Cozy, eclectic and ready to be shared

One couple will show off their restored 1920s house during the Historic Hyde Park Home Tour on Saturday.

By Elizabeth Bettendorf, Times Correspondent
Published February 29, 2008


A poster advertising the sixth annual Historic Hyde Park Home Tour captures the essence of the painstakingly restored "mission resurrection"-style house belonging to Dave and Mary Heise. It features a border collie mix named Molly, lounging in front of a small, cozy fireplace. There's a traditional bamboo chair, Oriental style rug, upholstered ottoman, plants, books and the curved arm of a rose-colored sofa.

The storybook scene sums up what the popular house tour - and living in the neighborhood - is all about.

"History is really big here. People are so excited to go into each other's homes and talk about what they're doing, what contractors they've used," says Jay Host, a Hyde Park resident who recently moved to the neighborhood with wife, Sandy, an interior decorator, after living in Tallahassee for more than 30 years.

The house tour - which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday - has in the past attracted a large following of house tour aficionados, some from as far away as Orlando and Naples. This year's tour costs $20 $16 if you buy your tickets in advance and benefits the rebuilding of the historic VFW Post 432 building, which was badly damaged in a fire.

The tour begins at the Kate Jackson Center, 821 S Rome Ave., and features seven houses, including a 1913 pink Key West "Florida Cracker" house with a tin roof, widow's walk and views of Tampa Bay. A new, 4,000-square-foot, Bella Roma townhome, built in 2003 and decorated with contemporary furnishings, art and sculpture, is also on the tour.

Dave and Mary Heise moved to Hyde Park's Bella Roma townhomes a few years ago by way of Tampa Palms. They were empty nesters who migrated from North Tampa as part of a dream to live closer to the city. But one day, while walking their dog, they noticed a dilapidated, 1920s mission resurrection-style house for sale not far from Bayshore Boulevard. The house was riddled with problems and had been given the nod for demolition.

"This house really spoke to my husband," explains Mary, 52, a former oncology nurse who now works in pharmaceutical education. "There were so many lovely houses in the neighborhood and this one was definitely not lovely, but he really saw something in it."

Despite its ailments, the Heises bought the house and planned to restore it - a project that spanned 31/2 years and involved the design work of architect Roger Grunke, who is also a neighbor.

Dave Heise, 53, who works for a small computer company, said the experience was thrilling "especially when you invest a lot of time, research and decision-making. Not only did it turn out the way we wanted - it exceeded our expectations."

The Heises came to Tampa 20 years ago from Madison, Wis. They moved here because they love to sail and wanted to live somewhere warmer.

They initially chose Tampa Palms, Mary explains, "because of the elementary school, soccer fields, swim team and the neighborhood," and because it was also closer to Mary's work. After their two daughters grew up, the couple moved into the city, never dreaming they would take on a major restoration project.

Walls were replastered, bathrooms reconfigured, heart-pine floors refurbished and 1,800 square feet added to give the house a total of 3,600 square feet of main living space.

Husband and wife worked together.

Dave oversaw much of the restoration, even trekking over from their townhouse at 10:30 one rainy night "to make sure all the windows were closed," he recalls.

He also selected the bright red tile backsplash in the kitchen great room - part of the addition - as well as the commercial-style range and other kitchen appliances.

Mary took on the decorating, choosing classic bungalow colors and outfitting the rooms with a mixture of family antiques and new pieces collected from stores such as Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn. She chose reproduction basket-weave tiles made by an Arkansas company, replicating what was originally on the bathroom floors.

She seamlessly incorporated two home offices into the dcor, as well as a large upstairs laundry room she confesses is her favorite room in the house.

She mixed whimsical art with area rugs chosen for their rich, earthy colors and time-worn feeling, including two brought back by her sister from Tibet. With a wedding planned for their daughter late last summer, they had hoped to move in a few months prior to the event in order to have time to decorate. But problems with the air-conditioning pushed their move-in date to two weeks before the wedding.

"What would normally take most people two years to decorate, I did in two weeks," Mary recalls. "Even my 89-year-old mother was making window treatments."

Despite the time crunch, she got it all done and hosted a large wedding brunch as well.

"People who saw the house for the first time thought we had lived here for years," she recalls, smiling.

Elizabeth Bettendorf can be reached at ebettendorf@hotmail.com.

If you go

The sixth annual Hyde Park Home Tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets may be purchased the day of the tour for $20 at Kate Jackson Park; advance tickets are $16 at the Garden Party, 2832 S MacDill Ave.; Casa Nova, 3119 Bay to Bay Blvd.; Magnolia, 303 Magnolia Ave.; A Source for the Home in Hyde Park Village, 712 South Village Circle; and Blue Moon, 4203 W El Prado Blvd.

The tour is organized by the nonprofit Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood Organization. Proceeds will benefit the rebuilding of the historic Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 432 in Hyde Park.