For Jay Perez and his partner, Bill Donius, their Central West End condo offers not only the perfect slice of urban living, but also provides the unique character and intricate details only available in a historic property. Not content to turn the 115-year-old building into a museum, they created a space full of imaginative design, where classical elements are balanced by pops of modern innovation. No time of year is that more evident than the holidays, when it comes to life with festive cheer and personal touches.
Why did you decide to move to the Central West End?
Previously, we lived in Laude. We had a larger home on an acre lot. It was very isolating. We wanted more of a walkable, city neighborhood. This condo allowed us to dip our toes into the Central West End.
What attracted you to the property?
It was built in 1907, and the construction is incredible. We have an appreciation for St. Louis’ beautiful older architecture. It’s also very private. There’s about 10-inches of concrete between us and our neighbors. We were very impressed with details like the fireplace, mantel, bookcases and windows. With many historic buildings, the number of windows can be limited, especially with a condo space. They might only be at the front and back, but we have a window in every room. The condo just has a very turn-of-the-century, romantic vibe. It’s all very Gilded Age.
Did you make any major changes?
We remodeled the kitchen. We also replaced all of the wainscotting and other wood elements, including the hardwood floors. Then working with our interior designer, David Deatherage of David Deatherage Design, we brought in all new lighting fixtures, furniture and wallpaper.
How would you describe your design style?
We try to match it to the property. We let the space speak to us. Since this condo has Gilded Age architecture, we brought in historical and vintage pieces and mixed them with more modern items from our previous home. The result is an eclectic mix of old world and new. We didn’t want to be too literal with trying to match the age of the building. There’s no imagination in doing what’s been done before. The best part of a historic property like this is taking that architecture and adding pieces in a way that makes it feel fresh and not stodgy.
Do you have a favorite room?
For sure, it’s the living room. The space is very cozy. It’s a beautiful place to watch the snow falling during the winter through the large windows. It’s a lovely view thanks to the mature trees, which adds to the property’s historic air. The room is a great example of how we combined modern and classic styling. Many items speak to the period the condo was built, such as the blue velvet Chesterfield sofa and oval back chairs, but there are modern touches, like LED lighting in the bookcases and the light fixtures. We knew we wanted a chandelier but not a traditional one. We went with one that has a mirror-like exterior that you can’t see through during the day, but the light glows through. It’s from a Scandinavian manufacturer called Moooi.
How do you decorate for the holidays?
Bill is really the person who brings in the holiday spirit, whatever the holiday. He’s been in charge of holiday decor for the last 15 years. It’s something he’s very good at, and he always comes up with something very creative. I keep my hands off because I tend to break holiday decorations. I’ve broken a Santa Claus and knocked over our tree twice trying to fluff the branches. I just don’t have the holiday decor gene. I’ve learned that it’s best if I stay away.
Are your holiday decorations mostly nostalgic pieces, or do you like to start fresh each year?
It’s a bit of both. Each year, we take out what we have and question whether we need more or if there are any items we want to lose. We have a lot of personal effects we’ve collected over the years, but we also like to change things up to keep it interesting. Our collection takes a lot of space to store.
Do you entertain often during the holidays?
We’re very fortunate to have a big group of friends in St. Louis, so we entertain a lot. During the holidays, there’s always something going on every weekend. We like to have a big holiday party and New Year’s Eve celebration. The condo can easily host 80 to 100 people for an event. There’s a back freight elevator that makes deliveries and stockpiling things really easy when preparing. We also invested in a high quality sound system for the whole property. No matter what room you’re in, the same volume of music is playing. That adds a lot to a holiday party.