ST. LOUIS — Anne Trolard says she realizes she and her husband, Perry, made the opposite decision many parents do. Two years ago, they were living in a small midcentury house in Kirkwood, Mo., thinking about their son getting ready to start kindergarten. They thought about their drive to work, about their love of city life and made the decision to move from Kirkwood to the city.
“We knew it was the right decision for us,” Anne said. “When it all came down to it, we knew we just wanted to be back in the city.” Though they met at college in Michigan, they moved to St. Louis for work and lived downtown for a time.
So they began looking, especially in the Shaw and Botanical Heights neighborhoods. But they weren’t sure they were ready for the upkeep on a 100-year-old home. Then they saw signs for UIC. Urban Improvement Construction is a develop/design/build firm founded in 2005 by architects based in Botanical Heights.
The Trolards loved UIC’s commitment to the neighborhood. So they began the three- to four-month process of working with the architects to design and plan the house of their dreams.
“It seems they are very intentional about wanting to match the neighborhood,” said Anne, who notes that the brick on her home matches the older homes around her. “We wanted the ease of a new house in the place we wanted to live. ... They really do walk you through the process of identifying what kind of style you like and what kind of things you do in the house.”
So, what is the Trolards’ style? Perry describes it as “kid-friendly minimalism ... construction-material modern ... upscale IKEA?” Take your pick.
Whatever you call it, the result is a light-filled space full of windows, ceilings that seem taller than their 9 feet and simple designs that lend themselves to simple living.
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In designing the house, the Trolards knew they wanted a square house vs. a rectangular one like you find in many city homes. They knew they wanted a flat roof, preferring the simple geometric shape of a box. They made a few adjustments to one of UIC’s plans, such as adding a rooftop deck and a mudroom in the back, perfect for when the kids come home from school on a snowy day.
The centerpiece of the house is the open stairwell in the middle. Rather than finish it, the Trolards chose to keep it unfinished with the exposed two-by-fours that frame it.
“We like the visibility across the first floor,” Anne said. “We can talk to the kids almost anywhere in the house.” Of course that means there is some noise, too. “So someday we may regret that.”
They moved in about a year ago. So far, they love everything about their kids’ school, their decision to move back to the city and the decision to build the house.
“I like that it feels unfussy,” Perry said. “If we look around our place ... plywood, construction lumber and powder-coated steel seem like key materials in our palette. Also, we mostly lack courage with colors.”
Except on the lime green front door and window trim. Anne laughs: “That wasn’t us.” UIC chose those colors. But as you enter the open space with a sitting area to the left, a matching lime chair and magazine rack immediately catch your eye.
Did the Trolards do that to match the front door? “No,” Perry said with a laugh. “I don’t think we even realized it until now.”