Offbeat Abodes

Meet the creative minds behind some of the most eccentric homes in St. Louis. Lets just say they give the term “unconventional living” a whole new meaning.

 

 

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Going to the Chapel

A turn-of-the-century Maplewood church doubles as a lofty artist’s retreat for a Washington University professor.

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Several years later, Patricia has settled into the home with the ease of a natural inhabitant. With the exception of one large, angled L-shaped wall that sections off the bedroom, the entire home is open, flowing seamlessly from one area to the next. A large modern kitchen on a plane two steps higher than the main floor has replaced the area where an altar once stood. The kitchen is one of Patricia’s favorite spots‰ÛÓspecifically underneath the artichoke-shaped light fixture she describes as a “giant levitating beehive,” which took three men and four hours to install.

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The main ceremonial area of the home, originally built in 1890, was perfect for an open floor plan that would highlight the structural details that Patricia was determined to keep intact. To preserve the integrity of the beautiful 25-foot-high ceiling and its antique ceiling lamps, another roof had to be built above it. As Robert, who designed the renovations, oversaw the structural engineers and construction, Patricia worked alongside St. Louis-area craftsmen on the home’s interior features. From replacing the red and gold stained-glass window panes (now vibrant and multicolored) to working with Bosnian tile setters on the meticulously crafted kitchen floor, no detail was spared.

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Several years later, Patricia has settled into the home with the ease of a natural inhabitant. With the exception of one large, angled L-shaped wall that sections off the bedroom, the entire home is open, flowing seamlessly from one area to the next. A large modern kitchen on a plane two steps higher than the main floor has replaced the area where an altar once stood. The kitchen is one of Patricia’s favorite spots‰ÛÓspecifically underneath the artichoke-shaped light fixture she describes as a “giant levitating beehive,” which took three men and four hours to install.

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In the second building, a shared studio takes over the assembly hall where the former parish’s social gatherings were once held. The space echoes the open floor plan of the main building and is filled with several of Patricia’s most recent works, including the impressive multimedia project “Dark Skies” and various prints that showcase her post-humanism philosophy.

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The area that was previously used as a stage is now closed off, forming a smaller, second studio space that houses several works by Robert, whose primary studio space is now in NYC. His wood, metal and digitally fabricated sculptures have been featured in numerous museums and galleries, including Pablo’s Birthday Gallery at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Trois Gallery at the Savannah College of Art and Design and Terrains Exhibition Space in Chicago.

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Even though Patricia and Robert have made great strides in transforming the property, their work isn’t finished. The third building‰ÛÓwhich was completely gutted due to miscommunication with a handyman (now recounted with humor)‰ÛÓstill needs a lot of work. Eventually, though, they have plans to create an art center and residency program there in the future. “The residue of happiness that once resided here has never left,” says Patricia. “And the glass and light in the main building are unbelievable‰ÛÓlike fiery jewels. When I don’t get home in time to see the sunset, I’m really sad.”

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Deco Fortress

A swingin’ ode to Deco decor is alive and well at the pharmacy-turned-home of this vintage-loving couple.

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Up the large open stairwell, the Deco dream continues with an opulent Egyptian-inspired elevator door scavenged by Sarah Jane from the rubble of the Hadley Dean Glass Company building, one of St. Louis’ forgotten landmarks.

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The lobby mural was nearly destroyed when they spotted the prize, quickly noting that it was “one of the few one-of-akind pieces that made it out.”

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Sarah Jane’s face lights up as she shares her favorite piece in the home‰ÛÓa beautiful Art Deco Romweber four-piece bedroom set that she’s had for almost two decades.

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“This home was made for this,” she says. The ensemble, described as “Hollywood Deco,” channels a starlet’s bedroom in the early 1930s: Its lines and curves are eloquently crafted with curly maple and Makassar ebony and adorned with “apple juice” Bakelite knobs.

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So what’s Sam’s take on all of his wife’s Deco decadence? “I prefer the opulence of the early 1900s,” he says with a smile. “But who can compete with such an extravagant collection?”

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Cave Dwellers

A local designer and his beau transform a riverside den into a seriously stylish sanctuary and workspace.

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Fashion designer Michael Drummond rarely does anything the ordinary way, so when he and his partner, Clinique account executive Nathan Truesdell, decided to move into an old factory building near the river, friends weren’t surprised. The space has been described as “raw” and even “apocalyptic,” and one gets the immediate impression of being completely off the grid, even though the location is only minutes from Downtown.

The 4,000-square-foot dwelling, known affectionately as “The Cave,” is as remarkable as it sounds. A retreat of epic proportions, the dwelling is an industrial warehouse complete with 18-foot ceilings and two out of four walls built directly into the bluff. The great room‰ÛÓthe size of two New York apartments, says Nathan‰ÛÓis completely multi-functional and a perfect mix of his and Michael’s tastes. The combined living room, media room, office and formal dining room is equipped with a movie projector displaying everything from Bj̦rk videos to horror movies onto the room’s large white wall. Masculine leather rugs, a mid-century sectional in a vibrant floral print, antique chandeliers and a clear dining room table with retro Artopex chairs reupholstered in Missoni fabric top off the massive space.

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A step into the kitchen seals the deal that this is no ordinary home. Stainless steel tables form a makeshift countertop. Modern amenities like a stove, dishwasher and cabinets are nowhere to be found. They’re replaced instead with a deep basin sink, a thrifted induction burner and a convection oven. There’s also a large antique wardrobe‰ÛÓ”the portal to Narnia,” says Michael‰ÛÓwhich serves as both a pantry and china cabinet. Even the open lofted bathroom is one-of-a-kind, featuring an antique Victorian sectional, a large glass chandelier and a tub that’s sunk into the dark wooden floorboards.

But perhaps the most inspiring area of the home is Michael’s studio. The cliff-side walls, vintage knitting machines and decor consisting of various odds and ends‰ÛÓfrom succulents and cacti to terrariums and trinkets‰ÛÓmake it the perfect bohemian workspace. “It was a bit of a challenge to work with at first because I had to tackle the fact that the cliff wall is literally invading the space,” Michael explains. “But now it’s beautiful and incredibly inspiring. I feel like there are thousands of years of life energy that I get to interact with on a daily basis.”

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Outside the cave home is an entirely different world‰ÛÓa stockyard of odds and ends from the various artists and businesses that have resided in the tucked-away compound. Cargo trains pass by regularly. A freshwater spring bubbles out of the side of the bluff. The couple’s collections of ferns are dispersed throughout, balanced on landscaping blocks and tree trunks like weeds poking through a concrete sidewalk. Even their pet chickens are perfectly chic, tucked away in a chicken coop “suite” complete with a makeshift shelter‰ÛÓthe top of an old metal rocket ship that was salvaged from the property.

Although the genuine rawness of their chosen home has its challenges, the busy duo are very much the cave’s caretakers, carefully working with the space to enhance its natural quality and allowing it to remain a very literal living workspace. Michael takes time mid-photo shoot to feed his beloved chickens. “They need some real food,” he says, and immediately cuts up oranges for his feathered friends‰ÛÓusing an ever-so-stylish vintage knife, of course.

 

Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg

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