Andy Patten and Jerry Scharba wanted to make their vintage bungalow stand out from the crowd.
That was no easy feat in a neighborhood so packed with 1920s architectural gems that it's often a pilgrimage for historic home aficionados.
Their four-bedroom house features a Key West-inspired loft and a newly renovated Pacific Rim-style bedroom.
"We tried to make each room its own room," said Patten, 39, an attorney who specializes in insurance litigation. "And we're really, really happy with the way it turned out."
So were the rest of the neighborhood residents, who admired the cozy, 1,800-square-foot beige bungalow with deep red trim around the windows. They asked Patten and Scharba to open their bungalow on the third annual Southeast Seminole Heights Home and Garden Tour this Sunday.
The holiday tour, which attracted 700 people last year, is a phenomenon on the already-packed winter season home tour circuit.
"I think people have a genuine interest in these old houses and their history." Patten says. "People like to drive around and look at Christmas lights, but this takes it to a whole different level."
Tour organizer Stan Lasater said the tour would not have happened this year had it not been for DirectHIT Marketing, a direct mail provider in Tampa. The company stepped in at the last minute and paid for buses for the event.
The cost of contracting with a charter bus company would have eaten up profits that will go to Joshua House and the ongoing renovation of Giddens Park.
"This is huge; they're not charging us a penny. Without the buses this tour wouldn't have happened," Lasater says. "Now, we have no out-of-pocket expenses. It's 100 percent profit for charity."
The tour also leans heavily on the generosity of donors like the legal copying service Copy Control Management, which annually prints the programs for free.
The tour includes the home of two elementary school teachers, Malcolm and Melinda Gibbs, who moved to the neighborhood in 2005. They just completed an overhaul of their home, including a kitchen makeover and refurbished hardwood floors.
Also spotlighted on the tour: an Asian-inspired renovation of a 1925 bungalow. The owner, Kerry Ryan, is working on plans to complement the beautiful Japanese woodwork with a backyard Zen garden.
The Southeast Seminole neighborhood is known for its mature trees, handsome historic homes and genuine sense of neighborliness; monthly porch parties and a dog park create a strong social network. It continues to attract old house lovers who want to live close to downtown Tampa.
"I think that Hyde Park has become so saturated that there's nothing left there - a lot of homes are now $1-million," said Scharba, a mural painter and Internet technologies support expert who has lived in Southeast Seminole Heights for 20 years. "A lot of people refer to this as the next Hyde Park. There are lots of 100-year-old bungalows that are still affordable and that people are fixing up and making really nice."
Scharba and Patten rolled up their sleeves and worked almost nonstop on their house since they bought it three years ago. They've created themed rooms, refurbished the bathrooms, added Scharba's custom murals, replaced outdated ceiling fans throughout and pared down furniture until they achieved the look they desired.
They plan to decorate the house for the holidays by "creating drama without taking up space," Patten said. They'll get the look using festive ornament-ball Christmas trees (available at Target), and with lighted topiaries that will flank the front door,
Patten credits Scharba's innate artistic talents with their home's polished, finished look.
"Jerry is unbelievably detail-oriented. He would make the perfect proprietor for a bed and breakfast."
They were "really happy and proud" when they were asked to open their doors to the house tour, Patten said.
"We have different decorating taste, but we never have disagreements. When it comes to the house we always both agree."
Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a glace
Southeast Seminole Heights Home and Garden Tour
The tour, from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, will feature 10 bungalow-style homes decorated for the holidays.
Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at the Seminole Heights Baptist Church, 801 E Hillsborough Ave., beginning at 12:30 p.m. on the day of the tour. The church is also the starting point for the tour. Visitors can ride on free buses or walk using a detailed map.