need of renovation, not only to bring it up to today’s more stringent building codes, but to accommodate the couples’ “empty nester” lifestyle.
Designer, Tom Lamb, a personal and professional acquaintance of the O’Connors, was the natural choice for the job. He had grown up in the area as a friend of the O’Connors’ daughters, and was familiar with the home and the O’Connors’ need to update.
“I took square footage from the space where it was not being used every day and added it to rooms that are used more often to better suit the O’Connors’ lifestyle,” says Lamb. “The old house did not take advantage of the water location. I opened it up so they could see the water from the rooms they use ninety percent of the time”.
Limestone tiles that flow from the living areas to the pool deck integrate the indoors with the out. “It was more expensive to incorporate the tiles, but people in the process of major renovations such as this one have a tendency to step up to finer materials,” says Lamb. “The tile, like the Florida-style landscaping, minimizes maintenance while maximizing aesthetics.”
“From a design standpoint, I needed to come up with something that would work as well with two people as with two hundred,” says Lamb. The O’Connors have held a wedding and several parties at their house since its completion, and the homes’ spacious design works perfectly.
General Contractor, Jim Reader of Laurel Building and Development, extols the young architect. “The house turned out fantastic. Tom has the ability to take an average home and turn it into something spectacular. His designs make it a truly unique home in South Tampa, which is certainly a credit to Tom, for there are not many people with his talent and eye for design”.
Laurel Building and Development specializes in larger, high end new construction and remodeling, and work very closely with the architect or designer to make sure that the project turns out to the client’s highest expectations. Because of the time they put into detail, they can work on only a few projects at a time, and they found this project quite challenging.
“During the demolition process we kept discovering parts of the existing home that were not up to code, and to correct those problems was a big challenge,” says Reader.
Builder and designer trust and respect each other’s opinions with a synergy quite rare between two professionals. Both can look at a set of plans and visualize the finished room, an essential talent in their business. They are experts at understanding the situation and making their intentions and expectations clear to the homeowner.
“This would be your typical Florida house – sans the Orientals and antiques,” says Mrs. O’Connor. With walls of windows framing a natural backdrop of water and tropical foliage, a 22 foot high gathering room, and open, fresh interior design, the house is perfect for enjoying the famous Florida sunshine. And as Florida is a melting pot for influences from any different nationalities and countries, this homes’ architecture and furniture is influenced by a melange of styles, periods and countries.
Wooden beams resting on stone columns took the place of walls as spin-offs from old California missions. Tom Lamb’s architecture is Classically influenced, and he always uses some kind of octagonal shape in his original work, which is a Far Eastern symbol of good luck.
Sisal grass woven floor covering is reminiscent of exotic island dwellings of the South Pacific. The ornate kitchen cabinets were converted from an antique dining room set from Belgium with the help of Olde World Cabinetry. Tom Lamb employed the talents of some local artisans to electrify some ancient Spanish oil lamps and turn them into chandeliers, and an antique door unit from a Turkish harem adorns the wall of the living room. A Jacobean desk dominates one corner of the room, while military folding chairs from the Spanish Civil War flank an antique foot warmer cleverly polished and converted into a coffee table.
“I didn’t want to do anything too dramatic,” says Lamb, who designed the home to accent the owners’ fine furniture collection. “We had to be careful even when choosing the colors of the walls. I didn’t want anything to detract from the O’Connor’s fabulous antiques or try to compete with them – because nothing can compete.” Subtle accents frame the exquisite pieces of furniture and artwork, and lighter shades of paint accentuate built-in archways.
“We are very pleased with the house, says Mrs. O’Connor. Tom and Jim did such a great job.”
It is a start for what could be a renaissance in shady, tree lined Culbreath Isles.
“This project really makes an impact in the area. It shows what our company can do with older homes, which people are constantly buying and rebuilding in order to update and meet their changing needs,” says Jim. “I think Culbreath Isles as well as the Beach Park area is ready for a rebirth.”
Interesting artwork flanks the walls of the gathering room, which, though cozy for two people, can beautifully accommodate a larger number.
The verandah possesses the charm and magic of a European outdoor cafe – lovely for dining al fresco.
“Sometimes we sit out there and drink a coffee or after dinner aperitif. It has that old ‘sitting on the porch’ feeling,” says Mrs. O’Connor.