The High Life

By: Carol Tisch

Martha and Curtiss Schantz are living their dream high atop Sarasota in a 3,400-square-foot Rivo penthouse replete with breathtaking city, suburban treetop and water views. “The dream was to have an uncluttered, soothing space that was neutral in décor to emphasize the rich texture of the views,” says Martha, whose art history degree led to […]


Martha and Curtiss Schantz are living their dream high atop Sarasota in a 3,400-square-foot Rivo penthouse replete with breathtaking city, suburban treetop and water views. “The dream was to have an uncluttered, soothing space that was neutral in décor to emphasize the rich texture of the views,” says Martha, whose art history degree led to an appreciation of mid-century design.

But the condo’s architecture would require a dramatic overhaul to create the open plan and sophistication the pair envisioned. “Duff was part of the dream,” says Martha of Duff Kliewer of Cox, Kliewer & Co., an architectural design firm in Virginia Beach, the couple’s hometown during much of Curtiss’ 30-year career as a naval aviator and then pilot for Fed-Ex. “Duff said, ‘We can do it,’ and he gave us his floor plan as a housewarming gift.”  

The metamorphosis entailed moving walls to create an expansive foyer and removing several nonstructural columns blocking sight lines to the views. General contractor Dean Thompson virtually brought the penthouse back to its original unfinished state, creating a canvas for new wall finishes and flooring, lighted ceiling coves, a new custom kitchen, remodeled baths and more. “It’s perfect now,” Martha says of the condo. “This is who we are.”

The streamlined profile of contemporary kitchen cabinets 1 artfully custom crafted by Village Woodworking is softened with exotic African aniqre, an architectural hardwood favored by designers.  A study in eclecticism, the dining area marries a mahogany Hinkel Harris table, modern B&B Italia chairs and a Nelson Bubble “chandelier.” 2 Trompe l’oeil limestone flooring 3 is actually Corsican Crème porcelain tile from Crossville masterfully mud-set with minimal grout lines to Martha Schantz’s exacting standards by Marble Design Specialists. Designer Duff Kliewer indulged his clients’ passion for high-end commercial lighting with Artemide’s Logico table lamp, a classic Nesson floor lamp and five MP pendants 4 resembling skyscrapers lined up above the bar. Hard-working stainless steel becomes an artistic medium in the hands of local fabricator Kinney Johnson, says Martha Schantz, thrilled with her custom kitchen backsplash 5 and sleek stainless-topped island. Subtle references to Curtiss Schantz’s career as an aviator include an artful “airfoil” he designed to conceal a structural column and a Pulsar linear task light 6 suspended with aircraft cable above the kitchen island. A relaxed, casual lifestyle becomes reality with durable, sublimely clean-lined furnishings: Charles McMurray sofas 7,  Jack Lenor Larsen tone-on-tone graphic area rug and Breuton coffee table.