Key West: A Tropical Lifestyle

Key West: A Tropical Lifestyle ****

by Leslie Linsley

An Edible Book Review inspired by Jain at Food for Thought, a delicious blog for readers with an appetite for the written word.

“In Key West: A Tropical Lifestyle, author Leslie Linsley presents the true character of this unique American place in twenty-two residences. Engaging anecdotes are drawn from interviews with homeowners, designers, and architects, and over two hundred lush, full-color photographs reveal the historic and contemporary interiors and gardens. Reflecting the style and personalities of their owners, these houses simultaneously respect and extend a distinctive legacy.”

“Architecture on Florida’s Key West reflects the diverse and colorful nature of those who have shaped this remote island’s character: grand classical homes of sea captains from new England, cobbled-together wooden dwellings of ships’ carpenters, humble but charming cottages of cigar makers from Cuba. Today’s equally varied population of artists, writers, and political figures contributes to that heritage by designing interiors and landscapes that complement the vibrant tropical location, quirky isolationist tradition, and relaxed atmosphere.”

I’ve had this book for several years so it was fun to revisit, especially after our recent getaway to Key West~ soaking in the sun, Caribbean flavor and charm of this southernmost point in the continental U.S. We spent a lot of time walking, admiring the architecture and tropical gardens, where I was easily entertained, fantasizing about owning and decorating a little shotgun or Conch house.  It’s easy for me to lose myself within these pages after our return. . .taking up residence “living large in a small house”. . .

Come along with me for a stroll~

Key West lies 150 miles south of Miami and 90 miles north of Cuba. This little spit of land,  four miles long by two miles wide, hosts weather that is consistently beautiful thanks to its subtropical climate, with temperatures of seventy-five to eighty degrees year round, and draws more than two million visitors a year~ one million of those arriving by cruise ship daily at Mallory Square.

Key West’s architecture is a charming mélange of styles~

Galvanized steel roofs, ventilating roof hatches, Bahamian top-hung shutters, wrap around verandahs, and houses built on piers –  are all devices to combat the heat and sun of the tropics.

“Throughout Old Town one sees, in striking juxtaposition elaborate Queen Anne-style houses built at the end of the nineteenth century, little Louisiana Creole cottages, ornate Victorians, and Key West Tropical houses, to which an unmistakable combination of decorative motifs is applied. Every street, boulevard, and lane is rich with architectural variations and contradictions.”

“The taste for Victorian architecture that swept the country during the latter part of the nineteenth century also was incorporated into the design of many houses in Key West. Corner brackets, balustrades, porch columns, and fretwork fences, among other ornamental details, were applied to the otherwise spare Conch-style houses.”

We enjoyed Stone Crab, in season, while we were there, but I resisted the urge, (just barely :-) to order some online shipped to me at home, so instead, we’re enjoyed a little taste of the island for Food for Thought~

Crab Cakes, a mini version, served as an appetizer~ recipe for a regular size version courtesy Southern Living here.

With Roasted Garlic and Lime Aïoli, courtesy Coastal Living here.

And of course to wash them down, a Mojito ~

“Over the years, what used to be a funky little out-of-the-way, stuck-in-time place, has evolved into a sophisticated island resort. The little Conch houses have been bought up, remodeled, and often resold. And although the gentrification of Key West is celebrated by some residents and opposed by others, the fact remains that people who have the means to go anywhere in the world keep coming back to this place, just as my husband and I have returned again and again.”

Thank you for your visit, I’m joining:

  37 comments for “Key West: A Tropical Lifestyle

  1. April 10, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    I would love to have a cottage like one of those! Beautiful.
    The crab cakes look delish!

  2. April 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Mary, I’ve never been to Key West but you have me wanting to make a plane reservation tonight. This looks like our kind of spot. Of course your images are amazing! Think I’ll order a copy of this book and dream of a future trip. Thanks! ~ Sarah

  3. April 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I have crab cakes in the freezer, so I’ll defrost and fantasize about being in Key West. I’ve been to Key Biscayne, but want to go West next time. The Mojito is my favorite summer bev!

  4. April 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Wow! What beautiful photos! That’s what I call living!!! My husband and I are headed out of Kansas City to Orlando in a couple of weeks for business, and while we will get a little taste of the Florida sunshine, it will be nothing like this! We must travel to Key West sometime. There’s something for the Bucket List! Those crab cakes look absolutely divine. I may have to trot downstairs and whip up a batch now. It’s 90 degrees here in the Kansas City area today. We have actually turned on the air conditioning!!!!!! In April!!!!! It’s crazy, man! Little crab cakes and a pitcher of something cold would do me a lot of good right now. Thanks for the idea! :-)

  5. Pondside
    April 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    When we were young and newly married, we spent (as I mentioned) several holidays in Key West. Like you, we fantasized about buying one of the (then)) very affordable conch houses, but somehow we never got around to doing it. The Key West of 1974 was very sleepy and very, very laid back. I remember the cigar businesses behind many houses, the sandal maker and the hat makers. I cried when my last pair of Key West sandals fell apart. I’d love to go back – there’s nothing like that drive to help one feel completely away from the mad world.

