How wonderful it is when a designer truly understands the needs of a client. Ellen Kurtz of Ellen Kurtz Interiors did just that for a Ladue couple whose three dogs figured prominently in their plans for a full-home renovation.

The husband, who works in the financial industry, purchased the home in 1986. When he met and married his wife in 1997, he had already completed a 'remake' of the house. But the lady of the house had other things in mind. “I spent 10 years thinking about this house, and what I didn’t like and wanted to change," she explains cheerfully. "We found Ellen, and she understood our needs and transformed them.” The end result is now a beautiful and more functional home.

The designer turned the home into the couple's retreat within a city. Using a color palette of grey, taupe, cream and slate, the home now flows from room to room in a peaceful and organic way. “The owners wanted finishes used that wouldn’t show the dog hair, so I selected the flooring first based on the colors of their coats and went up from there," Kurtz explains. "The color palette we used is far more popular today than it was when we did this project." Finding those finishes and fabrics was much more difficult then, she adds.

“First we had to address and undo some of the mistakes the previous contractor had made. When footings were poured for a previous renovation, it created a step up when the floors should have been level with existing floors,” Kurtz notes. She achieved this by “gently ramping” one entry into the laundry/desk area, and building a wall in another area to completely remove the problem.

Using Tom Krug as her contractor, Kurtz was able to incorporate many creative design elements. One example is a stained-glass window in the new wall of the dining room that is backlit with natural light from the laundry to create an interesting focal point and update the feel of the space.

Removing other walls was a key element of this now 'open' floor plan. Prior to the redesign, the kitchen was a 'room;' it now opens freely to the dining room (used for both formal and casual meals), as well as into the family room. The kitchen once housed an island, which has been eliminated since the space was really too small to accommodate it. A fully tiled, front-curved, double-height bar/counter now can be used for multiple purposes like seating, food-prep or serving.

The team at Marc Christian Fine Cabinetry followed Kurtz’s designs to the letter: The bar stools' curved backs mimic the shape of the peninsula, as well as the arched window over the sink that frames another lovely view of the gardens.

The hall bath, which was not part of the original plan to redo, became part of the scope of work and received a beautiful remodel. Kurtz, a master of design with tile work, created a runway of sorts that leads the visitor's eye to a glass-block window framed by two Art Deco glass-block wing walls that define the walk-in shower and water closet.

The master bedroom probably needed the least construction, but it, too, got the royal treatment with the addition of interesting cove lighting and a pair of knockout pendants for the bedside. The space complements the completely renovated master bath, where a floating tub now anchors the spot in the bay window that an outdated garden tub once filled. The walk-in shower doubled in size, and an enclosed water closet was created. An interesting and practical addition was the 'cosmetic garage' that is hides or exposes the makeup and lighted cosmetic mirror via a 'floating door.' The use of tile in a waterfall pattern again adds texture and interest in a subtle way. The view from the bay window is of the pool and gardens, so the homeowners' early morning routine is enhanced by the nature of their landscape.

Because the home is L-shaped, many of the rooms face out onto the pool and garden area, which also received an update. The pool area had to be updated as well. The typical brick-post and iron-fence structure that surrounded the pool was removed, and a fence placed around the perimeter of the grounds enabled the garden designer to be more creative with color and texture.

The last part of the renovation involved adding another garage so that the structure could serve as part of an outdoor room for entertaining, complete with a big-screen television. “My husband loves to lay in the pool and watch TV,” chides the lady of the house.

This 1950s ranch house has stepped into the 21st century--and more important, every one of its occupants feels right at home.

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