common / Luxe Living

Art and Architecture

Norman Gitzen brings an artist’s sensibility to structural details

A 100-pound gate made from hand-forged steel serves as the Gothic-arched entryway to a bedroom closet-turned-wine cellar. It looks like a dreamcatcher — the Native American textile festooned with feathers that dangle from a woven net.

Striking strap hinges swing open the gate to a sublimely lit space with a five-sided fixture of heart-shaped, amber glass that casts a warm glow on newly installed wood shelving units that can hold up to 40 cases.

“They wanted it done because they entertain a lot, and they love their wine,” said Norman Gitzen, a local artist hired by the owners of the Wellington home to complete the project.

Mr. Gitzen, famously known as the creator of a big-breasted bronze known as “The Siren,” and sought after for his collection of heart-shaped sculptures and line of leather-strung jewelry, is more than a local artist.

“People know me as the guy who did the boob statue, but they don’t know that I could build a house for someone,” he said.

The 58-year-old Lake Worth resident is a carpenter by trade.

“My father was a carpenter, so I grew up around tools,” Mr. Gitzen said of his Liverpool, N.Y., upbringing. “I was always making things, so I just went right into construction.”

He worked on both commercial real estate and private homes in the upstate area and did the same when he moved to South Florida in 1980. In 1990, bought an acre of land between State Road 7 and Florida’s Turnpike, south of Forest Hill Boulevard, and started to build his own home.

“All I knew is I wanted a turret,” Mr. Gitzen said.

The foyer of the turret serves as his gallery, and the circular staircase leads to the three-bedroom, two-bath living area that encompasses 1,800 square feet.

“Old World, mission-style, Mediterranean, Spanish — those were my influences,” Mr. Gitzen said. “Barrel tile, stucco — it definitely has [Addison] Mizner appeal.”

The front door is a hulking piece of pine that measures four-by-eight feet and has a large, lion-head knocker hanging from it.

“I think a front entryway should be overstated,” Mr. Gitzen said. “It should be a major focal point of the house because it’s the first impression people get when they come to visit.”

The entire home, coined Casa Capricorn, resembles a medieval castle with a modern twist.

“I don’t care what anyone says, bigger is better,” Mr. Gitzen said. “I like oversized things because they are more impressive.”

Among his signature architectural works are carved corbels that represent the signs of the zodiac. A pair of goat-like creatures with the tails of a fish — the astrological animal associated with Capricorn — decorates the trim above the front door. The intricate ornamentations also appear throughout the interior of his home, as well as the homes of his clients. One such client with a West Palm Beach home asked him to accentuate the façade of her fireplace. He fastened the king of the jungle on either side.


Norman Gitzen stands with “The Siren,” which has become a signature piece for him as an artist. 
MONICA KALLAS/SHARPSHOOTER MARKETING GROUP Norman Gitzen stands with “The Siren,” which has become a signature piece for him as an artist. MONICA KALLAS/SHARPSHOOTER MARKETING GROUP “I like to make everything personal,” Mr. Gitzen said. “She was a Leo.”

Another job, this one for a swimming pool company, involved making a set of small fountains that looked like elephants shooting water from their upturned trunks.

“I like to do the custom things that are hard to find,” Mr. Gitzen said. “I make them from scratch, as per their needs.”

He designed and built the library at the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, and when it expanded, he designed and built the cabinetry.

“Not my favorite,” Mr. Gitzen, a staunch environmentalist, said of building the cabinetry, which requires various paints and stains that are “bad for the planet.”

His clients consist of both homeowners and designers who admire his style: earthy, with an edge.

“My stuff is definitely earthy,” Mr. Gitzen said. “I love colorful stone. And nature is my biggest muse.”

His goal is to target contractors and decorators who need a finishing carpenter “to do the artsy stuff that’s not quite carpentry.”

“I like to do one-of-a-kind,” Mr. Gitzen said. “To me, that one-of-a-kind means stone and steel and bronze and crystals. Mix it up a little bit.” ¦

— Norman Gitzen, 561- 310- 3738 or www.normangitzen.com.

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