the cover-up by andrea beckman

When I recently moved into my new apartment I absolutely loved everything except for two things….

1. My extremely short bathroom sink.

2. The brick facade above my fireplace!

Now, I’m a huge fan of exposed brick and will take it wherever I can, but this…this is not your beautiful brick.  This my friends is z-brick!  For those who don’t know, z-brick is a type of wall covering.  A thin brick facing that in this case was applied over plaster.  This may not be a catastrophe to many but it becomes a slightly bigger challenge when you are renting!  As most renters know you are usually pretty limited in what you can and can’t alter.

before...bad, bad, bad!

Challenge: How to completely change the look of the z-brick wall, with out really changing it?

Solution: Build a relatively light weight structure to cover the undesirable with something desirable!   Key: Do not permanently alter or attach to the undesirable.  I chose to use wallpaper as my desirable.  With so many amazing wallpaper designs to chose from I knew I could find something to create the look I wanted.

I should probably mention..the fireplace itself was not and is not bad, in fact it’s wonderful!  It still has the original decorative tile and cast iron surround/cover that is exquisite!  It has so much detail and gives off this romantic ‘secret garden like’ vibe that you can’t help but love.  OK, so maybe I’m the only one who sees it that way but in any case it’s beautiful.  I actually felt that I owed it to the fireplace to some how rid it of the dreary facade that had been placed upon it and breathe new life into it.

cast iron cover

Step 1.

Recruit some one to help because you may need a hand.  I often select my father for such projects.  He doesn’t always have a choice so this works out well!

constructing the frame

We first built a frame out of 1 x 2’s and made it the exact size of the chimney chase wall.  I decided to build this at my parents house so that I could make use of my fathers tools and lending hand.  However,  this did raise an issue with transportation.  Due to it’s large dimensions, the only way to transport the unit was by constructing it in two sections and hinging it down the center so that we could fit it in their van.

constructing the frame

Step 2.

We attached wafer board to the face of the frame and along the sides to cover the return of the chase wall.  We chose to use wafer board because it is cheap, relatively light weight and substantial enough for the intended use.

step 2

Once that was built and eventually transported to my apartment, we placed the unit directly around the chase.  It actually stood in place by itself but for additional support we tacked a nail at the top and bottom of each side, along the return.  I did not intend on hanging much weight from it, as my goals was to have nothing screwed and nothing anchored to the wall!

unit placed around chase

Step 3.

Once in place we filled in any gaps or imperfections with spackle and smoothed the surface by applying a backing paper.  The only reason this project required spackle was to help conceal an error on our part (or mine)…oops!

backing paper applied and it already looks better!

Step 4.

We then hung the wall paper and this is where things got a little ugly for us.  Our main problem was that we were running low on glue and ended up diluting it a bit too much!  This caused the glue to dry very quickly and parts of the paper would dry before we were able to line up the design and the seams.  Despite our personal challenges in this area, overall the project was pretty simple.

dad smoothing the paper

The final result….

the cover-up complete!

There are other things I could have done using this same concept but I chose to wallpaper.  I was looking for something dramatic and graphic that complimented the already existing elements of the fireplace itself.  I like how the motifs in the paper tie in so nicely with that of the tile and the scrolls in the cast iron cover.  All of the motifs look up but then scroll back down (in both the paper and decorative tile)…it’s this beautiful medley that gracefully takes your eye all the way up and all the way back down again.

wallpaper close up

mantel close up

With a little patience and precision this can easily be done, and you can create the look you want!  Where there’s a will there’s a way to always bloom where you’re planted….bad z-brick and all!

the cover-up!


Kitchen Tour Exclusive #2 by Victoria Dreste

Another exciting sneak peak into this weekend’s kitchen tour event!  Click here for more info & to buy tickets!

When the Grecos purchased their home twenty years ago it needed help. The kitchen was small and had not been updated.

At that time they put on a kitchen addition.  With a young family and active lives they didn’t have their dream kitchen but they did have more space.

Twenty years later it was time for the dream.  The planning started in the fall of 2009. by the summer of 2010 the project was underway.  It was completed in November 2010. now they have the kitchen they dreamed of.

Most important was the layout and function of the new kitchen. The space includes an  l shaped island, a built in breakfront and a bar area with a sink and storage for glasses.  A wall that once held a built in desk is now a wall of storage., that includes a tall cabinet for those items we never know what to do with ( vacuum, table leaves…).

