TEMPLE TERRACE — When Tracey Brown and Michelle Westich first laid eyes on the 1926 Mediterranean revival home, they knew they had realized a dream.
They put in an offer the same day they toured the 3,200-square-foot house designed by renowned architect Dwight James Baum, who also designed the Ringling mansion in Sarasota.
"This house is quite unusual for a Mediterranean," says Brown, who runs VitaFutura, a business that sells high-end European bathroom decor products.
"In many homes like this, the rooms are very cozy and a lot more quaint. But there's nothing quaint about this house: The rooms are big, simple and open with clean lines. Even the fireplaces are square rather than arched."
Brown and Westich — partners in business and life who share a passion for old houses — have refurbished the three-bedroom house with the care of preservationists: doing everything right while maintaining its historic integrity.
They will open the house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 6 for the Temple Terrace Holiday Tour of Homes: "Mid-Century Modern Meets Mediterranean Revival." The biannual tour, which attracted 600 visitors in 2006, is sponsored by the Temple Terrace Preservation Society.
The tour will showcase nine homes and the casino that represent the historic Mediterranean revival style as well as midcentury modern style indicative of when 1950s suburbia merged with the city's more glamorous 1920s history.
Temple Terrace is one of the first communities of its kind: planned and designed around a professional golf course intended to draw well-to-do Northerners who invested in winter homes in the community, which featured hunting grounds, a clubhouse and casino.
Brown and Westich say restoring their home was rather like embarking on an architectural dig, because of the clues they discovered that revealed what life must have been like for the home's first inhabitants, a doctor and his family.
"These summer homes had small kitchens because the original owners ate at the clubhouse," said Westich, who explained that while refurbishing the kitchen they discovered the outlines of the original kitchen beneath an original tongue-and-groove wood subfloor that had been laid diagonally, an example of extremely fine workmanship and "the most structurally sound kind of floors," notes Brown, who had previously restored two vintage bungalows in the Seminole Heights neighborhood.
The pair say they love the mission style of architecture and decor prevalent in old bungalows, but quickly came to love the Mediterranean style of home. An added bonus, they say, was the home's unusually good condition considering that it was more than 70 years old when they bought it in 1999.
"This house was amazing," Brown says. "Normally in a house this old you find termite damage in the trim, windows and floors — but no, not in this house."
In fact, she says, the beautiful oak floors were intact and in good condition and the house throughout was in "great shape." Still, they've done a large amount of work to the structure including gutting and remodeling the kitchen and re-creating the original wrought-iron front balcony,
"We like to do everything right so that we don't have to come back to a project in five years and do it over."
They're restoring the old windows and the plaster and marble fireplace surround in the living room, calling their restoration project "ongoing, like any old house." Brown says that although they're both "normally very private people," opening their house up to hundreds of visitors for the tour doesn't bother her because of the importance of preserving her neighborhood's architectural — and historic — past.
"This house is a piece of really, really rich Temple Terrace history," she says. "This tour attracts all kinds of people interested in old homes as well as the area's history. That for me goes beyond any personal discomfort."
Plus, she says, the tour will highlight why they moved to Temple Terrace in the first place.
"It's really a big secret in Tampa. People don't know what's back here: a really nice, old neighborhood."
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.