Built 118 years ago, the rich history of the “city mansion” served as an inspiration and a foundation for modernizing and redesigning this home in St. Louis’ Central West End Historic District.
Finding that balance between old and new was the focus for the project’s interior designer, Brett Clark, and its project manager, Ellen Lancia, both of Savvy Design Group.
“The true aesthetic of the house is a melding of the timeless and the current to create a welcoming and elegant interior,” Clark says. “The new homeowners sought to strike a balance between preserving the home’s original craftsmanship and re-imagining an interior that felt current and functional.”
A perfect example of this successfully executed is in the kitchen. Much of the structure of the historic 1903 home was unchanged to preserve the integrity of the building. However, the kitchen required a structural modification to relocate the back staircase to make more space and increase functionality, as well as to enhance the connection between the kitchen and adjacent family room in a more-open layout.
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The final design strikes a balance between traditional, industrial and contemporary elements. The dark double range and overhead hood dominate the center of the space and feature a strong contrast between mixed metal finishes that effortlessly balance with bright white wood cabinets designed in collaboration with Christine Paul of Ladue’s Alspaugh Kitchen & Bath. Another unique cabinet choice was the column of warm wooden walnut-and-glass cabinets and drawers that prominently rest on the kitchen countertop on two solid wooden legs, inspired by original cabinetry found in the butler’s pantry and rediscovered in blueprints of the property.
The rejuvenation of the dark and dated grand foyer and dining room was another standout success in the Savvy team’s vision.
“The stained deep-brown wood paneling, although a beautiful original detail, was showing its age,” Clark says. “Our decision to paint the millwork in both spaces truly transformed the first floor. The light wall color that we selected for the millwork in the space brightened the rooms, made the areas feel more expansive and brought even more attention to the ornate and handcrafted details of the woodwork.”
The Savvy team also brought attention to and drew design inspiration from the city mansion’s rich past. For example, the original owner was an aviation enthusiast with a passion for hot air balloons. Clark and company paid this homage in the wallcovering selected for the first-floor powder room, which features a pattern of brightly colored and whimsical hot air balloons situated between the original, structured, Carrera marble sink basin and stained-glass window.
However, sometimes a beautiful structure and historic architecture are not enough – it takes a keen design eye to draw out the full potential, as the team did with the solarium.
“We decided to reinforce the solarium’s connection with the outdoor gardens in the backyard,” Clark says. “We commissioned a local artist, Susan Greene with Paint Imagery, to envelop the space with a one-of-a-kind mural that brought breathtaking botanicals into the space. Her paint technique leaves you feeling as if this detail were original to this century-old space.”
The biggest challenge with any historically significant home is finding harmony between holding onto original details and providing clients with updated spaces to fit their modern lifestyle, and Clark’s greatest takeaway was being able to restore and re-imagine the city mansion more than a century after it was built.
“The new owners have become the new caretakers of this piece of architecturally significant history in the city of St. Louis,” Clark says. “The homeowners were thrilled that we were able to both highlight the original craftsmanship while also making this expansive home feel inviting, welcoming and up-to-date, and we were honored to put our stamp on a property that will likely be admired a century later.”
Savvy Design Group, 9810 Clayton Road, St. Louis, 314-432-7289, savvyladue.com