The color palette for the kitchen is soft neutrals. The traditional cabinets are painted a soft cream color or a muted khaki green.
The counters are granite in tones of white, cream, grey and tan. The suede finish on the granite gives it a unique look and makes clean up  quicker and easier.

Lion details on the cabinet hardware pay homage to the university city location.
This is a beautiful well designed kitchen. It fits perfectly in to the Greco’s classic, traditional home.

To view Vicki’s portfolio or read more of her blogs, visit her website!

Kitchen tour exclusive sneak peek by Dana King

Watch our journey to remodel Ned and Hillary’s kitchen. This video is part one. It’s the people and the craftsmanship behind the scenes. Come see the final reveal at the Junior League of St. Louis’s First Annual Kitchen Tour — A Gathering Place — on April 2. For more information about the tour click here.

YouTube Preview Image

Here is a teaser for the big reveal:

Ned and Hillary’s kitchen bridges the periods since the home was built in 1905. And for that reason I  call it eclectic vintage. Inspiration for our design came not only from the home’s character, but also from Hillary’s antique food tins she has collected for years. Here was the starting point from which it unfolded.

Art deco lighting, yet to be revealed, draws you in and sets the stage for the vintage charmer. John at “A Light Above” salvaged antique shades in three different shapes, for pendants over the peninsula. He strung them on cloth cord for a contemporary feel.

The decorations and the lights remind you of a time before. Yet a more permanent and original feature uncovered a poignant story — a story that, if walls could talk, would have so much to say.

It started with a shallow bump-out that perplexed us. We wondered what to do with it. Work around it, with it? What the heck is it?

Hillary stared at it during dinner one night and wondered if it was an old brick chimney that we could perhaps expose. We chipped at the old plaster and, sure enough, there was brick and a hole where the old stovepipe once was.

Coincidently, here was where we planned to put our new modern stove top. Joe, of Joe Bennett Construction, cleaned the bricks and then vented the new hood out of the same hole.

The once mysterious bump-out is now revealed to not only create a stunning focal point to the room, but also provides a striking historical contrast. In my mind I travel back in time to observe a woman in a long dress cooking before a wood-burning stovepipe stove. Then flash forward to Hillary who gathers her family while she cooks beside the modern cook top with its sleek hood.

Many things have changed over the years, but one thing remains the same: the human need to gather one’s family around the hearth.

And so I believe the Junior League kitchen tour is aptly named: A Gathering Place.

Kitchens speak to the core of why I do what I do. Its not about me or my design. Rather, it’s about family. And if I can help make a difference to a family, then that’s the spice in my cake, the ice in my soda and the butter on my bun!

I wish the Junior League a successful launch of the kitchen tours to celebrate hearth and home. And to Ned and Hillary, a special thank you for sharing with us. May you gather many and love much in your new kitchen!

Spotted: Industrial Chic Barstools by Kimberly Reuther

We are seeking different.  We want to have a conversation starter when friends admire our homes.  We are seeking unexpected touches to add to the mix.

Enter industrial chic barstools!  They are popping up everywhere!

But how do you know which one is right for you?  They can be used in both modern and traditional settings and these images are great examples to help you decide!

barstool from West Elm

barstool from Wisteria

barstool from Restoration Hardware

barstools from Crate & Barrel


Previously written by Kimberly for St. Louis AT HOME’s website.  Read more of Kimberly’s work and view her portfolio at

march “speakeasy” at Baisch & Skinner

We had such an amazing time at Baisch & Skinner on Wednesday evening!

Lots of new faces and fresh flowers galore!

Thank you to all who came out to learn about the wholesale flower market.  Extremely informative presentation in such a beautiful new space.  A huge thank you to our gracious and entertaining hosts: Tom, Glenn & Margaret!

Tom, Margaret & Glenn from Baisch & Skinner

designspeak banner

welcome design friends!

The Linda Kay Learning Center, located on St. Louis’ historic Floral Row, is now available for upcoming events.

For more information, please contact Glenn at Baisch & Skinner.

entrance to building

I like how the branches create an entrance to the space!

Ready for people!

The ceiling is beautiful!

Showcase for our surprise raffle.

We raffled this vase & flowers!

Zaximo Studios was our surprise raffle

Here is a close up of one of her new pieces.  For more information, please visit her online gallery.

