IN GOOD TIME
DesignSTL|January/February 2021
With the help of interior designer Robert Idol, a Kirkwood couple creates a home that pays homage to the past, yet feels just right for their modern young family.
VERONICA THEODORO

Over the years, the landmark Unsell- Cabell House, in Kirkwood’s historic district, had fallen into disrepair, its deep yard a tangled web of overgrown trees and shrubs and portions of its wood siding, vulnerable to insects and weather, in a state of decay. Yet its telltale Victorian charms—triple-sash Jefferson windows, fancy brackets and scrollwork, louvered shutters throughout—caught the attention of Emily Hoffman, an architecture buff, in early 2015. Nearly every week on her run past the house, she imagined all the possibilities if only someone would make the home a passion project. That someone turned out to be Emily and her husband, Matt Hoffman.

“Emily wanted a historic house in Kirkwood, and she was in love with this one,” says Matt, a developer of rental properties. “We knew we had to move fast rather than let it go to market.”

After showing up at the county courthouse for an auction that was abruptly canceled and, a week later, watching as a Coming Soon sign went up in the yard, the Hoffmans bid on the property sight unseen. “We just kind of went for it without looking,” Emily recalls. The couple hired Ben Ellermann, of Blaes Architects in Webster Groves, to guide the renovation and design a 2,500-square-foot addition to replace an existing structure dating back to the 1960s.

Besotted with the home’s architecture, the couple was committed to maintaining its historic integrity throughout the addition, which would hold a kitchen, family room, and two outdoor spaces for the family of six. Emily chose a channel-bevel siding to match the original shiplap, which mirrors ashlar stone, and the team replicated the distinctive corbels and door mouldings by fabricating molds based on the originals. Sourcing longleaf pine for the floorboards lent a seamless transition from the addition to the aged planks in the front rooms.

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