Walking through the front door of this Ladue home is like traveling back in time. From the intricately detailed ceilings to the marble floors (and everything in between), the surroundings are more akin to 18th-century France than 21st-century Missouri. The homeowners designed their 3-acre estate to be a private oasis of classical design in our busy, modern world.
What attracted you to the area?
One of the immediate draws was the fact that we could have horses. Plus, Ladue has 37 miles of riding trails. The views are breathtaking. You can see wild turkeys, deer and an occasional red fox, and mature trees surround the property for additional privacy, creating a quiet compound for our children and dogs. Sitting on the back terrace, watching the sunset over the great pines gives me a feeling of serenity.
Tell me about the outdoor space.
We moved from Clayton because we wanted space for our boys to play with their friends and dogs outside. We also wanted the indoors to be seamless with the exterior terraces. My husband and I love to garden, and I enjoy watching the bulbs I plant come to life every spring.
How do you describe the aesthetic?
The design incorporates our experiences traveling abroad. We were inspired by centuries-old homes by artisans who labored extensively. I wanted to use beautiful, historical materials, and each room was a labor of love. It was great fun to research everything. It also was important that the house be a home, not a museum. Yes, there are one-of-a-kind materials throughout, but it’s still warm and approachable.
What are some of your favorite features?
The ceiling in the living room was created from an original mold of an 18th-century Medici palace in Florence. There’s so much depth, precision and beauty that I marvel at it each time I see it. I also adore beautiful, unique fireplaces. Ours came from Los Angeles, New York and Greenwich, Connecticut. The sidelight glass in the vestibule and all of the custom shower doors and glass in our bathrooms were made by a company in New York. We designed intricate patterns that were painstakingly recreated before being shipped here. I never take for granted the beauty of these details.
What attracts you to classical design?
For me, it’s the romance of the scrolling curves, gilding, sculpted moldings and trompe l’oeil frescoes. It was created during an era when mass production did not exist, and master craftsmen spent their lives designing works of art. They took pride and dignity in what they did, and I want to pay homage to that.
Do you have a favorite room?
There are a few. The master bedroom is extremely peaceful, and the living room is my favorite reading spot. I love sitting beside the fireplace in the fall or winter with a cup of tea and a great book. The kitchen and dining room have so many memories of family gatherings and parties, and the ceiling was painted by famed South African artist Claude Breckwoldt, who resides in St. Louis.
T&S chatted with the home’s designer, Marilyn Stafford of Stafford Interior Design Group.
How did the homeowners’ style affect your approach to the house?
It was all about research. The homeowners are inspired by art, travel, fashion, fine antiques and nature. They also love beautiful detail, which is a specialty of mine. I created a feeling of romance. My design combines functionality with a return to glamour.
Are there any challenges to incorporating classical styles with modern living?
It’s important to remember that we live in the 21st century. Even with classical styles, modernity is going to be part of the design through technology. I ensure my clients come home to a space that is both functional and inspiring.
What do you enjoy most about design?
Whether it’s classical or modern, I am detail-oriented. Contemporary doesn’t have to be sparse; it can be lovingly curated with clean lines, architectural elements, beautiful flooring, lighting and fabrics. These elements give richness to any style if done with patience. My goal is to create a beautiful lifestyle for my clients. Good design is timeless, personal and never trendy. I believe in creating an environment that reflects people’s individuality and enhances their lifestyles.
Photos: Suzy Gorman