Beautiful detailing

Everyone had a great time meeting new people and admiring all the arrangements on display!

Off for a Behind-the-Scenes tour!


Lovely display of flowers!


Chris is the lucky winner!

Some guests even won roses on the tour!

Michelle of Zaximo Studios (left) and a new fan!

Thanks everyone for a fantastic evening!  Look for more details about the April event coming soon!

Q & A with an Interior Design Student by Mandi Maurer Gray


Lea’s work…Living Room Perspective

I recently met with Lea Cummins, a senior in the Interior Design program at SIBA (Stevens Institute of Business & Arts…formerly known as Patricia Stevens. I asked her some questions that have been brewing in my mind for quite a while now regarding the level of preparedness an interior design student feels as they are approaching graduation.

Has the school in which the interior design student is attending made them adequately prepared to face the competitive world of Interior Design?

I also gave Lea the opportunity to ask me, as a professional Interior Designer, any questions she may have regarding the industry. Below is our conversation and my answers to her questions.

(MANDI) How prepared do you feel you are to take on the real world of Interior Design, outside of the confinements of a scholastic atmosphere?

(LEA) I do feel prepared to be working in the field. I actually worked for Wright’s Furniture and Flooring in Dieterich, Illinois (near my hometown) right after I graduated high school and up until moving to St. Louis in October of 2009. So when I started interior design school I actually felt ahead of the game. I had taught myself so many things and learned so much about products out in the industry that when I was taking my first few classes on materials and practices of design I was really in sync with what was going on.

(MANDI) How do you set yourself apart from design trends and what your colleagues are working on?

(LEA) I have really forced myself to try to think out of the box on my projects. I absolutely am a CAD and Photoshop lover and I also love doing Illustrations and perspectives! I know that to sell any project it is always beneficial to have more elevations, more perspectives, etc. to be able to explain and show the client your ideas.

(MANDI) In what ways do you feel ill-prepared for working in the Interior Design Industry?

Lea’s work….Wine Bar

(LEA) It can be a big challenge in school to balance out all of your projects, which is a question I have for the professionals. How do you balance them? As a student at SIBA I have 10 weeks from the time I am given my project assignment until my presentation. I have always just juggled back and forth in between my projects doing all my floor plans, then choosing fabrics, etc., and although I do always get everything done. It’s in that last week that I’m still pulling all nighters to finish everything up. Is there a better way?

(MANDI) When you are working on multiple clients’ projects, which you will be doing on a very consistent basis as an Interior Designer, these projects are rarely at the exact same point in the design process. This is one way that having multiple projects can be manageable, each project is focusing on something entirely different. Another aspect to consider is that you will no longer have the extra small assignments (which take up any extra time you may have) that your professors may give you. When you are working on your clients’ projects, they are your main concern and job. Lastly, you will have to come up with your own system for balancing out your clients’ projects. Each of us works differently and you will have to figure out how you work best to manage your time and get your work done on a timely basis while balancing your family, friends, and other activities.

(MANDI) Do you have any other questions for me?

(LEA) A question I have is when an Interior Designer is running their own company, how long did it take you to get there? What kind of companies did you work for before getting to your ideal job position?

(MANDI) While I was attending design school, I worked at a home furnishing rep. firm for a year and a half. I left this company when I was offered a job as a design assistant at an Interior Design firm. I was also able to use this design assistant position as my internship, which gave me the opportunity to learn all I could while I was there, instead of running from that job, to school, to a separate internship. Upon graduation, I was promoted to full-time Interior Designer at this firm. I worked here for 3 1/2 years until I moved here to St. Louis. Once arriving here, I worked the odd job to make money, but immersed myself in the design world and networking. I started my own Interior Design business in October of 2010 and am working on gaining more clientele. The journey is never over and you have to work hard to accomplish your goals. Getting your foot in the door by networking and assisting either at a firm or with an independent Interior Designer will gain you more than you know in this industry.

Lea’s work…Perspective

(LEA) Are there things you feel that you just absolutely cannot learn in a school setting that you must learn out in the field? If so, like what?

(MANDI) What stands out to me most is being on a real field measure with my boss spouting out measurements for me to write down and draw out a floor plan at the same time. It was stressful and scary for me at the time. I later understood that if you are not “thrown into the pit” you will not be able to appreciate the skill and hard work it takes to do this job. Another event that stands out for me is my first client meeting presenting my very first kitchen design. Again, it was scary, but so fulfilling in the end and I learned so much! The difference between presenting to your classmates and professor whom you are familiar with and your first real client is huge.

