“Our desire was to move from Marlborough in St. Louis County to a walkable neighborhood in the city,” says Joe Grimaud, recalling how he and his partner, David Null, ended up in the Grove. After four years of searching for a lot, planning, working with architects and building, the plan came to fruition in 2016 as a custom-designed, architecturally significant home at the forefront of redevelopment in the western quadrant of the Grove.
The Land Reutilization Authority of St. Louis was an important partner in helping locate the site, and the architects at Urban Improvement Co. delivered the industrial-style home they had envisioned. “The folks at UIC were very easy to work with and very innovative,” Grimaud says.
“We wanted to incorporate the architecture of the existing neighborhood homes,” Grimaud says. The home occupies a lot that had been two vacant lots with a 1905-era vacant home sandwiched between. The result was a peak roof entrance replicating the neighboring homes on the street, but with a gray brick façade and a dark blue corrugated steel second floor.
“We needed to consolidate the three lots so we could build an L-shaped home to provide privacy for the pool and garden we always wanted,” Grimaud says. Exterior walls of the old home were retained and became the footprint of the new master bedroom, bath and walk-in closet.
Although the upper floor is open to the ceiling from the living room below, it contains a loft and two bedrooms and two baths accessed by a stairwell along the wall.
Material salvaged from the old home was repurposed. Roofing timbers cover the wall behind the bed in the master bedroom, and other reclaimed wood was used for windowsills.
While the interior design features industrial accouterments, the overall appearance is artsy and comfortable. Steel beams were left exposed, staircase handrails are one-piece, custom-made metal, and horizontal steel cable is used in place of balusters. Three sliding wooden barn doors incorporated into the floor plan hang from industrial tracks and hardware.
The kitchen features a round window in the pantry door and subway tile. “We wanted to create the feel of an old-style diner,” Null says.
Important in the interior of the home was the creation of ample wall space for displaying a collection of colorful vintage advertising posters, some measuring 5-feet-by-8-feet. Complementing the posters is a potpourri of paintings and sculpture accumulated on numerous trips to destinations around the world, as well as from local artists. Examples include glass bowls and vessels created by local glass blower Sam Stang, and a large griffin sculpted by the late Bob Cassilly that guards the top of the stairs. Numerous wooden Buddha carvings are from Nepal, gifts from patients seen during trips there to bring health care to isolated rural communities.
Grimaud says the furniture is a mixture purchased at antiques stores and “pieces no one else wanted at Weekends Only Furniture.” But the result seems more sophisticated.
A finished lower level contains a polished concrete floor with radiant heat and includes a fireplace and large screen television. A large, below-street-level window allows in abundant natural light, and also serves as a frame for a lion head fountain affixed to an outside concrete wall, where it creates a surprising point of interest.
Outdoors, a covered seating area overlooks a fire pit next to the heated pool, which is flanked by three 30-foot palm trees. Anticipating the question, Grimaud volunteers that the tropical “trees are taken to a greenhouse each winter.”
Not only are the men pleased with their home, they are delighted with the diversity of the population and the location of the neighborhood. “Although we are in the Grove, we feel we are a part of the Central West End, the Hill and downtown St. Louis,” Grimaud says. “We walk everywhere.”
Joe Grimaud and David Null
Ages • Grimaud is 60, and Null is 66.
Occupation • Joe is a third-generation dentist in Webster Groves. David retired from the Wentzville school district where he was a school teacher and librarian. Nine years ago they founded the Karma Thalo Foundation, which in Nepali means “a place where you do your good deeds.” Each year they assemble a diverse team of 15 doctors and 15 volunteers and travel to Nepal for two weeks, delivering health care to indigenous people in a remote area.
Home • The Grove
Pets • Izzy is a 16-year-old miniature schnauzer. Oliver is a 7-year-old rescued shitzu. Cinder and Coal are rescued twins, schnauzer-Labrador retriever mixes.