A year ago Charlie and Brian Kirk-Martin had two objectives when they began searching for a home. Their desire was to both be part of a movement of bringing families back to the city, and they wanted an older home that retained the architectural details from when it had been constructed.
They found exactly what they were seeking on Utah Street in Tower Grove Heights inside a stately, three-story house. “All the woodwork molding, windows and floors had been maintained in excellent condition,” Charlie says. “We are only the fifth owners over the 111 years since the home was built in 1910, but every occupant seems to have had the utmost respect for the residence.
“When older homes are rehabbed, frequently walls are eliminated so you can see from one side of home to the other,” Charlie says. “We like to have separate spaces on each floor, just the way this home was designed.”
A minimal amount of furniture is mostly centered in rooms, allowing the extensive woodwork to be seen and appreciated.
All rooms on the first floor have parquet floors with different inlaid wood patterns around the perimeter. The impressive grand stairway to the second floor appears as if it were installed yesterday, yet it has never been refinished.
Large pocket doors on either side of the foyer open into the dining and living rooms and glide effortlessly on their tracks. Elsewhere in the home other pocket doors separate adjoining bedrooms and are used as closet doors.
Fireplaces on the outside dining room and living room walls retain their original wood mantels incorporating large mirrors above. The elaborate dining room fireplace mantel features two curved, leaded glass front shelves above a glazed dark green tile surround. Each contains a fleur-de-lis incorporated as part of the design in the glass.
Three original architectural details are especially unique. A trio of colorful stained-glass windows visible from the entry foyer allow light from the back of the home to penetrate to the front hall, but they also illuminate a back stairway off the kitchen. On the second floor a window opens upward into the inside of the wall above, creating a doorway onto a sunny, south-facing balcony overlooking the back yard. In the kitchen the back wall of a butler’s pantry is also an outside window that illuminates the storage space from behind.
The centerpiece of a second-floor bathroom is a huge free-standing tub. Although original to the home, the design and its very large size make it more like the soaking tubs now in vogue in newer homes.
A spacious, deep rear yard features a concrete walk through a lush green carpet of grass leading to a newer four-car garage. On the east edge of the lawn a wall of bamboo 25-feet tall affords privacy for a hot tub and a patio outlined by a string of outdoor lights above.
“The yard is Brian’s domain,” Charlie says noting that Brian has a degree in agricultural science.
Two major remodeling projects have been undertaken in the home, both by previous owners. The kitchen was totally updated, but the original pale lime green ceramic tile was left undisturbed on the walls where it blends seamlessly with new white cabinets and stainless-steel appliances. Off the kitchen a spacious, glass-walled back foyer was added, which incorporated a mosaic tile floor in keeping with the period the home was built.
Current plans are for the third floor are to be converted into a master bedroom and bathroom suite. “The design work is being done by Garcia Construction and will match the rest of the home’s interior,” Charlie says.
“We really enjoy cooking and entertaining,” Brian says, “and this home is perfect for that.”
Today, a wide, tree-lined median in the center of Utah Street contributes a Victorian-era feeling to the neighborhood of well-maintained, all-brick homes flanking the avenue. However, in the 1980s this was an area in decline. “The city installed streetlights on front yards like the one outside our front door as part of an effort to add night light and deter crime,” Brian reports.
As the neighborhood rebounded, at the request of the residents the city deeded the center island to the neighborhood. Today everyone helps maintain it, cutting the grass and planting flower beds in the green corridor.
“Now, each Halloween the street is blocked off and becomes the location for a trick-or-treat parade of children from all over the city,” Brian says.
Utah Street is also within an easy walk of Tower Grove Park and South Grand, and the myriad of shops and restaurants that proliferate the area. “During COVID we experimented and discovered it was possible to purchase anything we needed without having to use a car,” Charlie says.
Charlie and Brian Kirk-Martin
Ages • Charlie is 35, and Brian in 28.
Occupations • Charlie owns Salon One Six One in Lafayette Square. Brian is employed at Bayer Crop Science in Creve Coeur. He is also the owner of For Saint Louis Candle Co., which donates a portion of revenue to a different nonprofit partner every few months.
Home • Tower Grove Heights
Family • They have a 3-year-old daughter and Oliver, a very friendly standard poodle.