A frequent design element throughout Skip and Jeanette Hartzell’s Port St. Lucie home is concrete walls with just the finish left behind by the form boards. Shiny concrete floors are everywhere in the home, studio, gallery and guest house.
Open spaces, nature and a warm feeling make this place an eco-friendly paradise
BY GREG GARDNER | PHOTOS BY ROB DOWNEY
Nestled into a quiet section of the North Fork of the St. Lucie River is the only waterfront industrial chic compound in the City of Port St. Lucie.
After 30 years of living in Palm Beach County, Skip and Jeanette Hartzell were looking at waterfront homes when they noticed two empty lots across the river in Viking’s Lookout.
“We walked the property and said, ‘This is perfect. We have to buy this,’” says Skip.
Known as “The Dog Artist,” Skip is a sculptor and painter who knew what he wanted, but it still took 18 months to finally hammer out the plans for the residence/gallery, garage/guest suite and large working studio.
“The architect kept trying to change the plans,” he says. “I would listen to him, but I kept wrestling with him.”
Barely visible from the street are the two buildings connected by a covered walkway. The whole compound is 9,000 square feet under roof and 6,000 feet under air conditioning. The rear of the main house faces east with windows that open completely to allow an amazing breeze to blow in off the water and through the living room and kitchen.
Everything is gray from the roof to the floor, Skip’s favorite color. The design is monolithic and minimal with plenty of open space and high ceilings with five Big Ass Fans to help cool the house.
The studio has skylights that open to allow even more breeze through the airy workspace. Floors have a shiny, polished concrete finish. Heavy beams are complemented by tongue-in-groove wood in the ceilings above the outdoor decks.
INDOOR AND OUTDOOR
“I was always attracted to bringing nature and the interior of the house together,” says Skip. “It is an indoor/outdoor concept you see in California or Hawaii. All doors open up, so you are outside when you are inside.”
And the outside landscaping is spectacular with all native plants. The property has been certified as a National Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
No fertilizers or pesticides are used anywhere on the two acres. To kill weeds, Jeanette uses a mixture of industrial vinegar, kosher salt and Dawn detergent.
“I love to dig in the dirt,” she says. “I always wanted to live on moving water. I love the peace and serenity and a walk at midnight with the moon and the dogs.”
While her passion is gardening, Jeanette also gives her time to Conservation Alliance, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, Rivers Coalition and Planned Parenthood Defenders. Skip donates 40 percent of his sales to dog rescue organizations, locally and nationally.
There are 10 rain chains that allow runoff from the gutters to stream down to rock basins below, into pipes that feed into a large main pipe under the asphalt. From there, the water goes to a catch basin just before the river’s edge. No matter how hard it rains, there is never a flood anywhere around the buildings. An irrigation system was installed initially but is rarely used now that plants are established.
The lap pool has its own outdoor cabana shower, which Skip usually uses instead of the large walk-in shower in the master bath. Solar panels supply hot water for the compound.
Always looking to save a few trees, Skip chose Caesar stone, a composite material, instead of granite for the kitchen counter tops. He also decided on bamboo cabinets. “Recycled materials were more appealing than cutting out of a giant rock,” says Skip.
The Hartzells’ home has literally gone to the dogs. They have three large rescue dogs – Tonka, Argus and Sasha – who roam the property, and Jeanette picks up behind them. “They have their places and you don’t want that in the water table,” she says.
Everywhere you see dogs – both in paintings and sculptures – in the studio and in the house that is a gallery.
“The studio is a big part of our lifestyle, and painting and sculpting dogs is primarily what I do,” says Skip, who began his art career in 2011 after 35 years in direct marketing. “Dogs are the centerpiece of my work. This house was designed for the family dogs who are a big part of our lives.”
Skip also rescues orchids in his nursery between the garage and the studio.
Most of his sculptures involve foam bricks carved and then covered with his secret hybrid mix of Portland cement, glue and paper, which dries waterproof and is paintable. He has plans to create two very large projects to be used for public art.
“This house is my last hurrah,” says Skip. “I have visualized this my entire life. It was designed based on our dream for our lifestyle.”