Style Inside: River Bluff Retreat

Channeling their love for the great outdoors and some of the prettiest landscapes in Missouri, one St. Louis couple created a wild wonderland of a homestead where the majesty of every season can be fully experienced.

T&S | Tell me about your house.
Homeowner: It’s located in the Missouri River bluffs, less than an hour from St. Louis and right above the Katy Trail. We built and designed it about 15 years ago.

T&S | What do you love about it?
H | The scenery—the river hills have dramatic elevation changes and are lush and fertile, and the bluffs themselves are gorgeous. You really notice the changes of the seasons here, and it changes so much from one to the other, it feels like a whole new surprise every time. The proximity to the Katy Trail is a real plus for us, too. Perhaps the most important aspect, though, is the privacy. When we’re here, we feel like we’re in the middle of nowhere.

T&S | What elements were important to you when designing it?
H | We owned the property for a year first to get a sense for where we wanted the house to go. The architecture is rustic contemporary built into the hillside to blend with the landscape, and we wanted to have many easily opened windows, so that you could welcome the outside in. The architect, Tom Tebbetts, mixed the outside stained cedar to match the color of the tree trunks. We also wanted to use materials that were compatible with the area. The rocks in the chimney came from near here, as well as the wood on the standing seam roof and the white oak used in the floors.

T&S | Why was it important to you to use native materials?
H | There are so many gorgeous resources close to St. Louis— we just wanted to glory in that.

T&S | I hear you’re both conservationists.
H | We are, in the sense that we own conservation easement property. The Missouri River hills west of St. Louis were forested before the settlers came and cleared some of it for grazing and growing crops. The ravines and hills of our property are still largely wooded, with oaks and hickories, as well as walnut trees, redbuds, sugar maples, sassafras trees, red cedars and others. We have converted some of the fields into prairies with Missouri native warmseason grasses and flowers. We grow soybeans in some fields, and hay in others.

T&S | What’s your favorite room?
H | The living room. By the time I drive through nature and the roads that wind through the woods and head inside, it’s like I’m in another world. Relaxation happens gradually as you get in nature, and when you enter the living room, you’re transported. You can put your feet up and look at the sunset. In the winter, you can build a fire, and it’s so beautiful to look at the ice floes on the river.

T&S | What was your approach in decorating the interior?
H | I wanted it to be very casual and relaxed. I also wanted it to have clean lines and be fairly neutral so the emphasis, especially in the living and dining rooms, was on what’s outside. I included furniture from antiques stores in the area, but also new pieces, some of which were made locally.

T&S | And you also have a guest house?
H | Yes. It has a bedroom, a small sitting room with a desk and a small kitchenette.

T&S | What are some features of your property?
H | My husband made trails all through the woods, which we love to walk on. We also have a small lake. It’s in what was a ravine and there’s a natural spring near it with fish. It’s one of my favorite spots—there’s something about being close to water that’s appealing. We have very simple cedar benches around to sit on and enjoy the scene.

Photos: Suzy Gorman

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