As soon as Kaye Tew swings open the front door of her Dauphin Island home, her hospitality is overflowing. Already knowing that she and husband Mike really built their home to host family and friends, I wasn’t expecting any different. She welcomes me in and takes me to her study where she says goodbye to her prayer group. The seven ladies have been meeting together for over 25 years and now stay in touch through Zoom. Within a few minutes of my tour, we’re holding framed photos of grandkids, and she’s telling me all about how they spend their time when everyone is there.
In the summer of 2002, Mike and Kaye found themselves empty nesters. Their daughter, Lauren, had just gotten married, and their son, Brad, was heading back to college. One Saturday, Mike said, “Let’s go to Dauphin Island.”
“We rarely went to Dauphin Island,” Kaye reminisces, “but we did that day.” They didn’t go with any intention of buying a house, but they found themselves looking at homes from the West End to the East End. Much to Mike’s surprise, Kaye found one she liked. “Of course, it needed a little face-lift inside and outside,” she recalls.
“Then after 16 years in that home, our family had grown,” Kaye says. “We added a son-in-law, daughter-in-law and six grandchildren. We needed more space.” But they couldn’t leave the property they had grown to love. They had named the place “Tew Palms” after the two palm trees by the water, and they delighted in the quietness of the area and the views of British Bay. So they bought another lot, moved the original home, sold it, and built their current home in 2018.
“We already had our house plans from Jean Savell, and GLH Home Builders had begun construction. That’s when I called Natalie Roe of March + May Design and said, ‘I need help!’” Kaye had ideas of what she wanted, but she needed Natalie’s expertise to bring it all together. “Her creativity and energy and access to furniture, fabrics, art and other finishes elevated the aesthetics of our home,” Kay says.
An open floor plan that allowed everyone to be together in the kitchen, dining area and living room was really important to Kaye. She spends a lot of time in her kitchen, especially when the grandchildren are in town. They offer little helping hands to assist with cooking and baking. Mike grills filets, and they have mushrooms, twice-baked potatoes, salad and bread on the side. “Those kids request that meal,” she says. “They will go back for seconds!”
They work up an appetite by spending their days on the water. The little kids go up and down the sea wall with nets in hand, hoping to catch crabs, shrimp and shells. They break for golf cart rides to get snow cones. Everyone, including Kaye, enjoys biking around the neighborhood. Mike can be found in-shore and off-shore fishing, and the children love to fish off the dock. They also enjoy riding on the jet ski and boat and swimming in the pool.
When the family isn’t sharing meals together or time on the water, the younger generation heads upstairs to play video games, watch movies or challenge one another to board games, such as Monopoly, around the table overlooking the water.
“Four girls and two boys,” Kaye laughs as she shows me the girls’ room with a row of twin beds and the boys’ room with just two twin beds.
Angler Mike has claimed the ground floor and named it the “Fish Camp.” The area includes a fully-furnished apartment (where he had to quarantine during COVID), plenty of fishing equipment, exercise equipment and a work space.
It has been nearly 20 years since Kaye and Mike drove to Dauphin Island on a whim. Now a permanent resident of this little slice of paradise, she stands on the pool deck, looking out at the sky, sun and water. “All we can do,” she says softly, “is say, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ We don’t take it for granted.”