An absolute gem

living room

Large windows in the living room offer sweeping views of an oxbow along the course of the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. ROB DOWNEY PHOTOS

Hidden custom-designed home features fantastic river views


Tucked away on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River is a Mediterranean-style home that stands out among the other 20 homes in Hidden River Estates.

It is the only home on Hidden River Drive where you enter through a gate into the courtyard, passing the pool before going up steps for a grand entrance and down steps into the living room which has panoramic river views.

Robert and Barrie Haarer built the home in 1997 on the Port St. Lucie lot with plans drawn up from Barrie’s memory of a home she had seen in Miami. Four days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., she supervised the construction process for nine months while her husband worked in law enforcement.

“It wasn’t because I didn’t trust him (contractor), but if something is wrong you have to catch it early,” Barrie said. “We built this house to last a lifetime.”

The attention to detail and design can be seen throughout the home. Barrie is an artist who has worked the Florida art show circuit on weekends, selling her watercolor paintings. For each room in the house, she chose a different pastel color with a slightly darker hue than the usual tone. Every window in the main house and the guest house has a marble sill, which combines perfectly with the different colored walls in each room and the white tile and trim.


Glass windows separate the cherry cabinets, which have plenty of room above and below to display china and glassware.

When the company finally got the stain finish she was looking for, the couple spent $40,000 for custom cherry cabinets in the chef’s kitchen. For large meals, the two convection ovens and a microwave complement the Dacor range, which has five burners and a push-button range hood. It stays hidden unless the oven is in use and then the exhaust is vented outside through duct work under the floor.

Changing panels can give the Sub Zero refrigerator/freezer and the kitchen a new look. It was installed to be repaired in place if necessary. Five drawers pull out from the nearby pantry. Designed by Barrie, the upper and lower cherry cabinets all have recessed lighting making them suitable for displaying anything from china to collectibles.

The home is handicapped accessible including the guest suite, which was designed with a kitchen for privacy from the main house. All doors and hallways are wheelchair-friendly. For better traction on foot or by wheelchair, the 18-by-18-inch lightly textured white tiles were installed diagonally in every room except in the art studio which has a hardwood floor.

Many of the design features Barrie added aren’t obvious until they are pointed out. Instead of traipsing wet from the pool through the living room to use the bathroom, there is a set of French doors leading to the powder room. There are 10 traditional French doors and four pocket doors in the main house. A raised fireplace has a hearth designed for sitting.


Haarer also designed the staggered shelves above the entertainment center and the raised fireplace hearth, which can be used for seating.

Several French arches with rounded portholes above form the beautiful view down the hallway from the family room past the dining room to the living room and out to the river. Besides their beauty as a design element, the portholes help the air conditioner’s flow through the house, she said.

Except for channel markers, the river behind the house looks the same as it did a 100 years ago. With ocean access, the dock is barely noticeable against the backdrop of the river. On a recent April morning, easterly breezes were blowing through the house, which sits at the middle of a bend in the river.

The master bedroom, living room and a bedroom set up as an art studio have outstanding sunrise views of the river. A large screened veranda also offers the same wide water vistas.

From the street, the house appears to be a two-story structure. High ceilings with accenting white crown molding are everywhere with plant ledges in several rooms.

“A house of this magnitude would look silly without high ceilings,” Barrie said.

The home is 4,479 square feet under air conditioning with three bedrooms and a guest house. The three-car garage is an air-conditioned two-car garage with a workshop. River breezes are circulated by 11 Original Hunter ceiling fans in the main house and two in the guest house.

Just to the right of the pool, a couple of steps rise up to custom-built, 3-inch thick large Brazilian doors. Opening the doors reveals the river and a landing foyer with steps to the living room. Couches with low backs preserve the view through the living room, which includes a sunken wet bar. The landing, its steps, wet bar, art studio and guest house all have Brazilian cherry plank flooring.


The guest house bay window has storage space and seating room to enjoy the view of the pool courtyard.

Every window except the master bathroom is coated with Rhino Shield, a hurricane protection film. There have been no leaks from the four hurricanes that hit Port St. Lucie in the 20 years since the home was built. A couple of barrel tiles had to be replaced after one storm, a common occurrence after a hurricane.

Glass block walls serve as dividers in the master bath, including the creation of a shower without a door. His and hers vanities have medicine cabinets with mirrored doors that open out from the larger mirror. Barrie chose the soft lighting, which is ideal for a woman applying makeup.

After selecting the patterns and colors for window treatments, she decided to use paint to add some excitement to the dining room alcoves. Using tape and pearl paint with a textured finish, vertical stripes were added. The result is a finish that looks like wallpaper.


With all its Mediterranean grandeur, the front of this home in the Hidden River neighborhood of Port St. Lucie is actually the guest house and the garages.

Her creative ideas also can be found on the veranda floor, where narrow bricks installed perpendicular to the walls frame the square floor pavers, giving the illusion of a tapestry with tassels on all sides.

The Haarers have transformed the once overgrown lot into a Mediterranean paradise with incredible attention to detail. Now divorced, the couple has put the home on the market. Simon Boyce with the Keyes Co. has listed 717 Hidden River Drive for sale at $699,000.