Realtor Turns to Rehabbing Historic Home in Sunset Hills

The house goes from a mythical ship's captain to Tuscany, and villas.

Being in the real estate business has its rewards.  Well, it might be tough these days, but realtor Debbie Suter of CBGundaker was in the right place at the right time: Sunset Hills.

Having gone through some personal life-changing events in the past couple of years, Suter happened upon this historic monolith and deteriorating two-story manse. It was cracked and decayed. But Suter could see potential in its stained glass window depicting a tall ship, its curving stairway in the two-story foyer and its atrium-style dining area. 

“I was showing homes to clients who were thinking of moving to St. Louis, but they thought this one would be too much work—which it was,” Suter said. “But I fell in love with it.”

The house that some thought was built by a ship’s captain due to the stained glass window in the stairwell, was actually built by a real estate broker named Schmidt in 1929. The second owner was in the seat cover business during the waning years of the horse-and-buggy trade, according to neighbors. The home had a drive-through carport before the garage was built and that's where the buggy business was run.

Romanticizing about her long-ago trip to Europe, Suter could envision a villa, with a Tuscan sun-drenched aura—despite the house's shady, dark, even spooky demeanor at the time.

“I have always like this type of architecture,” Suter said. "The clean stucco look with the tile roof.”

She bought the house. With it having sat vacant for a few years, pipes were rusted, fixtures had been stripped out, and it was a shell of its former heyday.

But it seemed to be the perfect party house. She loved the sunlight, the French doors and windows and the massive plastered arched doorways. But it was the floating curved staircase with the adjoining wall of stained glass that was a fascinating art form all by itself.

Most of the work was done by a family friend who learned the art of plastering from his father, and had studied in Europe. She also found an artisan who painted the walls with very subtle tones that complimented the woodwork and stained glass windows. It had that warm, romantic, and golden aura.

Suter had to start from scratch, rebuilding nearly the entire 3,000-square-foot house. The kitchen was redone in the style of an old-time cucina, yet with all the modern conveniences.

“The house is still a work in progress, but each step of the way, my vision is becoming a reality,” Suter says of her Tuscan Villa. 

And Suter's penchant for rehabbing historic homes may be somehow genetic. 

Now, Suter's daughter is revamping a house in Grantwood Village that was built by Augustus Busch, not far from his real mansion at Grant’s Farm. Mom Suter is lending a hand.

joyce franklin June 08, 2011 at 11:34 PM
I love the patch --Would like the address of the feature story this week-Is that possible. Are you busy Friday a.m.? I am going to be up in the archives from 9:00 a.m. to around noon in the event you want to browse through things there. Joyce


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