Photographs by Werner Straube
Written by Candace Ord Manroe
Produced by Mary Anne Thomson
New York designer Marshall Watson feared the worst. Clients Amy and Bill Koman were set on ripping out the original black and white marble entry tiles in their Georgian-style St. Louis home. Designed in 1922 by architect Edward F. Nolte, the house had fallen into disrepair, but it remained architecturally important. From the slate roof and detailed limestone friezes and arches to the stone-railed brick terraces and interior marble floor tiles, its parts were good even if the sum failed to reach its potential.
“I told them that people in London and Paris would die for that tile,” Watson recalls. “I said they just needed to restore this house. The architecture would shine through.”
A repeat client, Amy listened. When Watson said the magic words—“we will bring in decorative elements to make it more youthful, more with the times”—she acquiesced. “I loved keeping the integrity, but I also wanted to bring our current lifestyle to this house,” she says.
As a “noble wreck,” the house was intact but in need of TLC and updates. Watson reinvigorated all the rooms (plus he designed the interior of the new great-room addition). Fortunately, he was able to retain all of the original architecture in the living room. “I loved the old stone fireplace and plasterwork,” the designer says. Despite the heaviness of the wood, the room feels light, with pale carpet and upholstery. Amy and Watson were in agreement: The art must sing. “We designed it so the art, the architecture, and the colors did not compete but reinforced each other,” explains Watson. A blue-gray palette keeps the room warm but neutral.
“This is where we entertain,” says Amy. “Candlelight parties are very pretty with the reflections on the silver accents. It’s designed so people can gravitate to their own little seating areas and socialize.” Bill, a real estate developer, philanthropist, and two-time lymphoma survivor, is a major fundraiser for cancer research. The Komans’ living room is his favorite venue for events. “It’s a great place to host meetings rather than going to a restaurant,” says Amy. “It can accommodate a lot of people.”
A space Amy admired in a Neiman Marcus catalog inspired the dining room’s backdrop. “We had a painter copy the strié gray-green wall color,” she says. The painter began with a blue base topped with beige strié that was then trimmed with silver leaf atop gold—a month of painting. The resulting paneled walls have a quintessential Louis XVI look but also offer a freshness ushered in by views through three arch-topped French doors that lead to the terrace and garden.
Watson found “the perfect antique table” from a Long Island estate, then adapted Louis J. Solomon chairs by adding stretchers to their oval backs. “The stretchers give the Louis XVI-style chairs the look of an original,” he says.
To match their lifestyle, the Komans, an athletic couple with three daughters, turned a formal sitting room into a good-times family room. “This is where we put the Christmas tree each year,” says Amy. “It’s where we light a fire and watch movies.” Watson’s task was to lighten the room. “It’s in the center of the house and was very dark, with ebony moldings. I wanted to keep it rich but comfortable,” he explains.
A Scottish sideboard and diamond-back chairs create the desired architectural presence. “I love my diamond-back chairs because they are comfortable while also looking good from the front and the back, so they can float in the room,” notes the designer. With Amy’s art collection and the Japanese-style coffee table, the family room “has a wonderful English coziness to it with an eclectic feel,” muses Watson.
To further meet the family’s needs, the team built an addition onto the kitchen to serve as a great room where the Komans’ three daughters can do homework and be close to Amy as she prepares meals. “The Scandinavian design works with the Georgian-style architecture because both reference the 18th century,” notes Watson.
In the private spaces, the spirit shifts a bit from entertaining to intimate, but the mood remains welcoming. The master bedroom is all about chilling. “I like its quiet colors—no bright artwork,” says Amy. “When you look out the windows, you see the fountains, the big oaks, and the ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas. I read at night to calm down, so I wanted a bedroom that was calming.” Watson’s take on the space: “Not Zen modern but Zen with patina.”
Watson credits the original architecture as the root of the restoration’s success. “Gracious scale, the flow of the rooms, the heights of the ceilings, and the quality of details all begged for a classic approach with clean lines. There is a beautiful sense of proportion created in the 1920s that these architects from the Beaux Arts period truly understood. Seldom do you have the honor to work on a house like this with such beautiful bones.” Watson and the Komans brought those bones back to life.
Architect: Lauren Strutman, Lauren Strutman Architects, 16676 Old Chesterfield Road, Chesterfield, MO 63017; 636/537-1027, laurenstrutmanarchitects.com.
Interior designer: Marshall Watson, Marshall Watson Interiors, 105 W. 72nd St., Suite 9B, New York, NY 10023; 212/595-5995, marshallwatsoninteriors.com.
Landscape architect: Gay Goessling, Goessling Design, 1005 McKnight Road, St. Louis, MO 63117; 314/569-0900, goesslingdesign.com.
Contractor: Kevin Sanders, K.V. Sanders Co., P.O. Box 833, Chesterfield, MO 63006; 636/227-3335, kvsanders.com.
Original architect: Edward F. Nolte (1870-1944).
Chandelier (“Russian Chandelier” #10-00494-3506 ): Niermann Weeks, 212/319-7979, niermannweeks.com.
Decorative finish on original paneling: Judy Mulligan Inc., 908/879-6728.
Dining table (antique, French C. 1910): owner’s collection.
Chairs (Louis XVI): Louis J. Solomon, 631/232-5300, louisjsolomon.com.
Chair fabric (discontinued): Robert Allen, 800/333-3777, robertallendesign.com.
Area rug (Aubusson): Stark Carpet, 212/752-9000, starkcarpet.com.