A St. Louis transplant transforms a historic Lafayette Square residence into a sophisticated take on the new bachelor pad.
ROB JAMES’ HISTORIC Lafayette Square home is not your typical bachelor pad. After moving from Indiana to St. Louis for his job, he purchased the charming three-story townhome, and quickly realized (unlike the typical bachelor) that he would not only need to fill the space, but properly design it. So he recruited the help of St. Louis-based interior designer Jessie Miller to help him give the space the splash of personality he wanted with just the right amount of sophistication to make the house a home.
“With it being an old home and having a lot of exposed brick, I wanted to make sure it was leveraged in a design that reflected the history but was also practical,” Rob explains.
Fortunately for Jessie, it was exactly the type of project she loves—and one that doesn’t come around all that often. Not only was it a stunning historic space, but Rob was ready and willing to start completely from scratch. “The building has so much character of its own,” she says. “It’s completely charming, and there was a lot of that to work with from the very beginning.”
Candid Concepts At first, Rob really wanted a thoroghly modern look, but after some convincing on Jessie’s end, they decided the best use of the space was to combine modern pieces into a theme more suited for the late 19th-century home.
“He was initially sending me some photos of places that had ultra-modern design with really modern furniture,” Jessie recalls. “These weren’t quite as compatible with his home, so I guided him a bit more to an industrial feel. It was more vintage and clean, which was good since this was a rugged place to begin with.”
Jessie acknowledged that designing within an older floor plan would be a bit of a challenge, and knew it would be important to work with the space rather than against it. “It is sort of a shotgun floor plan,” the designer explains. “There wasn’t a ton of natural light in the space, and the verticality of everything, with extremely tall and narrow doors and steep stairs, makes things difficult to move in. But I think our plan really worked well.”
Vintage Vibe When approaching the residence, guests are greeted with the familiar Lafayette Square charm. Outside, in back, there’s a porch complete with a two-story carriage house that Rob uses for a workout space, and storage.
Once inside the home, the laidback vintage vibe is evident. The dining room features a rugged wooden table, a colorful geometrically patterened rug and a one-of-a-kind chandelier made from piping. The artwork gives the space immediate personality, thanks to a framed poster of the neighborhoods of Rob’s previous hometown, Indianapolis, and a metal steer head perched on the wall.
“I never thought I would be one to have something like taxidermy on my walls, but now I couldn’t imagine my dining room without the aluminum steer head,” Rob says.
Family and personal treasures are also incorporated into the design, including a guitar from his grandfather that sits on prominent display. Perfectly balanced spotlights put attention on this important keepsake, and the lighting throughout is carefully and strategically placed.
“We wanted to keep the space appropriate to the theme of the home but also make it a bit more manly and industrial,” Jessie explains. “I think the chandelier, the bar’s lighting and the spotlights on the guitar all do that very well.”
Smart Spaces Some of the most striking pieces exist in the undivided kitchen and living room area. One of the greatest challenges was making use of the exposed brick walls while tying them into the rest of the home’s design.
Rande Hackmann of Architectural Elements helped Rob and Jessie come up with a unique design for open shelving that would still show off the historic brick, but also display other standout items. Crafted from recycled and resalvaged materials, as well as reclaimed wood from an old barn, the shelves are rugged, yet chic, adding a new dimension to the space.
On the living room’s floor, a stylish gray-and-white herring bone-esque rug gives the feel of contemporary design without being outlandish, and two sizable leather chairs offer both a comfy and high-style way to relax. A close look at the nearby floor lamp reveals a telescope-inspired base, continuing the masculine, industrial theme.
The collection of family mementos and rare pieces placed on shelves and tables tells the story of Rob’s values and interests. A framed US flag from a relative’s days serving in the military sits beside old matchbook collections, a miniature chest and more. “We achieved [what I wanted] with the industrial feel while still incorporating personal aspects and not being over the top,” Rob says.
Jessie credits the success of the project to her overall design mantra of avoiding merely designing a display home with no connection to the people who live there. “I always want my projects to tell a story about the people who are actually living in the space,” she says.
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg