Irl and Sue Engelhardt Take Us Inside Their Dream Home

By Lindsay Lambert Day | Architectural Photography by Jessica Klewicki Glynn

For St. Louis residents Irl and Sue Engelhardt, Naples has served as an escape from their de-manding careers for nearly 20 years. Throughout that period, the Engelhardts have rented or owned a handful of houses, making adjustments and renovating to suit their family’s active, social lifestyle. But in 2011, ready to start from scratch, they finally began the process of building the comfortable, spacious, and smartly designed dwelling they’d been dreaming of. After owning homes in various locations throughout town, in 2003 the couple had bought a house on Gordon Drive. When this latest—and biggest—change came calling, instead of making another move, they decided to stay put and start fresh.

Sue and Irl Engelhardt.

“We knew we wanted to tear down the house we were in,” Sue says. “Then we had the opportunity to buy the lot to the north of us. So we ended up with two and a half lots and thought we could really build something here that doesn’t have to be lot line to lot line and isn’t two or three stories tall; something that lives very casually and is contemporary but gives us a feeling of serenity and warmth.”

With their plan in place, the Engelhardts enlisted builder Randy Kurtz, of Kurtz Homes Naples, who had already seen the couple through two previous renovations. And although they’d already commissioned a local architect to draw up plans for the new house, they weren’t exactly enamored, and so they went back to the proverbial drawing board. Sue eventually connected with Vero Beach-based architect Clem Schaub, whose clean-lined, brightly lit design style was just what she’d been looking for. The house Schaub designed facilitates a closeness to nature, which is what brought the Engelhardts to Naples in the first place.

“We named our house Soleluna for the sun and the moon,” says Sue. “We come to Naples for the sun, and I love the moon, especially when it’s rising over Cutlass Cove.”

Special design touches throughout the house pay tribute to Sue’s favorite celestial beings. Mounted at the front entry is a bronze Soleluna name plaque custom-designed by a family friend and bearing a sun-and-moon motif. Inside, the sun is represented by a French Polynesian carved-teak sun that hangs on the wall of an exterior stairwell at the south end of the house. And a nod to the moon comes in the form of a spherical light fixture, aptly named La Lune, mounted over a soaking tub at the home’s northernmost end.

The indoor-outdoor connection is a repeating theme throughout the home. Windows and doors seamlessly dissolve into alfresco living spaces, allowing in constant breezes and views of the serene surroundings. A perfect example is a covered pavilion at the home’s northern end, which is furnished with ample seating and barbecuing necessities. Another is the home’s main living room, where the walls retract for direct outdoor access at any time of day or night—even while the Engelhardts enjoy one of their favorite pastimes: films.

“We’re big movie lovers,” Sue says. “When the kids were here on spring break, we’d all get our popcorn and big candy trays and sit down and watch a movie.”

Schaub and his team designed a clever movie-viewing system: with the press of a button, a panel above the fireplace slides to the side, a movie screen descends in its place, and a projector drops out of the ceiling. Prior to building their home, the Engelhardts debated including a designated media room into its design, but they ultimately decided against it. “We had a media room in our basement in St. Louis, and nobody would ever go down there,” says Sue, adding that, in their Naples home, “you can close the draperies and the shades to make it dark and you instantly have a media room. It’s really fun to have that room that way when we want it, and then when we don’t, we don’t have to see [the movie equipment].”

In the living room, walls retract to facilitate a dialogue between the indoors and outdoors.

As is true for so many Naples families, the Engelhardts enjoy outdoor living. To maximize sunlight and the home’s position on Cutlass Cove, and to give everyone as much opportunity as possible to bask in the balmy Naples air, Schaub and his team implemented a unique two-pool concept into its design. A circular swimming pool on the east side of the house allows the family to enjoy morning and midday sunlight, and a sleek, linear pool on the west side of the house is awash in low, golden light come afternoon and evening. Not surprisingly, the pools are among the home’s most frequently enjoyed features, especially for the couple’s now-grown kids and their friends.

A variety of outdoor living spaces creates ample opportunities for entertaining and private retreats, offering the Engelhardts the best of Naples living.
A two-pool concept allows outdoor living at every hour of the day.

“When people are [at the house], they can be in their rooms, they can be down on the circular beds by the dock watching the boats, or they could be at one pool or the other,” Sue says. “There’s a fire pit below the east pool that’s amazing—everybody just finds these little places to sit and enjoy being outdoors.”

In addition to its abundant outdoor living spaces, undoubtedly the Engelhardts appreciate their home’s ability to cater to their individual personalities.

“Sue is gregarious and loves to be in the thick of it all the time, but Irl sometimes likes to have a little quiet time,” Schaub explains. Accordingly, Schaub situated Irl’s home office next to the secluded master suite at the home’s northern end, and Sue’s, which he playfully nicknamed “mission control,” closer to the more active heart of the home. Schaub also saw to it that Irl, an avid angler, could enjoy views of adjacent Cutlass Cove from his work space. Taking the concept a step farther, Schaub situated two garages at opposite ends of the house—one entering the house through the quieter master wing, and the other entering through more highly trafficked, shared spaces—ultimately giving Irl the option to enter quietly before joining in family festivities.

As much care and attention as the Engelhardts devoted to the design and building of their home, Sue, an avid consumer of design magazines and websites, spared no detail when it came to finishing the interior. In fact, along with Schaub and his senior design associate, Christine Pokorney, Sue traveled to Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and elsewhere in search of art, accessories, and furnishings for the home.

Sue identifies a piece by Olga de Amaral, called Dos Mitades III, which translates into “two halves,” as one of her favorite finds. “What’s interesting about that piece is that it kind of represents Irl and me,” she says. “When you look at it, you notice that one half has swirls in it, and the other half is more stable. We are very independent people, yet we do come together and make this marriage and this family work, so that’s our two halves.”

With their dream house complete, and a comfortable place for their friends and family to enjoy, the Engelhardts are finally appreciating Naples in a whole new way.

Floor-to-ceiling windows admit plenty of sunshine into the home.
Olga de Amaral’s Dos Mitades III commands a special spot above the fireplace. The piece, says Sue Engelhardt, represents her and Irl as two halves constituting a whole.

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