Style Inside: Paradise at Home
It’s impossible to list all the charms of the Missouri Botanical Garden. Is it any surprise, then, that the Wildwood home of Peter Raven, its president emeritus, and his wife Pat, former executive director of Houston’s Mercer Botanical Garden, relies on nature’s textures, vistas and hues to create a beautiful, relaxing environment?
T&S | What first attracted you to your home?
Pat Raven | We wanted a place near Shaw Nature Reserve with a sunset view. We walked with its front door at 5:30 in the evening, saw the two-story wall of glass facing the sunset, and fell in love at first sight.
T&S | What are some of its unique features?
PR | It has a wonderful connection with nature through its large windows, almost 2,000 square feet of deck and a large bluestone terrace. We’ve built a Chinese-style garden, and this year we’re adding an extension to the terrace and our first in-ground vegetable garden. Behind the house, we maintain the space between us and the forest with a 4,000-square-foot prairie. In the summertime, you cannot see another house from our deck. In the winter, we can see the top of Hidden Valley, and when they’re blowing snow, it’s magical.
T&S | It’s clear your love for nature has influenced the way you’ve designed your home.
PR | I’ve tried to marry the two. I’m a professional landscape horticulturist, and both landscape design and interior design use color, form and style repetition. We’ve tried to use a neutral color palette and natural colors, like sky blue and sage green, that highlight our collection of Asian and American art. We wanted this home to be as comfortable as a world-class spa: We have waterfalls, wind chimes, outdoor ceiling fans and a hot tub.
T&S | Did you update or renovate the home?
PR | There’s probably no surface that hasn’t been touched since we bought it, and we used sustainable materials everywhere we could. Because of how such we travel and since we weren’t initially living here full-time, we were able to do some of the work without putting up with the mess. We would go off to China, return, and the job would be completed, thanks to McMillan Construction Group. One recent renovation was redesigning the two-story window wall. Before, it was 12 smaller panes of glass, and now it’s three gigantic picture windows, which brings the vista of the valley and the sunset into the living room better.
T&S | Tell me more about your collection of Asian decor.
PR | Peter was born in Shanghai, and his parents lived there for two decades. When they returned to the U.S., they brought many furnishings with them. Since Peter is the only child, he inherited it all. But we’ve also added to the collection: Many of the ink brush paintings going up the staircase were gifts from Chinese colleagues.
T&S | What appeals to you about that style of decor?
PR | We enjoy the Buddhist culture, particularly its respect for nature. Although we’re not Buddhists, we are environmentalists, and there’s a spiritual connection there.
T&S | Are there any local places you turn to?
PR | I’ve gotten a few garden sculptures and solid wood pieces made with traditional Chinese joinery at SuttonWood Antiques in Soulard. I’ve also gotten a number of pieces, including Japanese lanterns, from the Garden Gate Shop at the Missouri Botanical Garden. You never know where you’re going to find surprising things, so I always have my eyes open—our most recent purchase was a pair of bronze ravens we found in a little shop in Kinsale, Ireland.
T&S | Your dining room is unique.
PR | That’s the room I’ve touched the least. The wallpaper is original from the 1980s construction of the home. It’s handprinted and is in excellent condition. I hated it when we bought the house, but I recognized that it was a premium product. By the time we hung our Beslers and Audubons, I had grown to like it.
T&S | What’s your favorite space in the home?
PR | Our glassed-in porch is the most glorious place to watch the storms come in from the west … or the sunset, or the snowfall, or the birds. It lets us be in nature comfortably year-round. In the winter, it’s packed with plants and in the summer, it has a ceiling fan to keep us cool.
Photos: Suzy Gorman