Style Inside

Spirit & History

From the Arch to Grant’s Farm, one of the benefits of living in St. Louis is its sense of history. Some are lucky enough to make it part of their everyday lives by owning a home in one of the city’s beautiful, historic neighborhoods. Sue McCollum, CEO of Major Brands, cherishes the sense of stewardship that comes with living in an older home. She and her late husband, Todd Epsten, created the perfect space to nurture their family and celebrate the entire community.

T&S | When did you move in?
SUE McCOLLUM | December 1994

T&S | What initially attracted you to the house? 
SM | We loved the neighborhood. My family already lived in the Central West End and wanted to stay in the area, but we needed a larger home. The house was built in 1907, but a lot of things like the original floor plan and woodwork were still intact. It hadn’t really been changed since it was built, so it seemed quite original, and we liked that. We loved the character and quality of an older home with history; plus, it was very affordable. Neither my late husband nor I are from St. Louis originally, and we knew in other cities, we couldn’t afford to live in such a great neighborhood. The house had been vacant for three years and needed a lot of work, but that didn’t bother us. We thought it was fantastic!

T&S | What’s kept you in the CWE?
SM | I can’t imagine any other place that offers so many amenities within walking distance. I live next door to Forest Park, the nation’s No. 1 urban park! I get to enjoy it every day, whether it’s walking, riding my bike or simply driving by it. I’m only an eight-minute drive from my office, and if I go to a Cardinals game, I can park and be in my seat within 20 minutes of leaving home. I’m close to so many cultural assets and right in the middle of two great universities. My neighbors know one another and care. My two sons got to play with the other kids on the street. Living here, you really get to take advantage of St. Louis and the beauty of a diverse, inclusive environment. I couldn’t think of a better place to raise my family.

T&S | What renovations have you done? 
SM | We initially underestimated how much work the house needed. It’s really been an entire renovation done gradually over the years. It had no kitchen when we moved in. We’ve also repaired sewage lines, electrical, plumbing, and the roof and exterior because they were leaking. We fixed the carriage house that was sinking, and we redid the garage floor. We put in a pool. With all of the changes, we tried to keep the integrity of the interior the same.

T&S | How would you describe your design style? 
SM | I want to respect the style of the house but also have it be comfortable and welcoming. I never wanted a precious home. You need to be able to sit on the couch and relax or put a piece of pizza on the countertop. A home also needs to reflect the people who live there. I’m originally from Buffalo, New York, so a lot of the artwork is by artists from there or features depictions of the area. It’s a part of me, and the art is a way to honor the fact that I lived in a great hometown.

T&S | The outdoor space is stunning.
SM | We had to redo our sewer lines, so the story of that remodel is not so glamorous, but since the yard already was being torn up, we decided to put in a pool. At the time, my sons were 4 and 7, and we wanted the yard to be a place where they could play, so we kept a large green space. The boys basically turned the yard into a baseball diamond. The terrace was designed so I could watch them and also for entertaining. We had to redo the windows because of water damage, so we turned the ones against the terrace into French doors to add more light and access. It’s a very livable, functional space. The goal was for it to be pretty and simple.

T&S | Do you have a favorite room? 
SM | The kitchen. We designed it to be open, and it has the most natural light and a great view of the yard. Plus, it’s where everyone gravitates. It’s functional, too. I like to bake, and it’s an awesome kitchen for making cookies!

T&S | Do you entertain often?
SM | Yes. We’ve hosted nonprofits, volunteers from Forest Park, school meetings, political events and more. We’ve always used the house to show what the city does well. Bringing people together in a historic home that represents St. Louis and its great history is a privilege I’m happy to have. I think hosting events speaks to what the city is about and gives us the opportunity to reinvest in the community. Plus, we’re in the wine and spirits business. We love to entertain! Breaking bread and toasting with a glass of wine is a way to make our business, region and community better.

T&S | You recently hosted a dinner with Janet Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards in Napa Valley. 
SM | The company has fantastic wines and a great family history. I was visiting Janet at her vineyard, and we were having a wonderful lunch when she mentioned their 50th anniversary. Since we’re both family businesses run by women, I thought it would be fun to do a family celebration. They were planning celebration events in a few cities, but the one here was unique. It was the only event hosted in a home, and we wanted to do something reflective of both of our companies. Sitting down and sharing a meal is a wonderful way to build relationships, and great opportunities and success are born from strong partnerships. The evening really spoke to what makes St. Louis and the region different. People came to together to share an evening, meet new friends, enjoy the house and wine, and have a great meal. That’s what houses like mine symbolize. They show the spirit of community is alive in St. Louis.