This Old House
Creating their homes in unconventional spaces (think firehouse, grocery store, gas station), these six St. Louisans challenged tradition and made their living spaces uniquely their own.
Dale & Jill Peluso
For this Central West End couple, “home” was found in a decades-old neighborhood grocery store.
For a long time, the Peluso’s home used to be the neighborhood grocery store, and tucked inconspicuously as it is at the end of a row of stately multi-floor houses, the one-story building still looks suspiciously like a poorly advertised retail establishment. For Dale Peluso, it’s provided an opportunity to live in a great neighborhood on his terms.
Having had enough of the suburbs from childhood, Dale knew he was destined for an urban space. He had developed an affinity for the Central West End from his time as a student atWashington University, but he didn’t have the money for one of the historic manses in the area, and he didn’t want a condo. The old store, which had also served as studio space for an architect and a photographer before Dale found it, allowed him
to do his own thing.
“I saw it as a blank canvas,” he says. The wide-open retail floor plan proved to also be ideal for a loft-like living space. But since it was intended as a place of business, it didn’t exactly have all of the accoutrements needed for a residence, so Dale embarked on a gut rehab down to the bricks. The project was done on his schedule, and he did as much of the work himself as he could with the help of an architect and contractor. Now, some 10 years later, he considers it “about 90 percent done.”
Jason Dakis & Kirsten O’Loughlin
This St. Louis couple took on the ultimate “work in progress” and eventually made a former police stable in Carondelet their ideal home.
Kirsten O’Loughlin and Jason Dakis had their hands full when they became the proud owners of the remnants of what was the fi rst police station in St. Louis, circa 1875. The previous owner had torn down the original station building and used a lot of the leftover materials to build out the former stable on the property into a decent living space, but it sat vacant and neglected for years before the couple took the reins in 2005. Though Jason knows his way around construction, the two had no real rehab experience when they moved in, and the place needed everything from heating and cooling to electrical
and plumbing. So they rolled up their sleeves, doing as much of the work as they could, including most of the demo.
Today, the spacious bottom floor is divided between Kirsten’s letterpress studio and Jason’s woodworking shop. “To have that much studio space to do my own thing is really liberating,” Kirsten says. The upper floor is a loft-like living space, which opens out onto a deck that overlooks where the old station once stood, now a yard that’s a perfect venue for the occasional neighborhood bonfire. “It’s never really done, it’s a constant project,” Kirsten says of the space. “We don’t really go on vacation, we just work on the house.” Unlike some folks who get tired of projects and move on, Kirsten and Jason are in their house for the long haul. According to Kirsten, this is partly due to their affinity for the space and also because “basically, we have too much stuff to move.”
A former fiehouse provided a unique loft-like space for this Midtown resident.
“I’ve always been into unusual spaces,” says Jason Evans. “I like the idea of living in
spaces that transform once you go inside.” His Midtown home certainly fis that bill.
The building dates back to the 1890s and began as a location of Underwriters Salvage
Corps of the City of St. Louis, sort of a private firefighting service. The facade still
bears the name of the old company, and the original barn-type doors give a hint of its
former function. But once they swing open, the evolution the space has gone through
The building was largely renovated and made livable before Jason moved in, and he’s been gradually tweaking it over the seven years he’s been there. He uses the open main floor, where the fire engines used to be parked, primarily as a painting studio and a guest room, subdividing the space with curtains. It’s so spacious, in fact, that Evans has used it to host charity functions. A drain in the middle of the concrete floor allows the area to be conveniently hosed down before company comes.
The second floor has a living room at one end, which features the original walls, left
untouched and gracefully decaying. On the other end is the master bedroom, complete with a modern concrete bathroom. In the middle is a huge open kitchen, and tucked in and around it all are vestiges of the building’s history: vintage copper fire extinguishers, a faded helmet, battered equipment lockers, and of course, a functional fire pole.
A former Benton Park gas station was the perfect fit for this homeowner—and the
ultimate place to store his “stuff.”
Tim Tucker’s home was built at the turn of the century and did time as a buggy shop and later as a series of garages and filling stations before he bought it seven years ago. Originally, he wasn’t looking for a project, just a place to hang his hat. “But I looked at about 100 houses, and they just weren’t ‘me,'” Tim says. What he wanted was a lof-ttype space that was close to the ground. The old station was a perfect fit, but it turned out to be quite a project. The space needed everything from plumbing to electric, plus tons of cleanup from years of exhaust soot and mechanical grime, and it took about a year and a half before it was livable. Luckily, Tucker wasn’t interested in a pristine space.
“You can try to make things ‘perfect,'” Tim says. “Or work with the palette you have.” He’s taken pains to maintain imperfect hints of the building’s history, like keeping the exposed brick, wood joists and concrete floors, complete with the hole where the hydraulic lift once was. Tim describes his home as “a big brick tent,” with 16-foot ceilings and 12-foot doorways. It’s proved the ideal place for his ever-growing collection of stuff, from old bicycles to vintage stained-glass windows to government surplus water barrels. The self-professed collector says he may look to minimize in the near future, maybe get out of the garage and into one of the cozy Victorian bungalows that dot the neighborhood. But then, where would the seven-foot-tall gargoyle sculpture go?
Dale & Jill Peluso
Jason Dakis & Kirsten OÀ_Loughlin
Dale & Jill Peluso’s home
Jason Dakis & Kirsten OÀ_Loughlin
The main floor provides a spacious studio area for KirstenÀ_s le tterpress endeavors.
There are still a few vestiges of Jason Evans’ homeÀ_s former use, like the marquee and the fire pole.
Jason Evans’ spacious kitchen neatly divides the second floor.
The sleek, modern bathroom inside Jason Evans’ home.
Tim Tucker’s Benton Park digs.
Old industrial spaces make for roomy closets in Tim Tucker’s home.
Photo credit: Photography by Jennifer Silverberg