Home of the Month | July 2015

868 25th Ave North
“And Now, Introducing Your Contenders for MVN!” (Most Valuable Neighbors)

Right off of Martin Luther King Street, we encounter some pretty stiff competition for the title of “most valuable neighbor.” Consider the options:

There’s Sarah Suits: social media director for the Crescent Heights Neighborhood Association (CHNA), contributor of content to the newsletter, decorator with a gorgeous eye for color, producer at a Tampa-based advertising agency, mom, CHNA newsletter delivery assistant, and solicitor of charitable contributions to the CHNA.

Then there’s Sean Suits: first vice president of business relations for CHNA, layer of sod and pavers, formerly a professional snow- and skateboarder, planter of bamboo, commercial banking professional for a local St. Petersburg office of Wells Fargo, dad, and guarantor that the next generation maintains a clear and firm appreciation for all things Star Wars.

But don’t rule out Sullivan Suits: newsletter cover model (see the May/June 2015 edition), builder of a Lego Millennium Falcon, patron of and student at our local Great Explorations preschool, and the primary reason his parents even bothered to look for their current house in Crescent Heights.

As dark horse contenders, we can’t leave out Polyester and Three-Piece, the Boston Terrier tag team that guards the premises and makes sure every guest gets a sniff, lick, and another sniff test before they are made to feel welcome.

2015 07 pic frontIt’s a killer team, and their home field reflects just how much they contribute to the neighborhood. They arrived in 2011, looking for a larger space to accommodate their growing family. The two-story white house, built in 1926, had sat vacant for several years, before a purchaser grabbed it up, renovated the fire-damaged interior, and made it functional. The Suits obtained it from him and made it beautiful.

2015 07 pic2Among the additions they have implemented, the plantation shutters on the windows on all four sides of the house give it a consistent, cohesive look from the outside. The bright blue door hints at the bright colors and fun décor inside, including vibrant walls and creative decorating touches. For example, a downstairs bedroom has become a funky game room, with decorative skateboards and snowboards on the walls (remember Sean’s previous career?) and a poker table in the middle, all leading out to the pool deck. What once might have been a formal dining room gets far more use as a playroom for Sullivan, decked out with toys, bright colors, and his own chalkboard. The large living room is cleverly divided—using area rugs, color, and furniture choices—into what seems like three separate spaces, even though it is a single room.

2015 07 pic4Moving upstairs, after climbing the narrow staircase, visitors find themselves with varied and appealing options on each side. A guest room features a series of vintage cameras, owned by various generations of the Suits family, as wall decoration. Sullivan’s bedroom makes clever uses of spaces for a young boy, including a zigzag shelf for holding books. It also is home to the bunk bed that his mom used when she was young. Another guest room is actually a guest suite, with its own bath and old-fashioned built-in features, both in the main room and the antique-feeling closet.

2015 07 pic3Then there is the master suite, which runs the entire length of the house, along one side of the upstairs level. The massive closet could practically be a side room of its own, and the furnishings and layout give the entire room the feel of a cozy sitting room. This side of the house, along the alleyway, initially was the front of the home, back in the days before MLK was the major thoroughfare it is now. If you meander along the alley, between the Suits’ house and the shops on that block of MLK, you can even see the original front door (also painted blue), which is now a side entrance.

But the most comfortable spot might be in the back. The pool area is surprisingly large; from the exterior, it does not seem as if so much space would fit back there. When the Suits arrived, the entire pool deck was concrete, with no green space. They invited some really good friends over to help them jackhammer out all the concrete, then laid pavers across the pool deck. They also planted a stand of bamboo, to increase their privacy and add visual appeal. Then they included a play area for Sullivan and a workshop shed, along with outdoor seating. 2015 07 pic1

The house clearly has a lot of character, and that’s exactly what the family was looking for when they began house hunting. Crescent Heights had that character. Soon after they moved in, they also found some characters on the board of the CHNA, one of whom “tricked us” (they say with a laugh) into volunteering just a little bit of their time for the neighborhood. That little bit of their time turned into a lot of their time. Today, their contributions are visible in nearly everything the CHNA does, from social media and newsletters to business relations and support. The family with the lovely house on 25th Ave. thus has done more than just improve their home. They’ve transformed the entire neighborhood for the better.

You can practically hear the chants: “MVN, MVN, MVN!”

—Elisabeth Nevins Caswell

Photo Credits: ©Elisabeth Nevins Caswell/Sarah Suits

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