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  • August 22, 2014

In Fine Style: William Bernoudy - Ladue News: Design

In Fine Style: William Bernoudy

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2012 1:35 pm | Updated: 2:21 pm, Thu Aug 30, 2012.

St. Louis is all abuzz about the upcoming Ladue News Show House this fall—as well they should be, for this is the first Mid-Century Modern home to be featured as a show house locally! The home was designed by William Adair Bernoudy (1910-1988) for Mr. and Mrs. John J. Horan and their seven children. Perfectly positioned on 18 acres in Town & Country, there is much to explore inside and outside of this signifi cant architectural property.

First, a little information on what is known as the Mid-Century Modern movement: The term relates to interior, graphic, product, urban and architectural design between the years of 1933 and 1965. Keep in mind that we have just maneuvered our way through the heavy Victorian period, followed by the ‘less cluttered’ but still ‘full’ Edwardian period where ‘more is more’ was the standard rule of all design. Also, with one World War recently concluded and one ongoing, designers and architects of this time viewed building materials differently— partly due to the scarcity of previously abundant resources, which required more ingenuity on their part. There are many names that you would recognize from this period: Alvar Aalto, Harry Bertoia, Marcel Breuer, Charles and Ray Eames, Paul T. Frankl, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, Isamu Noguchi, Eero Saarinen and, of course, Frank Lloyd Wright. That brings us to William Bernoudy.

Bernoudy was a St. Louis son who, on his first attempt at higher education at Washington University, dropped out. Preferring to be outdoors, he spent a great deal of time on float trips and working odd jobs. A friend showed him a copy of Time magazine that had just featured an article on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship at Spring Green, Wisc. Bernoudy, who developed an interest in architecture as a youngster, spent $2,000 of a recent inheritance to enroll. Not only was there instruction from the Mr. Wright, there were famous guests like Gertrude Stein who visited and shared their worldly views with the 30 eager students. It was during this time that Bernoudy worked on Fallingwater, the famous Pennsylvania house that would reignite Wright’s career.

After Bernoudy’s Taliesin years and a stint in the service, he formed a St. Louis architectural firm with his business partner, Edouard Jules Mutrux, a partnership that lasted through 1966. Bernoudy introduced to his hometown a style of architecture that this ‘center hall, two-story’ traditional community had never experienced before.

To truly appreciate Bernoudy’s homes, you have to engage in the entire design both inside and out. The landscaping was as integral to the design as the brick and mortar. There usually is not a typical front entry, rather a continuous design around the home that makes the visitor aware of the importance of the elements of the building materials and how they integrate the exterior of the home with the adjoining landscape, as well as the surrounding property.

After his partnership with Mutrux dissolved, Bernoudy did fewer commissions, but they were no less important than his heyday in the 1950s. Like all great architects, he took his cues from the classic components that the Greeks introduced and adapted them to a new style that could stand on its own. His work is so widely respected that he was honored with the William A. Bernoudy Residency in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome.

The architect died on Aug. 2, 1988, at the age of 77. His wife, Gertrude, whom he married in 1955, passed away in 1994 at age 79.

The Ladue News Show House opens Oct. 5 and runs through Oct. 21. Visit laduenews.com for more information.

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