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Seminole Heights To Celebrate As Bungalow Beauties Hit Newsstands

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Published:   |   Updated: May 20, 2013 at 12:24 AM

Yes, the neighborhood's annual home tours have always drawn crowds - even a bungalow-phile all the way from Boston.

But watch out, Seminole Heights is soaring to even new heights. And residents are so excited, they're throwing themselves a big party.

On newsstands this month, American Bungalow, the source of all-things bungalow, debuts its winter edition with a 12-page feature on the 97-year-old Tampa neighborhood. Anticipation has been building since photographer Alexander Vertikoff toured nearly a year and a half ago.

"People have been thrilled about the idea of the magazine," says Suzanne Prieur, whose dining room is featured. "I feel like it will be so good for Tampa and historic preservation."

Three other homes, dating from the 1920s, also have joined the ranks of architectural pin-ups.

But this is so big, everybody's celebrating. The American Bungalow Magazine Party - catered by none other than Bungalow Bistro - starts at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association, 1202 E. Clifton St. It's sort of a porch party (a Seminole Heights tradition) with a big supply of American Bungalow magazines.

The Couture Home

The History: Nikki and Stephen Couture already were living on Thomas Street when their three dogs - Jake and Winston, the Italian greyhounds, and Opus, a sloughi - ran off. While giving chase, Nikki happened into the backyard of the vacant house across the street.

There she discovered a breathtaking treasure: Yard. Lots and lots of it.

The home's lot size is triple that of most in the area.

Though the Coutures already had rehabbed one house, they couldn't resist the temptation to start all over again, given the huge backyard.

"It was pretty much an eyesore," Nikki says of her new home. "I can't explain how bad it was. I had it gutted."

Favorite Feature: While the kitchen and son Chandler's bedroom get star treatment in American Bungalow, that backyard is still irresistible to interior designer Nikki Couture.

It has been transformed into a wonderland of ponds; a water fountain and aviary; an outdoor, covered kitchen; twin playhouses and one for the tortoises; and abundant vegetation.

"I like water. I like plants," Nikki says. "I like nature, period."

The Prieur Home

The History: Suzanne and Dennis Prieur left behind a 1910 Craftsman bungalow in Eagle Rock, Calif., when they moved to Tampa. It took a year of looking, but they found just what they wanted in a 1925 bungalow on Suwanee Avenue.

Suzanne almost passed it up because an advertisement said it had an "updated" kitchen; she loves vintage. She's glad she went ahead and looked.

"I felt completely at home the first night," she says. "I chose this house because it looked so much like that house [in Eagle Rock]. ... This house is a little bit rougher, more coarse and primitive. The California house was more formal."

Favorite Feature: Suzanne loves the dining room, where she recreated the warm look of its Eagle Rock predecessor, with built-in cabinets and book dividers. Distressed-wood table and chairs complete the mirror image.

The Greg Barnhill/Chuck Kaelin Home

The History: Chuck Kaelin once thought he could be happy in a condo. But his partner, Greg Barnhill, an inveterate rehabber of old homes, changed Kaelin's mind.

They bought their 1926 bungalow on Clifton Street in 1997. For eight months they lived in one side of the house while remodeling the other side. It was a major redesign: out went the brown shag carpet, white paneling and Pepto-Bismol colored bathroom walls.

"I could see the potential here to make it a home," Barnhill says.

It already had a great wraparound porch, what bungalow life is all about.

"You can almost see the whole neighborhood just by sitting on the porch," Barnhill says.

Favorite Features: Kaelin is the chief cook, and the home is a frequent gathering place for neighborhood potluck dinners and porch parties.

"I love the kitchen," Kaelin says. "We have such a wide-open space guests can flow through."

But don't make him choose just one favorite. The split-level screened porch out back, designed by Barnhill, is just as party-friendly.

The room has a wood floor on one level, and tile below. French doors open onto a new patio, part of Barnhill's preparation for the 10th anniversary of the Old Seminole Heights' home tour. Outside under the pergola, a pair of salvaged columns mirrors the originals on the front porch.

The Garcia Home

The History: Earl and Gilda Garcia raised their children, Earl III, 27, and Shana Sons, 29, on a lake in Pasco County. Then, six years ago, Gilda decided she wanted to renovate a historical home.

"I didn't," Earl says.

Gilda found a 1912 bungalow beauty, just two blocks from Earl's job as a coach at Hillsborough High School.

Well, beauty is relative.

"Everything you could see or touch needed to be replaced," Earl says. "It was abysmal."

An 18-month plan took shape: roof leak repair, strip beige paint from the brick fireplace and salmon paint from built-in wood china cabinets with leaded glass, add a second floor to a carriage house and re-do bathrooms with bead board and doors salvaged from a North Carolina church.

"We wanted to be a part of preserving it," Gilda says.

Favorite features: The couple renovated two bathrooms. One features a Standard brand toilet with an old-fashioned chain pull. For the other, they made a full bath from two half-baths, adding white bead board and cobalt blue walls. Only the bead-board ceiling is original.

The dining room with oak floors and the kitchen with built-in china cabinets and brass latches are Friday night hot spots for Terrier football fans.

"Every Friday night there are 30 people here," Gilda says. "That's the greatest part of it."


For information on the Seminole Heights celebration, call Suzanne Prieur at (813) 610-5255. Reporter Kathy Steele can be reached at (813) 259-7652.

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