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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mutrux Home Remodeled Beyond Recognition

How would you describe the complete remodeling of a one-story Modern Movement house designed by Eduoard Mutrux into a two-story turreted country manor?

If you are a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor, you would describe it as "Wright-inspired home gets personal touches," the title of an article that ran in Sunday's paper on the strange remaking of a Town and Country house that removed all traces of its striking original appearance. The article wrongly identifies the house as the work of William A. Bernoudy, when in fact it is the work of his long-time design partner after their partnership dissolved. While the finished project has many attractive and thoughtful elements, it comes at the expense of a mid-century home by one of this region's most distinguished modernists. Less a touch than a blow, I think.


Chris said...

I saw that feature in the paper this weekend too. It's almost so absurd that you could almost imagine that it was intentionally humorous.

Andrew R said...

Presenting the destruction of a mid-century modern home for a West County faux country manor is bad enough. Even mentioning that William Bernoudy was the original home's architect just rubs salt in the wound.

Anonymous said...

Chesterfield mindset, Chesterfield results. This is St Lou and the PD is not written to be funny, although it is.

Doug Duckworth said...

Don't lie, the new home is a piece of shit.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you commented on that, Michael. The article made me want to puke.

Andrew R said...

I wish this were just a Chesterfield phenomena. Unfortunately, I see it everywhere around Saint Louis: Richmond Heights, Olivette, Ladue, Kirkwood, North County, South County, South City, Illinois, Saint Charles, etc. I've had several people request "renovations" of a similar nature. If the original house has any worthwhile character, I will try to explain these quailties to the owners, but inevitably decline taking such a project.

Often, the owners will express their love and admiration for the interior spaces, sense of openness, natural light, etc.

I wish people who want to build a house of this sort try much harder to find either open ground on which to build or at least, find a structure that is truly dreadful, in poor condition, that's not worthy of renovation or restoration. Then proceed with tearing it down and building their "dream" starting fresh.

I wonder what it will take for communities to begin to recognize the value of many (but not all) mid-century modern homes? In many ways, the open floor plans, extensive windows, and general accessibility make them excellent candidates for contemporary homes.

Clearly, people who insist on building up these multi-story, towering homes do not intend to live in them for the rest of their lives (no matter how many times they tell you it's their "dream home"). How many of these homes can even be entered without steps up from grade level? How many of them incorporate provisions for a future elevator lift?

This obsession with impressive, tall picturesque facades is all about impressing others driving by (creating what realtors refer to as "curb appeal"). These facades rarely relates to the interior floor plans in a meaningful way.

Similarly, the other three facades typically will not carry the same materials, forms, and ideas through as a consistent language (unlike the more modest and honest one-story ranch homes they often replace).

The excessive focus on exterior appearance and general lack of interest in any meaningful measure of honesty or conceptual connection between interior space and exterior form drive this sort of schizophrenia.

Anonymous said...

"...Mary has a keen eye for design". Holy Crap! The stink-eye maybe! As my girlfriend's mother used to say,"All their taste is in their mouth". These people should be taken out, put against one of those veneer brick walls, and SHOT! /snark

Chris said...

The house in question is in Town and Country, which is the epicenter of teardowns for McMansions. Twenty years ago, when my parents were searching for houses, they said it wasn't actually a very expensive area. The problem is that wealthy people from Ladue and Frontenac began spilling over into Town and Country in earnest around fifteen years ago. The modest, but fine houses don't fit into the conspicuous consumption mindset of most upwardly mobile people.

Perhaps most shocking now is that I've witnessed the speculatively bulldozing of Modernist housing stock in T & C and then leaving the land vacant for years waiting for a McMansion. Not exactly a way to keep a neighborhood stable.

Doug Duckworth said...

"The modest, but fine houses don't fit into the conspicuous consumption mindset of most upwardly mobile people."

Chris I have a question. Do you find 6,000 square feet to be modest?

tobyweiss.com said...

"Conspicuous Consumption" sums this up real well. And the bell is tolling for those who've maxed out their credit to live like that. Could this economic downturn be the deciding blow to rampant teardown? Because places like Ladue and Frontenac will NEVER enact ordinances to save ANY type of home. The marketplace always wins, and right now, the Pretenders - and their new "dream homes" - are being shown the exit.

Unknown said...

The PD actually mentioned an architect's name, this is shocking! The rest is typical PD vapid fluffiness.
"architectural brackets", read stick-on trusses.

Chris said...

Doug, the original houses in T & C to which I was referring were much smaller than 6000 square feet; the new McMansions are that size.

Anonymous said...

remiss63: Bernoudy wasn't a hack or anything, but yes, credit is owed where credit is due. something that always p-ed me off off anout the PD. artist's interprepretation - no it's an architectural rendering. dangit.

Samizdat: I use that phrase ("all their taste is in their mouth") and it seems like nobody gets it... 9 times out of 10 anyway.

Andrew R said...


I'm not quite sure what you're referencing when you say Bernoudy wasn't a hack. I hope there wasn't anything in my comments that could be interpreted as derogatory of Bernoudy's ability and standing as a significant Saint Louis architect.

Perhaps my comment about rubbing salt in the wound was unclear. What I meant was Bernoudy would probably be horrified to see a photograph of this "update" of a Bernoudy house. The end result of referring to a house in this manner is that this psuedo-Tudor design starts to become associated with Bernoudy as if he'd originally intended it.

Watch, . . . when this house goes up for sale, it will undoubtedly be listed as an updated Bernoudy (or something similar). If adding the name Bernoudy to the real estate listing is believed to be helpful, then it will be included whether or not it is appropriate, logical, or justified.

Unknown said...

Could anyone send me a pic or tell me where this house is so i can see it? THANKS!