The Perfect Fit

The Stiefels combine modern with traditional in their Tudor-style home

The living room, to the right of the entryway, has a mixture of textures from linen-covered arm chairs and sofas to satin sheen draperies and a sisal rug.

Photography by Robert Clark

When Melinda and Edward Stiefel were house hunting some years back, they were impressed with the painted brick Tudor-style house in the heart of Devine Street. But the timing just wasn’t right as the house would require a great deal of remodeling, something that wouldn’t fit into their timeline.

So when the house — originally built in 1938 — came back on the market, the Stiefels just happened to be looking again for a new home. The family had been living on Forest Lake and was planning to downsize when Melinda realized the house she so fondly remembered was once again available. She called her friend and interior designer Ford Bailey with Verve Interiors. “We took a tour and absolutely fell in love with it,” Melinda recalls. “It has a style and character that you just don’t get with newer homes.” The Stiefels made their move and settled into their new home in the spring of 2015. 

Finding someone to help her decorate her new home was an easy decision. Melinda had worked with Ford on prior decorating projects. “We met when Melinda and Edward moved into a home where a client of mine had lived,” Ford remembers. Melinda had liked the interior design so much that she asked the owner for her decorator’s name, and Ford and Melinda have now completed three projects together. “My husband likes to move,” Melinda laughs.

With the exception of some painting and tweaking the kitchen cabinetry, the 4,750-square-foot house with five working fireplaces was nearly move-in ready as it had been completely renovated by the prior owner. The task for Ford was how to incorporate the Stiefel’s furnishings into the new house. “Fortunately, I knew what they liked and how they like to live,” says Ford, “and the house has a wonderful old feeling about it that embraces many of the pieces they already had.”

Flow is important when choosing décor for a house. The way the house is laid out makes a tremendous difference in how it is decorated. “We incorporated everything we possibly could,” says Melinda. “Some of the furnishings just didn’t work for the spaces in this house so they went into storage for now. We were able to slipcover and reupholster some pieces so that we could repurpose them, and then we added a few things that were right for where they needed to be.” Ford was on site as furnishings were delivered to the house. “As things were coming off of the truck, I already knew where much of it was going,” she says, although they still shuffled some things around once all was inside. “It’s still evolving,” says Melinda. Her goal was to ensure the furniture looked as though it had always been there, not appearing as brand new and just placed into the house. As an example, a beautiful sideboard from Melinda’s old dining room now sits in the foyer, while a new buffet created more storage space for the new dining room.

Guests are welcomed into the foyer with its soft shade of blue with a stately grandfather clock on one wall. The adjacent dining room walls pop with the red fabric of the chairs and the draperies. Another sisal rug blends with its neighbor in the living room. For those leisurely mornings or relaxing afternoons, Melinda and Edward can retreat to the painted brick-walled sunroom which still has the original leaded glass windows. “In fact, the entire house has the original windows,” says Melinda.

The living room has a mix of textures, from linen-covered arm chairs and sofas to satin sheen draperies and a sisal rug. “The theme for all of my homes has been a nice mix of traditional pieces and a few that were a little more contemporary,” Melinda notes. The living room highlights that contemporary flair through the zebra rug and the mirrored screens that fill two corners of the room. 

When it comes to color selection, Melinda has a preference for neutral shades accented with jewel tones. Much of the living room’s color comes from art that she and Edward have collected during their travels, as well as some local art. “It’s nice to bring a little piece of that place back with you, and that’s something we’ll continue to add,” she says. “We also enjoy food and wine and will keep menus as souvenirs of places we have truly enjoyed.”

Because they love to cook and entertain, Ford paid close attention to the detail of the kitchen, remodeling the island to include a second oven and a microwave. A stainless steel farm sink blends with the stainless countertop on the island, and additional drawers provide more storage in the cabinetry. “The dining banquette was already here,” she says, “and we were able to find an ultra-suede fabric to match the banquette for the chairs.” 

The only room in the house that has carpeting, albeit a textured indoor/outdoor variety, is the den where Edward holds his wine tasting events. A buffet du corps holds an extensive collection of wine glasses. Guests can relax on the large leather sofa or around the table while discussing the virtues of any particular wine. “This house just lends itself to our lifestyle and the way we enjoy entertaining,” remarks Melinda. In fact, Edward, who is a member of the Columbia Bacchus Society, added a wine cellar in the basement of the house when they moved in.

Another interesting feature is the wrought-iron gates leading into the den. “The prior owners wanted to be able to contain their dog without shutting them away,” says Melinda, “so they installed these wrought-iron gates, and they do come in handy to provide our dog his own space.”

The bedrooms are up the stairs to a small landing and a turn to another set of stairs. “We were able to repurpose all of the bedroom furnishings into the new house,” says Ford. Although their son, Eric, is away at school studying for his master’s degree, Melinda keeps his room ready for him. The guest room offers overnight visitors a relaxing retreat in tones of amber and bamboo lamps.

The master suite features warm tones of ivory for the bed coverings, accented with pillows and draperies done in taupe. The furnishings offer a more contemporary feel with mirrored nightstands and urn-style table lamps. “When you have a house with great old bones about it and can make it more ‘today,’ it can be fun,” says Ford. The ensuite bath had the perfect spot for Melinda’s dressing table next to the oversized garden tub. A teardrop chandelier provides a unique accent to the his-and-her vanity. The suite also provides a large tiled walk-in shower and a separate water closet.

Melinda and Ford both agree that the character of the house is what makes it such a special place. “It has the personality and characteristics in it that just aren’t built into homes anymore,” says Ford. She takes note of the wide case openings of the doorways and the grand ceilings that are features from days gone by in much of architectural design. Melinda says that some people might be scared off from purchasing an older home such as this one that still has the original windows.

Even Edward knew it would be the best house for them. “Once I got in and saw the potential, I thought it was perfect. The wine cellar was an issue, but we remedied that,” he smiles.

The Steifels lived in their prior house for 10 years, the longest they had stayed in any one house. Melinda is hoping that they’ll stay in this house at least that long. “What drew us to this house was that we were able to come in and customize a house as old as this and make it our own space in 2016. That’s one of the best parts,” says Melinda. “This house just fits us perfectly.”