Happily settled in a beautiful home she and her husband had just built on a lake in Minnesota, this unsuspecting homeowner had no inkling of what was ahead when her husband announced he had accepted a two-year contract that would require a move to St. Louis. “I told David that was fine, I could take my business down there for a few years,” she explains. “And my contribution to our adventure would be finding a house that needed a little fixing up. The operative words, of course, turned out to be a little!” After scouring the city (“I almost wore out the real estate agent.”), she kept returning to Lafayette Square. “I was so drawn to this area, to this house. First of all, you don’t see fireplaces and newel posts like this in Minnesota. And a carriage house? Are you kidding me?” The couple made an offer on the home, and after some back and forth, the elegant but neglected 1878 town home was theirs.

That was 10 years ago. Now, only black-and-white snapshots offer any hint of the rough- edged treasure that’s been polished into a gem. Carefully restored architectural details complement family antiques in the parlor and formal dining room, gently whispered reminders of the home’s historic pedigree. And a new kitchen, resplendent in cherry and granite, is prepared to impress the most demanding of chefs. “I love to cook!” the homeowner exclaims. “But do I? Well, no, because I’ve been the general contractor here for 10 years!”

The couple combined three smaller rooms to create their new kitchen. Connecting the dining room to the library at the back of the home, the kitchen optimizes every square inch of space beautifully. “We are very happy with how it all turned out! We’ve learned how to utilize high spaces, like having the TV above the ‘fridge,” she says. The almost-room-length island includes a pull-out baker’s work station that doubles as a serving cart. And throughout, 19th century ambiance harmonizes perfectly with 21st century function: a covered radiator—original to the home—doubles as a warming tray, and behind a floor-to-ceiling door, a narrow cedar closet is outfitted with electrical outlets for rechargeable devices. On each cabinet, a fleur-de-lis pull reflects the neighborhood history.

Illuminating the new space with artistic flair, a contemporary light fixture in bottle-glass green and stainless is the room’s most-noticed feature. “It’s funny,” says the homeowner. “You spend thousands of dollars on a new kitchen, and when visitors come through on house tour, they look up and say Oh wow! And you know where it came from? David’s daughter rescued it from an alley, after a restaurant had thrown it out.”

Traditional in style, with a tin ceiling, custom bookshelves and a rolling ladder reminiscent of Henry Higgins, the library avoids Victorian gloom with abundant natural light, broad-leaf plants and a tropical-look ceiling fan.

The ladder rack was a first-ever welding project for the homeowner’s husband. “David taught himself how to weld, because the bids were astronomical. He did all of the carpentry, and. I was supposed to help with the staining,” she laughs. “But he did that, too.” Just outside the French doors, a croquet court beckons in warm weather.

Now that two years has stretched into ten, the couple is still delighted to have discovered Lafayette Square. “We have never been part of such a wonderful community. It’s like a big family!”