(LEA) How do you feel is the best way to present your presentation? Is it just the preference of the designer or does it depend on the kind of project you are working on?

(MANDI) I would say it is a bit of both. Each designer will have their own way of presenting to their clients. The presentation process is definitely not like presenting in a school setting. When I was in Interior Design school, we had to make design boards. At this point in my career, I do not make design boards, unless I am just putting together a concept board, which is rare. I usually have most of my items separate from one another and present them to the client as such. I present floor plans first and follow with materials, etc.

(LEA) As I am going into my last year at SIBA I am definitely starting to think about my career and what I’m going to be doing at this time next year. I have big dreams and want to take on the design world. But I feel I am in for a reality check. I think that is one thing I don’t feel prepared for, is the networking part of the business. And it is not that our school hasn’t encouraged us to join ASID and IIDA and attend meetings etc., because I do those things! I just don’t know how to get myself our there when I am in those positions. I still feel like until I have graduated, promoting yourself (or your company) is such a hard thing to do. Am I wrong?

(MANDI) I would say that getting out and networking while you are in school is a great way to get your name out there, get noticed, and show that you are a go-getter. You make a statement about yourself while you are a student and attending networking events that you will do what it takes to succeed in this business and that you are wanting to learn and experience all that you can while you are still attending school. My advice would be to go out there and get noticed!!

To read more about Mandi and her work, visit her website here.

Kitchen Tours Exclusive Sneak Peek by Victoria Dreste

As the online sponsor of the Junior League’s Kitchen Tours, we are able to give you a sneak peak into some of the homes on the tour!  Here’s Vicki’s perspective on this amazing kitchen renovation!

Jenny and Todd Rausch are renovating a one hundred year old house.  The house, located in a historic area of Kirkwood, sat empty for three years. When they purchased the house Jenny was pregnant (with twins). The strong odors (stench) from the house kept her from seeing much of it before they made the purchase.

Rausch Kitchen In Progress

The renovations began, the twins were born. Their first Kirkwood home sold quickly leaving the Rausch family without a St. Louis home.  So Todd, Jenny, daughter Ellie, and the twins, Jack and Maggie began shuffling between a relative’s home in south county and their summer cottage in Illinois.

The kitchen and sunroom are part of the first phase of renovations.  Since Jenny and Todd are the owners of Karr Bick Kitchen and Bath, the kitchen is a very important part of the home. It is the heart and soul.


View into Sunroom

The kitchen has been designed for an active family. Because there wasn’t a single wall large enough to accommodate the refrigerator innovative design and clever planning prevailed. There are two smaller refrigerators flanking a doorway. Each one is enclosed with the same wood panels as the surrounding cabinets.

Two Refrigerators

Great attention to detail is found in the kitchen. The panels on the island have the distinctive linen fold pattern.  The linen fold detail was originally used in larger homes to designate space used to hold the households linens. The beautiful folded linen is a lovely, unique detail on the kitchen island. The perimeter cabinets and wood work have a custom time worn finish that adds character and charm.


Island with Linen Fold Pattern

The floor in the kitchen and sunroom is a limestone laid in a herringbone pattern. The look is reminiscent of a French country terrace.  The soapstone counters, limestone floor, custom finishes, linen fold detail, on demand water heat and historical location all add to the ambiance and functionality of this extremely well designed kitchen.  The home, the kitchen is amazing.


Cabinet Detail

You can view the  Great Day St louis segments featuring the Rausch home here.

Check out more of Vicki’s work and view her portfolio here.

Don’t forget to order tickets to the kitchen tours on April 2nd!  Click here for more info.


february “speakeasy” at hammer & hand imports

Here are photos from our fabulous “speakeasy” at Chris & Amy’s first location for Hammer & Hand Imports!  They have a great selection of upcycled furnishings, each with an intriquing story.

Thanks to everyone who came out for a lovely evening in February.  Thank goodness for nice weather since the party spilled onto the street!  Lots of new faces mixed with old favorites made for a fabulous event!

Our wonderful hosts - Chris & Amy Plaisted

One lucky person won this gift basket!

Local artists' artwork on display with the furniture!

What a crowd! The place was packed!

Our first "official" team photo!

A trio of Daves!

Thanks again to all who attended!

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