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Gingerbread Homes take style in different direction

A small firm offers new houses with Victorian touches - hardwood floors, fireplaces and fish-scale siding.

By JANET ZINK
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 12, 2002


PORT TAMPA -- Lynda Coyle has found her niche.

In a town dominated by Mediterranean revival and production-line houses, the co-owner of Gingerbread Homes has made a colorful break from the pack with Victorian design.

Coyle and her husband, Joe, founded Gingerbread Homes, a division of Coyle Construction, 10 years ago. Since then, they've built and sold nearly 25 Victorian-style homes in the neighborhoods south of Gandy Boulevard.

"But we'll go anywhere," Lynda assures.

Joe Coyle began his business as a remodeler in 1973. He met Lynda when he was working on converting an apartment complex she worked at into condominiums. After they got married, they decided to build houses together. They started off building run-of-the-mill three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,200-square-foot homes, largely in Port Tampa.

"Land was cheap, and it was abundant," Lynda says.

In the 1980s, they sold their newly constructed homes for about $60,000, and now they go for nearly twice that much.

When the Coyles first started building south of Gandy, they were living in an ultra-modern house in Beach Park. But they fell in love with Port Tampa's red brick street and old Victorian homes, and Lynda became dissatisfied with the limited range of options then offered by Coyle Construction.

So the couple established Gingerbread Homes.

In 1991, they bought a lot on Shamrock Road, near West Shore and Interbay boulevards, and built the Victorian home they live in. They included a home office.

"My staff is my three dogs," she says. "They work for biscuits."

Their 1,900-square-foot house has four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms and overflows with gingerbread detailing inside and out.

"I read everything I could find on Victorian homes," Lynda says. She visited New Orleans for inspiration.

The homes they build for others have 2,100 to 2,600 square feet and sell for $219,000 to $350,000.

Standard design elements include hardwood floors, cased door and window frames with gold trim at the corners, fireplaces, oak staircases, crown molding, transom windows and chair rails.

"We put in as much interior trim as is affordable," Lynda says.

Clients with bigger budgets can choose stained-glass windows and wood blocks along baseboards.

Exteriors are dressed up with carved wood columns above the front porch railing, fish-scale siding, running trim and ornamentation under the roof gables. All homes have at least three paint colors, although the Coyle home has seven.

"We try not to make any of them look alike," Lynda says. "It's easy to do because there are so many elements."

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