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Fanciful art sets the tone in new St. Charles build
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At home with Ken and Marianne McGee

Fanciful art sets the tone in new St. Charles build

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Perusing the St. Charles home of Ken and Marianne McGee is like taking a lesson in local art, particularly the whimsical kind.

Just past the entry, you’ll find a colorful chair by legendary St. Louis artist Charlie Houska. On the great room coffee table, a cat with unusual teeth peers into a fishbowl. That piece is by Wentzville artist Steve Jones. Two small sculptures by St. Charles artist Laura Lloyd have a place of honor on the mantel. Near the ceiling of the two-story living room you’ll find paintings by St. Louisans Robert Schleicher and Theresa Disney. You’ll find many, many pieces by Theresa Disney.

Marianne and Ken McGee have taken their love of color and pop art to a new home in a new subdivision. Video by Hillary Levin

“I transitioned from acquiring fine art to local talent when I first visited Theresa Disney’s shop in Union Station in the 1980s,” Marianne McGee says. “There were at least 60 colorful birdhouses hanging from the ceiling. Every one was fun and whimsical. I felt like Alice in Wonderland! ... She told me about various local art shows and shops that had folk art, and Ken and I hit them all. I was an instant fan.

“We love supporting the local artists. It is so fun to meet them and learn about them. It’s great seeing the smiles on their faces when they can see the love you have for their work.”

Avid readers will have seen some of the pieces from the McGees’ home before. We’ve done “made in St. Louis” stories on Jones and Lloyd. We’ve also been to the McGees’ house before. But this is a new house.

In June, they moved into a new home that they had built by Lombardo Homes, also in St. Charles. Much of the work of selecting finishes and the design of their home was done during the pandemic, often over Zoom.

“Yeah, I wondered how we were going to tell people that we were moving from a one-and-a-half story to another one-and-a-half story just four miles away,” Marianne says with a laugh.

They had originally intended to downsize and buy a ranch. Then Marianne saw the banquette in the display for the story and a half and knew she had to have it.

It’s a stunning and unusual addition to the house. Built into the kitchen island, the moon-shaped bench sidles up to a round table with three chairs, each covered in different fabric. Bright, busy fabric. Which is well and good because the couch in the adjoining two-story living room is magenta, and the chairs are yellow. They sit atop a rug with a green pattern, and right next door in the kitchen is a big, yellow refrigerator.

At Home with Ken and Marianne McGee

To hold her large shoe and accessories collection, Marianne McGee's turned what was originally the dining room in the floorplan of the home of she and her husband Ken built in St. Charles into her closet. She loves the pop of color the bubblegum pink ceiling gives. And you won't find Ken's clothes there. "Oh no, she says, not one shirt. He keeps his in a closet upstairs." 

“What can I say, I love color,” Marianne says. She enlisted the help of friend Lynne Telfair to help her recover her couch and chairs and to create seat covers and window treatments.

One major difference between this house and the last is wall color. In the last house, living room walls were bright teal. Here, they are white, well, Sherwin-Williams City Loft to be exact. It’s a neutral color, perfect for offsetting the bright art that hangs on the walls and graces built-in cabinets, expertly curated with one surprising item after another: Keith Haring tequila bottles and shoes from the Muny among them.

Finding out how art from the old house fit into the new house took a bit of doing.

“I had a strategy prior to moving, but, best-laid plans ... but everything seemed to click without much movement.”

One of the bigger changes in this house is Marianne’s newfound love of wallpaper — and the jungle. The laundry room has been wallpapered with lemurs in trees. Elephants leap from the bathroom. Cougars can be found in the powder room.

Ken says he considers this their dream home: From the built-in doggy door and fenced backyard to the banquette to the dramatic two-story living room to Marianne’s closet fit for a diva (she has used “diva” in her email for 30 years), “we love it.”

At Home with Ken and Marianne McGee

Marianne and Ken McGee pose with their three dachshunds in their home in St. Charles.

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