Into Another World
Behind one door you’ll find an Annie Oakley-inspired bunk room. Open another, and you’ll be transported to the middle of the cosmos. And did I mention the gold bathroom decked out with cherries? There’s a surprise around every corner and behind every door of Kristin Frieben Whittle’s Overland home. Transforming the property, built in 1924 as a switching station, was a labor of love, but it resulted in a space unlike any other. Oh, and keep an eye out for the bunnies.
T&S | What initially attracted you to the property?
Kristin Frieben Whittle | I’d known since I was a teenager that I wanted to live in an industrial building that I could turn into a loft. I was probably inspired by a lot of ’80s movies. I got busy with my professional life, so it didn’t happen right away. I was driving around when I saw this building with the ‘for sale’ sign in front of it. The front has10 gorgeous arch windows with a starburst pattern. Those are what really caught my eye.
T&S | How was the process of convertingit into a home?
KFW | It was tough. I had the building for 13 years before I was able to start. It was originally zoned commercially, and it took some time to get it rezoned for mixed-use. For a while it seemed like anything that could go wrong did, but things started turning around. I began working with amazing artists and craftspeople and developed an incredible group of friends through the process. My home became a gathering place for everyone. Before COVID, we used to hold Friday night dinners here. It’s been a fantastic journey.
T&S | Where does your design inspiration come from?
KFW | It’s definitely eclectic. I’ve traveled around the world. Everytime I go somewhere, I bring back a memento or a souvenir. They’ve been incorporated into each and every room. I just love mixing bold patterns and design. I loved the Cheshire Inn back when every room had a different theme. I like when each new space is a surprise. When people first visit, they are expecting it to just be a loft. However, when they open a door, suddenly they’re transported to a log cabin or a Moroccan bath. Every door is a portal, and I never get tired of seeing the expressions on people’s faces.
T&S | Who are some of the local artists you worked with?
KFW | There were so many amazing people. Jorge Martinez, who was a big St. Louis mover and shaker, designed a neon mirror for me. Unfortunately, he passed away earlier this year. The solar system mosaic in one of the bathrooms was created by Kathy Rickermann, who started the only mosaic group in St. Louis. I knew I wanted something like Venice Cafe or City Museum. Standing in the middle of that room is incredible. It’s 360-degree views, and it includes all of the planets. It’s been a journey of love, and collaborating with and supporting local artists is very important to me.
T&S | What room was the most fun to develop the concept for?
KFW | They were all really fun. My family was a big inspiration. I have nieces and nephews, who I designed the log cabin bunk room for. My parents are getting older, so I also wanted a space for them if I need to take care of them in the future. I created a wing for them with a bedroom, bath and den. It’s very practical. They can have their own private space, but we still can come together in the common areas.
T&S | Do you have a favorite room?
KFW | I love entertaining and cooking, so the kitchen is a special place. It’s where people come together to cook, eat and spread love. It’s very functional, and I like to keep everything open, so everyone can feel at home. I want them to be comfortable grabbing things they need like silverware or a glass. Nothing of mine is off limits. It’s about community and sharing. The entire building is a part of me, my friends and the artists who worked on it. I love all of it.
T&S | Tell me about the bunnies.
KFW | This white one is Cinnabun, and the brown one is Baby Bun. I’m an animal lover, and I’ve had rabbits since I was a little kid. They’re litter-box trained like cats, so they have their hop of the place. People always get a kick out of them. I also have a long-haired chihuahua and a German shepherd. I like to say it’s my own little farm.