THE DREAM TEAM
During his 22 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Stan “the Man” Musial made his mark on the team — and Major League Baseball — with a string of impressive stats: 3,630 hits, 725 doubles, 177 triples, 475 home runs, 1,949 runs and 1,951 runs batted in.
Here’s another one for you: for nearly five decades, Musial called the same spot home, a 1960s ranch house in Ladue that sits on a spacious three-acre lot, trimmed with pine trees and hidden from view.
The peaceful and private setting proved irresistible to the current homeowners, who quickly fell in love with the house. “You hear so many things about Stan Musial and what a great person he was, what a great family he had — it was almost like you could feel that in the house,” says one of the homeowners. “We could see loving this lot and house as much as [the Musials] did and never wanting to move. We decided to do everything we wanted to do to the house now so we could just enjoy it.”
Turning a half-century-old house into a forever home for a modern family with four kids required “a great team...and a lot of input from the homeowners,” according to Nancy Spewak of Property Enhancements, who, along with her partner, Susie Sheahan, led the interior design. Together with the architect, Paul Fendler of Fendler & Associates, Inc., and Scott Pozzo, the co-owner of Chouteau Building Group, LLC, they helped the family expand the kitchen by opening up the wings of the house, which were broken up into period-typical small spaces.
The dining room became a less formal family room, while a large brick patio was removed in favor of a covered outdoor room complete with a fireplace. Raising the slope of the roof, overlaying the brick with white stucco, and replacing the columns with wood beams helped transform the look of the house from Colonial to French Country and enhanced the property’s curb appeal.
But the central floor plan remained largely intact. “The bones of the house were really just wonderful,” says Fendler. “There’s a great front hallway and a beautiful front living room. And the ceiling heights were also great, a rarity in homes from this period.”
The construction was spread among three phases over two years, with the homeowners living on-site throughout the process. “There were a lot of moving pieces so that everyone stayed out of each other’s way,” recalls Pozzo. Chouteau Building Group set up a temporary kitchen for the family in the grand foyer for phase one — when the kitchen and common spaces were being redone. And for a time, they slept on bunk beds in the basement to accommodate the construction.
“We converted the house to geothermal heating and cooling,” says Pozzo. “That was a major component of the construction. There are still electric components in the house, but they’re highly efficient and the system doesn’t require any gas.”
The biggest challenge was updating the roof, which was raised during the final phase of the project. The exterior walls of the home were raised in height and the pitch of the roof was increased. Chouteau Building Co. took extra care to protect the work that had already been done. “It was a two-month process,” says Pozzo. “We kept guys on call all through it so if there was a weekend with an ugly storm someone was keeping an eye on it.”
Raising the roof led to an unexpected bonus. There was enough extra space to create an office for one of the homeowners, a large playroom for the kids, and a loft in the bedroom shared by two of the children. The loft is one of the homeowner’s favorite parts of the renovation. “It’s almost like a two-story bedroom for kids,” she says.
In fact, part of what makes the end result stand out is just how much the home was personalized for the entire family, including the children. As a surprise for their younger kids, the homeowners decided to add two custom slides: one leading from the outdoor room to the yard below and one going from the grand foyer to the basement. The indoor slide is completely hidden from view behind wainscotting but can be accessed by pressing a secret panel the company installed.
In the basement playroom, a Dutch door was cleverly installed to transform a closet into a pretend store for the children. “There’s even a cash register,” says Spewak. “We just kept doing all sorts of little things like that through the house to make it family-friendly.”
“Nancy and I both have four kids,” adds Sheahan. “So we certainly understood what they were looking for.” Comfortable furniture in family- and pet-friendly fabrics were key — the homeowners have both cats and dogs. During the renovation, chickens from the homeowners’ farm lived on-site as well, adding to the general fun.