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At home: She never thought 'Grandma's house' would be hers
AT HOME WITH Shelley B. and Tom Smith

At home: She never thought 'Grandma's house' would be hers

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From childhood, Shelley knew the home as “Grandma’s house.” An interior marvel of silver, turquoise and pink, it belonged to the grandmother, Gertrude Haffner, of Shelley’s best friend, Elise Markman.

Traveling to the house from University City, where the girls lived, seemed a forever ride. Hence, the kids would spend the night.

Never did Shelley imagine that someday, the Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced home, its amplitude of windows then shielded by sheers, and the sheers covered by drapes, would be hers.

Fast-forward to the mid-’80s when the former Shelley Brockman and her husband, Tom Smith, go house-hunting. Disenchanted with other offerings, Shelley phones Grandma, whose 1952 house was designed by architect Meyer Loomstein.

Tom had visited Gertrude’s classic midcentury home before with his wife, but never as a prospective buyer. Granted, the flat roof proved a leaky disaster. And the geothermally heated floors, their pipes somehow involving the next-door neighbor’s, didn’t meet expectations.

Yet all was fixable. “My husband loves your house,” Shelley told “Grandma.”

Though not exactly looking for a buyer, Gertrude was nearly 80 and not in need of the home’s then 2,300 square feet of living space.

“Make me an offer,” she said. The Smiths’ contract gave Gertrude two weeks to decide.

Video tour: Why the Smiths love their home

For six months, they heard nothing. Then Gertrude accepted their offer. Problem was, a week before closing she still hadn’t boxed up anything. After all, this was the memento-laden house where she and her late husband, Henry, had welcomed such luminaries as Presidents Harry S Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower and Israel Prime Minister Golda Meir.

So it was Shelley who packed up Gertrude for the latter’s downsizing to a condo.

To update their home’s interior, Tom and his father sprayed the wood paneling with gray-toned Zolatone paint.

The granite-like result proves an ideal backdrop for colorful artwork, much of it painted by Tom. To replace their home’s once de-rigueur wall-to-wall carpeting, the Smiths mall-walked for inspiration.

Tom conceived their present flooring pattern, incorporating marble and slate. Their windows, now fabric-free, provide a year-round view of what Tom calls landscape architect’s Matt Moynihan’s “Rolling 10-Year Gardening Plan.” The plan recently involved adding 300 native species plants to absorb heavy storm runoff. That project qualified for a Deer Creek Watershed Alliance grant.

“I’m always thinking ahead, years ahead,” Tom says. And in the now 3,100-square-foot home Shelley calls “Tom’s baby,” he has the room to do it.


Shelley B. and Tom Smith

Home • Ladue

Ages • She’s 64. He’s 62

Occupations • After 35 years with the Special School District of St. Louis County, Shelley started, with her husband, Special Solutions in 2008. Located at 9225 Manchester Road, the center is open seven days a week and serves parents of college-bound children with learning challenges, plus offers tutoring for students, assessments, counseling and advocacy, specialsolutions.com. Tom worked previously in the corporate world and paint industry, and owned a dental lab.

Family • Married 37 years next month, they have a son in Denver, a daughter in New Orleans and one grandchild.

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