  6. April 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Another great review…….I’ve always loved Key West (Cayo Hueso which actually means Bone Key in English!)

    I’m making Crabcakes Benedict served with fresh asparagus for a Mother’s Day brunch article I need to turn in tomorrow!

  7. April 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Someday I hope to visit Key West. The architecture, the beautiful setting – and of course, the food! Although, we can get wonderful crab here and I do love crabcakes.

  8. A Garden of Threads
    April 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    Wonderful old homes, thank you for the tour. Take care and enjoy your week.

  9. April 10, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I went there when I was a little girl, then again when my children were little. I hope to go back someday and spend a little more time. Great post!!

  10. April 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    One of my favorite places in the world! I have this book, too. Those crab cakes and mojitos sure do look tasty!

  11. April 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Oh, how wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing these fabulous images at MM. :)

  12. Vee
    April 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Very much enjoyed the tour and seeing all the different architecture and design. Your mosaics are beautiful and at least one of them is making me thirsty!

  13. April 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I have been to Florida several times but have not yet been to the Keys. It is on my list of must sees. By your photos it really is a lovely and diverse place to visit. V

  14. April 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I love the Food for Thought posts and your lovely mosaics … Key West looks like such fun!

  15. April 10, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Beautiful mosaics, such gorgeous shots! The crab cakes look fantastic!

  16. April 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    This book is gorgeous and your culinary expertise beautifully displayed! Yum!

  17. April 10, 2011 at 10:14 pm

    I grew up in southwest Florida but never made it to Key West until I was an adult. I was flabbergasted at the architecture, so different from what I expected. It was there I learned to love conch fritters, ssomrthing we don’t get much of in Texas!

  18. April 10, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    thankyou for taking us to this truly delightful part of the world. I loved seeing the architecture detail – and your stylish Mojito was a delight to see as I am exploring food photography at the moment – your Mojito certainly speaks of lazy summer days.

  19. April 11, 2011 at 3:07 am

    Omg! So glad I found your blog through sister site…
    This place rocks!!!!
    And I am heading south!

  20. April 11, 2011 at 11:33 am

    This looks lovely. Hope to see you at My Dream Canvas! Have a great week ahead.

  21. April 12, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    First I was drooling over the fun and gorgeous architecture and then of course I was drooling over the crabcakes and mojitos…that is one tasty post!

  22. Tracy
    April 12, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Thanks for the “trip” to Key West. Loved the post.

  23. Annette
    April 13, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Lovely old homes! The victorian architecture is just gorgeous!
    Thanks for sharing your trip!

  24. April 13, 2011 at 7:38 am

    Beautiful! We love the Keys and used to go camping on Sunshine Key when I was growing up. The sky is so blue in your photos, so pretty!

  25. April 13, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I’m ready to visit!! It sort of reminds me of our trip to the Bahamas…only prettier!

  26. April 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Calling by as an Outdoor Wednesday participant – Key west looks like the sort of place i would enjoy visiting.

  27. April 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    oh that was GLORIOUS! i love the details and OF COURSE your pics drive me wild… i so want to sit beachside sipping a coctail, it looks enlightening! beautiful book, trip and lakeside vista… heavy sigh of contentment~ gracias!

  28. April 13, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Wow, this is amazing! I’d love a piece of Key Lime Pie too! lol What gorgeous pictures–This post is sublime!
    P.S. Your little dogs are adorable too!

  29. JDaniel4's Mom
    April 14, 2011 at 8:14 am

    I love all the gingerbread trim on the houses there.

  30. April 14, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Love this post! Gotta get that book! So inspiring:)

  31. April 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Terrific job on this one! I’ll have to check out the book.

    We do love Key West, and these photos really capture it!


  32. April 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    As a former Floridian, I believe I need to add that book to my library so I can walk down memory lane….

  33. April 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    My favorite place in the world, other than my own backyard. This was a truly wonderful little mini vacation of a post.

  34. April 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Key West is really like a little tiny New Orleans. All that charm is wonderful!!!

  35. April 15, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Mary, I’m SO glad you shared these on Foodie Friday, as I missed them the first time you posted. They look & sound delicious & I can’t wait to try them. I almost bought lump crab last week. I WILL be making these for Good Friday, you can bet!!

    Thank you so much for taking us along on your wonderful vacation to the keys. Nine years we lived in FL & we never got down there. :/

  36. April 17, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I adore that architecture! My husband would adore the crab cakes! And we’ll all just sip on the mojitos. I just planted some mint plants that are supposed to be the best for that…we shall see.

    Thanks for this lovely, tropical trip. It’s always fun to see what is happening elsewhere as I sit here in the desert enjoying the scent of orange blossoms on the morning breeze.

    This was a wonderful Alphabet Soup link!

    Thanks for sharing it!


  37. Sara
    March 10, 2012 at 8:48 am

    i love key west so much! my husband and i were married there at the southernmost mansion last April. loved seeing your pictures of all of the homes. one of my favorite things to do in key west is to stroll around the streets and to pick out which house will be mine one day ;)

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