We are so fortunate in St. Louis to have such diverse and remarkable architecture. Present architectural talents have added their mark to our landscape, but for this feature, I want to go back in time when our fair city was experiencing growth that rivaled other great cities across the nation: The late 1800’s reflected a time when our country was being built by the ingenuity and hard work of American men and women who embraced the industrial age. Part of what that success brought to the captains of industry and finance was a luxurious European lifestyle that had not been enjoyed at this level on our shores prior to that time.
Grand homes were being constructed initially downtown, then moving west to the Central West End. One of those homes was built by Cordelia and Edward C. Sterling. Mr. Sterling owned a brick manufacturing plant and had fared very well. In 1889, the Sterlings hired Eames and Young to design a half-timber and brick mansion in the tony community. Today, the home has been lovingly restored by a young family who appreciates the talents of artisans of the past.
Entering the foyer is—by all accounts—an event. The visitor is surrounded by a panoramic scene by Zuber & Cie, El Dorado. First manufactured in 1849, the wallcovering shows four of the major continents: Europe, Asia, Africa and America. It depicts a mythical place of great wealth inspired by the 16th century explorers. This magnificent panorama was designed by Eugene Ehrmann, Georges Zipelius and Joseph Fuchs, and it took them two years to complete from conception through production. Zuber & Cie is the finest manufacture de papier peints et tissus (painted wallpaper and fabrics) in the world. Founded in 1797, the product is still manufactured in Rixheim, France. You may remember that Jacqueline Kennedy put Zuber in the formal diplomatic reception room of the White House.
The paper was in disrepair when the home was purchased, but it has been professionally restored. The owners uncovered and restored the original hardwood in the foyer, as well—it had been hidden under linoleum. As a result they have achieved a cohesive look on the main level flooring in the public spaces.
The dining room has been brought to Gilded Age splendor with hand-painted panels (created and executed by the lady of the house), opulent window dressings and an inviting, skirted dining table. The previous owners opted for a more informal look with sunny yellow walls, a brass Colonial chandelier, pine tavern table and spindle back chairs.
Where once white walls reigned, the library now has a soft golden yellow strie creating the perfect backdrop for the floral drapes and red-lined bookshelves. The piece de resistance in the room is an antique Bavarian clock that reflects the owners’ heritage.
The former coral den is now a gentleman’s dream! Faux-skin wallcovering surrounded by picture molding makes a classic statement. Taxidermy, leather, plaids, animal prints and paintings cohabitate nicely in this room and give the air of travel and abundant interests.
To lovingly care for one of these architectural treasures is a huge responsibility and no easy feat to undertake. I am pleased to report that this young family has taken it to heart and have saved a St. Louis gem!