Ageless Beauty

Originally built for an elderly couple to age in place, this fully accessible, low-maintenance dwelling effortlessly morphed into the perfect home for a young family. 

By Jeanne DeLathouder

Architect: Bower Leet Designs

Builder: Buraski Builders

Photography by Carmen Troesser


It is often said that great design makes timeless design—and this custom-crafted home in Springfield, Illinois, tells a story illustrating that belief flawlessly. Dubbed the “Hand in Glove House” by architect and interior designer Susan Bower, founder of Bower Leet Design, the intentionally understated aesthetic melds interior with exterior “like a hand in a glove, so interwoven are the materials and space,” she says.

A member of the American Institute of Architects, Susan’s specialties include architectural services, interior design and exhibit design. After earning her Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Kentucky, the award-winning designer worked as an apprentice in New York City while acquiring her Master of Architecture degree at Princeton. She also taught at the prestigious Parsons School of Design before settling in St. Louis with her family, where she has lived for more than 20 years. Susan draws much of her inspiration from her childhood home on a Kentucky farm and has always had a natural curiosity for learning new things. During her 30 years of experience, she has earned numerous awards as well as an extensive client list that continues to grow.   

Susan’s uniquely fluid approach appears in all her designs, including this exceptional Springfield property. Initially planned for an older couple to age in place comfortably, the home’s accessible design provides effortless, low-maintenance living, with all essential spaces on one floor. However, soon after completion, the clients’ failing health forced them to sell the home. “Surprisingly, a young couple planning their family bought the property and moved in,” says the designer, who partnered with Jason Buraski of Buraski Builders on the project. “They are delighted with the ramps—which will be great for children’s strollers—and the durable surfaces chosen for their easy cleanability, durability and maintenance.”

Situated on a wedge-shaped lot in a charming 1930s Springfield suburb, the 3,500 square-foot-dwelling was conceived as a whole, with the exterior and interior designed to flow together organically. The palette is intentionally calm and muted, with views of the exterior framed by stone, lending a rustic yet modern appeal. A public park lies to the north, and the west face features a side street with parking, making it ideal for the main entry to flow around an existing maple tree. The large lot incorporates two front yards with restrictive setbacks limiting the buildable area.

“The house is divided into three fingers, each carrying different functions,” says Susan. “The most private—the ring finger—sits on the east and aligns with the neighboring house. The middle finger carries the owners’ suite and mudroom. The west wing—the index finger—faces the side street and carries the entry, living area, kitchen and outdoor terrace.”

Clad with Indiana limestone, the exterior emanates a natural elegance while honoring a native material used throughout the region for its splendor and accessibility. Planted prairie grasses sway in the breeze, contributing to the aesthetic and simplicity of the landscape. “The property as a whole creates a healthy environment on the outside by extending the adjacent park,” Susan explains. “It enhances the well-being of the neighborhood with greenery and tree maintenance. On the interior, it captures views of the park for the inhabitants, increasing their well-being. The entire home’s collective accessibility enables greater flexibility of use.”

The original clients requested durable, low-maintenance materials that could be used both inside and out. A neutral palette throughout ensures a calming aura that blends with the surroundings. Combining architectural acumen with interior beauty, Susan’s material choices always consider form and function, fastidiously tailoring each project to the client’s specific needs. “Designed for eco-friendly sustainability, all systems in the house are energy efficient with excellent insulation values,” she adds. “The large thermal windows face north for consistent indirect light throughout the day.”

The living room’s expansive picture window gazes out to the park beyond, creating a spectacular panoramic view that’s also visible from the dining area and kitchen. A gorgeous stained-wood ceiling with recessed lighting brings warmth to the room’s stone walls and the kitchen’s resilient hard surfaces. In the mudroom, the designer created a convenient built-in drop zone for keys, bags and other essentials. Additional custom features include a built-in library display cabinet for family albums and collectibles. The cabinet provides a buffer that screens the guest room and office from a cocooning media area designed for home entertainment and lounging. In the primary suite, a light-filled corner with a cozy club chair and ottoman forms a quiet nook for reading and relaxing, and a sleek state-of-the-art bathroom with a built-in bench, shelves and grab rails emits a serene spa-like ambiance.

“This house delivers both beauty and performance achieved through an integrated and collaborative process with the owners and craftsmen,” Susan notes. “It connects with the suburban fabric by infilling an abandoned lot while also connecting beautifully to the history of the area by using regional materials beloved by this city. But best of all, it gracefully transitions to suit its young homeowners—like a hand in glove.”


Appliances: Autco

Artwork: Stephen Leet

Cabinetry: Bear Creek Cabinetry

Interior furniture: Centro Modern Furnishings

Granite fabricator: Modern Counter Tops

Technology: Sundown One

Interior lighting: St. Louis Lighting Group

Plumbing fixtures: Immerse

Tile supplier: Arizona Tile

Window treatments: Exciting Windows

Window/door: Fleetwood

Landscape design: Sexton's Landscape Concepts

Outdoor pavers/patio: MasonMade Stone Supply

Stone interior/exterior: Galassi Masonry