Masterful Presentation

Notably poised and designed for sharing, the home of Tom and Ruth Brouster proclaims its presence with a declaration of classic elegance.

Text: Vicki Pickle & Garden Writer Lucyann Boston
Photos: Rob Grimm
June/July 2010

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“Next to excellence, comes the appreciation of it.” (William Makepeace Thackeray, 19th-century English novelist). Although written in another time and place, this sentiment is echoed in the magnificent Ladue home of Tom and Ruth Brouster and the couple’s admiration for its welcoming grace.

Reflecting their affinity for Old English countryside homes, the newly completed residence embraces a refined sensibility found in discerning homes with appreciable history.

A repertoire of the couple’s restorations includes a home in Kirkwood, the historic Harriet Bakewell Portland Place residence and an 85-year old, historic house in Webster Groves, where the Brousters lived for 16 years. Embarking on another ambitious venture, the couple decided to build a new home with the feel of a home with history. The 8-year process originally began with plans to build a home in Huntleigh, working with architect Patrick Nolan of PNM Ltd. Architects, before the couple found the perfect site – a splendid, tree-lined 4.8-acre setting in nearby Ladue.

With a penchant for perfection, the Brousters continued to work with Nolan to design a residence with dignified spaces and unequivocal architectural style. The home’s multi-level expanse is punctuated with generously sized rooms that flow one to another and lead outdoors to brilliantly planned spaces that beckon year-round use.

Tom, a St. Louis banking entrepreneur, and Ruth, a busy mother and volunteer, set their hearts on a spacious, yet welcoming, family-focused home with inviting warmth. Researching every aspect of the enormous undertaking and working in tandem with the team, the hands-on couple was instrumental in all of the interior and exterior design decisions, and they could not be more proud of the fabulous outcome.

The primary body of the home is symmetrically arranged in a traditional “center hall” manner with three basic volumes on each floor. The main level features a central entry foyer, grand staircase and living room, with formal dining and parlor spaces adjacent to either side.

The north wing includes a carriage house, gated auto court and garage. A family entry area is in close proximity to the kitchen, breakfast room and sunroom, with a billiard room and conservatory to the south. A hearth room, powder room and library are located between the north and south wings.

The south wing is an intentional style departure, with Tudor Revival/Gothic features and a Victorian English conservatory, which achieves textural variety and conveys the impression that this was at some point an “addition” to the original home. Its design concept is intended to belie the “newness” of the home and reinforce the perception of an established estate.

The second floor houses all of the bedrooms, with the master suite occupying the entire south third. The high-tech lower level is dedicated to entertainment and family-oriented spaces, such as a game room and theater, which can accommodate large gatherings. A spacious, state-of-the-art fitness room is a precisely planned space in the lower level, as well.

In whole, the setting provides a backdrop for “an album of wonderful memories” with the couple’s daughter, grown children, seven grandchildren, and community of friends.

“We feel we’ve been very blessed, and we try to give back to the community through various organizations that are dear to our hearts,” say the couple.

The Brousters’ goal – to create a new, generously capacious home with a turn-of-the-century aesthetic – was achieved with pinpoint attention to detail. They worked closely with Patrick Nolan, builder Jim Minton  and interior designer Carter Noel throughout the long-term process. “Just the way older homes are built appeals to our taste,” remark Tom and Ruth. “We spent a lot of time looking at older homes to pick up ideas about traditional design,” Tom explains.

Desiring the authenticity of a period home with a strong English influence, Tom was inspired by the historic Westbury House on Long Island, a Georgian Revival-style mansion and a superb example of an English country manor home. Surrounded by one of the finest English gardens in the U.S., the Charles II-style mansion was designed in the early 1900s by English architect George A. Crawley, in conjunction with American architect Grosvenor Atterbury. The landmark estate embodies the style and image Tom wanted, and it became the inspiration – the starting point – for the basic composition and many of the period-appropriate details for the Brousters’ new home.

Builder Jim Minton explains, “Selecting materials that were consistent with the Westbury House and its architectural style – such as the limestone carvings that are part of Westbury and were masterfully replicated by Leonard Masonry – provided authenticity to the overall appearance and feel of the Brousters’ home.”

The exterior, especially the west and east façades, include many ornamental features reinterpreted from Westbury, with design elements as rich and diverse as those from the Charles II, Beaux Arts and Adam style.  

According to Nolan, “The home was designed to have a firm stance and a grand presence – but most importantly, to display an attentive respect to detail.”

Commanding rooms were designed as a consistent reflection of the form and composition principles of the home, primarily symmetry and order, but with features that uniquely characterize each space.  

“From a design standpoint,” says Nolan, “the large scale of the home reinforced the need for ‘depth’ in the details – mere surface appliqué would not be successful.” Working closely with Tom, the design team wanted the home to showcase a rich variety of well-executed details that, when woven together, express a high level of refinement. Nolan continues, “We projected the keystones, quoins, and carved limestone details to create shadow lines and enhance the three-dimensional qualities of the house.”

French doors open to levels of outdoor patios and terraces, extending the home’s entertaining venues. Interior designer Carter Noel explains, “While the house is extremely formal, I wanted to make it very family-friendly and inviting without taking away from the classical details.” Tom adds, “Carter has incredible taste and vision and understood what we were about, with our fondness for English traditional style.”

The home’s well-orchestrated flow encourages guests to experience the variety of spaces and move from interior to exterior with ease. The first-floor terrace at the east flows gracefully with symmetrical curving limestone stairs that lead to the pool and pool house setting – a striking focal point for the axial organization of the outdoor living areas.

From the beginning of the project, Tom and Ruth were determined to give their new residence the same link to the land as the historic English country manors they admire.

Blending the home into the hillside began with Tom walking the land to personally inventory the existing trees, selecting approximately 90 that would be spared during the building process. As early as 2006, Meyer Landscaping brought in and planted a screen of 18-foot-tall Norway spruce, Colorado blue spruce and southern magnolias to shield the nearest neighbors from the sights and sounds of construction.

To further bond the home to the land, landscape architect Matt Moynihan balanced the formal drive leading to the home’s grand entrance with a series of less formal terraces off the side and back of the residence to “provide an architectural layer between the house and natural landscape beyond the home.” He notes that a progression of increasingly less formal levels, bridging the space between the home and the countryside beyond, is one of the hallmarks of English landscape gardening.

As with selections for the interior of the home, Tom had a hand in choosing most of the 250 ornamental and shade trees and hundreds of perennials and shrubs that provide year-round color and interest to the landscape, making it a breathtaking setting for sharing special occasions with others.

And in that spirit, Tom and Ruth are always in motion – preparing for their next special gathering. Last summer, the Brousters hosted a family reunion and a traditional Fourth of July celebration at their newly completed home, each for nearly 100 guests. These were the first of many occasions that will enliven the halls of the Brouster residence in the coming years. “Our family gatherings typically include as many as 45 to 50 people. We are together a lot,” the couple remarks, happily. “We built this home to share with family.”

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