Musician Steve Mahoney calls this house his Graceland. Similar to Elvis' Graceland, his house is perfectly tailored to suit his life and style. Mahoney refers to the house as "Diamante" because of the diamond shapes throughout.
The St. Louis resident painstakingly designed and researched every detail of this 1960s rambler. Though he hired Mosby Building Arts for its reputation and expertise, Mahoney was the driving force behind the design, often sketching details that he wanted the crew to build. "This is not our typical way of doing business," says director of marketing and technology Doug Kropp. "This build-as-you-go method is more expensive, but, in the end, that flexibility made it a better project."
The two-year remodel touched all 1,800 square feet of the house. As with many remodeling projects, it started with a simple request — an addition to the back of the house for a hot tub. Once the company added the 16-by-8-foot room to the house, Mahoney was inspired to update the entire structure.
"Everything in the house leans, twists, or turns," says lead carpenter Mike Iwasyszyn. He applied skills from past work that included building theater sets and nightclubs.
Mahoney appreciates midcentury design, and for the addition to the front of the house he wanted to imitate the angled expanses of glass that characterizes architect Eero Saarinen's Dulles International Airport in Virginia and TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. "But I also did not want the front to look too overdone compared with the rest of the neighborhood," he says.
The final design is dramatic, yet understated. The remodeling company built a mock frame of the window wall in wood to make sure all the angles matched. "We held it in place with ropes and braces and made sure the roof would fit," Iwasyszyn says. A welder then re-framed the front using steel tubing and 4-inch-by-4-inch metal posts, and a glazing company installed sheets of glass.
The new façade brought light into the house, but owner Steve Mahoney wanted to further lighten the dark and oppressive interior. "The walls were coming in at you when you walked in the door. The living room was 9 feet wide and not useful — it was more like a wide hall," he says.
The crew removed the wall between the living room and the back living area, and relocated the stairs from one side of the house to a more central location between the living and family rooms. "Moving the stairs was good because they come out in a better place in the basement," Iwasyszyn points out.
To admit even more light, Mahoney chose solar light tubes — two for the living room and two for the kitchen. And he was specific about where he wanted them placed. "It was very important that the ceiling look as good as the rest of the house," Mahoney says.
It turned out that the location he chose for each solar tube was in the middle of a truss. "We moved the joists to place the tubes exactly where he wanted," Iwasyszyn says.
Mahoney chose tubes that would admit the most daylight into the room, but which are equipped with valves that allow users to control the amount of light. Iwasyszyn says that not many homeowners choose operable tubes, but that it's a good energy-saving concept. Mahoney also specified two standard skylights in the hall ceiling but chose to cover them with wood grids to control the light.
Soffit So Good
Mahoney wanted to use soffits to define the open living area layout. For the dining room, he chose one shaped like a guitar pick. "That was a fun project. It was supposed to be a four tier S-curve soffit. I mocked it out of cardboard and I held it up while he looked at it from the street," Iwasyszyn says. "He chose the triangle shape."
The carpenter built the soffit with medium density fiberboard instead of drywall because the material allowed him to sculpt a crisper line. "We bonded and painted it so it looks like the rest of the ceiling," he says. For the narrow end of the "pick" he used a stainless steel pin similar to one in a ceiling fan box.
To define the new two-sided gas fireplace that replaced the wood-burning fireplace, Mahoney chose a guitar-shaped soffit. To create an intimate space above the breakfast nook, he chose a soffit that echoes the curved triangle of the built-in table.
For the kitchen, Mahoney wanted a gap between the walls and ceiling to allow light to flow through the house. Along those ceilings, he wanted a soffit that started at 9 inches high and thinned to nothing. "That was challenging," Iwasyszyn says. "Since the walls were open all the way around, we had to figure out where to run the electrical and plumbing."
He says the crew enjoyed the unusual task of adding glitter to the soffits. The soffits were first covered with textured paint and then, while it was wet, the crew puffed silver glitter onto it. "We had grown men going around with textured ceiling spray pumps filled with glitter," Iwasyszyn says. "We looked like fairies, and it took weeks before we could get the glitter off us." Mahoney also wanted glitter on the back of the glass block, so the crew spent time painting the blocks with glitter glue.
Calling The Shots
Mahoney spent just as much time designing and directing work on the other spaces of the house — including the master bedroom, kitchen, and basement.
The basement has an exercise room, built-in shelves for awards, a pantry, a bathroom, and a laundry room. In addition, the crew doubled the electrical service for the house and added a whole-house water filter and audio distribution system.
In his quest to create a unique house, the homeowner purchased a lot of materials and fixtures on the Internet. "I could find things that fit my style and do research without going to the store," Mahoney says. "I would not have wanted to be involved in remodeling without the Internet."
Iwasyszyn says the client also changed and added things based on projects he saw on HGTV. "Mosby is the only company that could have pulled it off. The staff think outside the box and put creativity and thought into their process," he says.
Mahoney agrees. "I can't imagine working on the project without Mike. The crew was also conscientious." He says he could have continued past the two-year timeline with other projects. "Home renovation never ends. You just decide to stop at some point," Mahoney says.