LITHIA — A couple of years ago, Barb and Ed Keen lived in a classic Cape Cod style house on an acre and a half in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Now they live in a house distinctly Floridian, with a saltwater pool and a ribbon of bike trail hugging the back of their land.
They put the finishing touches on the house last month: three large, custom-designed art glass and steel wall sculptures designed by nationally known glass artist Lisa Vogt, whose work has been featured on HGTV and whose amazing glass kites hang from the ceiling at Tampa International Airport.
"We wanted to design a house that would work for us exactly the way we live," explained Barb Keen, a nurse in the cardiac transplant operating room at Tampa General Hospital.
"We worked very hard for this. While we didn't sacrifice quality, there's nothing excessive."
Vogt's sculptures of raw steel and kiln-formed fused glass pick up the green, amber and eggplant color scheme that runs through the house. The delicate abstracts, created in several of the 16 kilns in Vogt's Wesley Chapel studio, fill three custom niches in the Keen home.
"We didn't want to spend $150,000 on art, but we wanted something unique to the house," Barb Keen says.
Interior designer Penny Hudgens saw Vogt's work at the First Impressions Fine Art Gallery in Palm Harbor. Ed Keen went to see Vogt's art in person and was so impressed that he invited her to visit and talk about creating site-specific sculptures for their four-bedroom home.
Next Vogt will create a custom art-glass fountain.
"I really tried to pick up on the circles that appear in much of the interior design throughout the house," the artist says.
Barb Keen, 60, credits designer Hudgens with assembling a cache of unique finds. "For someone like me who has a career but wants a home with a different look," Barb says, "hiring a very experienced designer is crucial."
The Keens moved to Tampa to be closer to Barb's parents in New Port Richey.
They settled on Fish Hawk Trails, a community that reminded them of Philadelphia neighborhoods with generous lots, mature trees and plenty of privacy.
Barb's commute to work on Davis Islands is 30 minutes.
"We live a nice, quiet life, yet we wanted a place where we could comfortably entertain friends and family," she says.
She converted a room off the master suite into an exercise area, complete with treadmill, elliptical machine, bike, yoga mat and mirror. She converted the vanity area next to the master bath to a study room. She's working on a master's degree in health care administration.
Even the master bedroom, dominated by an arts-and-crafts headboard, functions practically: The tailored chaise longue in the corner doubles as a bed for a Lab mix named Coal.
The artwork was a final, visual touch in a nest they don't plan to leave any time soon.
"This is not short term," she said. "We plan to stay here, retire here. This house really works for us. It's our dream house."
Recently, as Vogt and her husband painstakingly installed the glass sculpture, Barb looked on happily. The earthy colors in the glass picked up the warm, late-morning sunlight.
"This is absolutely beautiful," Barb said. "I'm overwhelmed. This the perfect design for the space, exactly what we wanted."
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.