by Chris Kridler

For some, home is a haven to escape the hustle of life. For others it is a place for play and inspiration. Whatever the purpose, these spaces delight their homeowners. Take a look inside some favorite spaces in area abodes.

Grand Garages

Walt Kostrzewa has always loved cars. When he graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, he married wife Terry, moved to the Space Coast and got into the custom van business. Now they own Past Gas Co. in Cocoa Village, which specializes in car- and gas-station-related memorabilia. “The fun part is finding something you’ve never seen before and doing the restoration on it,” Walt Kostrzewa says. They’ve dressed movie sets and amusement parks, including the gas pumps for the docks at Universal’s “Jaws” attraction. Walt brings his love of cars home to his favorite space.

When Walt’s not hanging out in his nostalgia-filled man cave, he’s tinkering in his complex of clean, bright garages at his home in Rockledge, decorated with vintage signs, gadgets and restored gas pumps. One holds two everyday vehicles, as well as his childhood bicycle and sled. Another has three bays, with an RV, a PT Cruiser and a purple and orange 1975 Dodge Tradesman he’s been converting since 1977. The decor here includes big fuel signs from many of the big companies, such as Gulf and Shell, to the more rare Sterling Gasoline. Outside is a 1950s red Texaco gas pump with a functional water hose, an antique Kendall Motor Oil thermometer, and a 1930s, art-deco-style red air meter that really works.

A third garage contains the prize vehicles that visit cruise-ins and car shows: a 1928 Model A Roadster pickup truck that Walt’s father restored, and an ivy green metallic, 1963 Ford Falcon Sprint convertible, the same type of car he drove when he was in school. It took him a decade to find it, and he restored it himself.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Walt says of his affection for automobiles. “It’s a passion. The way I look at a passion is, it never goes away.”

Grandma’s Attic

When Judy Roub saw the attic room in the house she and husband Bryan bought in Merritt Island, she knew it would be perfect for grandchildren. Now they have seven, and they all enjoy this magical playroom, hidden behind a hinged bookcase.

You have to duck to get inside, unless you’re a child. An anteroom offers a charming dress-up area. “This is housekeeping,” Judy jokes. The main room — where the only place an adult can stand up is in the center where the slanted roof comes together — has toys, dollhouses, air hockey, video games, and a miniature theater that gets lots of use: “Two of them are very dramatic,” Judy says, “so they put on plays in full costume at all times.”

The carpet, which was Judy’s starting point, is called “Teaching Tracks,” featuring colorful footprints with letters and numbers. It’s important to learn to read, of course, so the children can enjoy their grandmother’s enchanting poems, stenciled on walls in the play area. Since the kids are ages 9 to 15 now, reading is no problem, but they don’t seem to be aging out of the room. Even the Roubs’ grown children come up to watch the children — or watch football on the TV. It’s a safe, sweet escape from the everyday that Judy keeps supplied with new playthings she buys at The Haven’s thrift shop, where she volunteers.

“They love it,” she says of her grandchildren. “And they pick up the toys.”


Tiki Room

Jimi Gonzalez’s favorite space is not your typical man-cave. It’s a music room, a playroom, a home office and a tiki hideout. When he and wife Kathryn built the house in 2007, they extended the size of the room, which is across the pool patio from the rest of the house, to accommodate all of Jimi’s interests.

“I just wanted a place where I could have all of my music stuff and all of my instruments without competing or being part of the rest of the house,” Jimi says. It’s evolved from a recording studio to a functional office he uses frequently. A large bulletin board made with magnetic paint provides a place to hang postcards, concert tickets and many more mementos. Like the other items in the room, it also offers a mental vacation from work. Here he can strum the guitars and ukuleles, listen to music (CDs are stored in large, wide file cabinets, and there are vinyl records, too), tinker with the pinball machine, play the piano for the couple’s new baby, and enjoy his tiki memorabilia.

Because, though it lacks the bar itself, this space has all the Polynesian pop appeal of a classic tiki bar. “It was always going to be sort of tiki-themed,” Jimi says. It’s a haven for his diverse collection of tiki mugs, a ship’s wheel, a faux ship’s figurehead and related art. There’s an old chair from Fort Lauderdale’s Mai-Kai Restaurant, where the couple got married. A thatched bamboo ceiling, rust-red walls and funky hanging lamps — from custom-made bamboo and tapa-cloth pieces to a puffer fish and a Tahitian fish trap — add to the island feeling. A few of the lamps are lit by a Philips LED system that lets Gonzalez control the colors and intensity with an iPhone app.

“Like any good tiki bar, you want to have layers of stuff,” he says. “So that’s what I want. Just keep adding layers of stuff.”

From Kitchen to River

Patti Coleman’s kitchen evokes the sea and flows to the river. She and husband Ronald used a green renovation of the room in their south Melbourne Beach home to create a bright, calm space that flows naturally into two seating areas, with a view of glass doors that lead to a tiered deck and the Indian River Lagoon. “I absolutely love it,” Patti says.

The centerpiece of the remodeled kitchen is a 13-foot-long kitchen island. A new configuration of the space allows for lots of storage beneath the counter and good flow around it, making it perfect for entertaining. The countertop is subtly speckled, sandy white, textured concrete. “To me it makes it look like the beach, which is what my whole remodel was about,” Patti says. “Cork floor, bamboo.”

The cork flooring is a milk-chocolate brown. The cabinets are a dark, rich, smoked bamboo. Keeping with the green theme,

the Colemans save energy by using two smaller ovens for most cooking, steaming and microwaving, with a big oven held in reserve for larger jobs. They recycled their refrigerator by painting it black to blend in. The eco-friendly theme is extended in accents throughout the living area, such as the chandelier made from strangler vine — a pretty knot of bent, weathered wood. The wood plank ceiling was painted white to lighten the room. Neutral tones pervade.

“It’s not glitzy … that was my goal,” Patti says. “Keep it really calm, not glitzy, not over the top in any way, just real subtle.”