Guests arriving at the Rustige residence receive a friendly greeting from a yard flag fluttering in the grass. It reads “Welcome friends.” On the porch, twin turquoise pots match the color of the front door, a color that symbolizes trust and calmness. Two pink flamingos bracket the porch steps, adding a bit of whimsy just before the word “hello,” stenciled on the front door, comes into view.
It is a pleasant greeting to a home that has seen several substantial do-it-yourself improvement projects completed in the four years that Adam and Amy Rustige have owned the brick, three-bedroom, three-bath bungalow in Lindenwood Park. Adam credits his five years of Navy service in the construction battalion (commonly known as the Seabees) with giving him some of the experience he needed.
The first project was to eliminate an archway between the living and dining rooms to open the space, allowing the rooms to flow together seamlessly.
People are also reading…
Adam also built in a series of see-through niches in the walls on either side of the new passageway. Stacked one above the another and individually lighted, the couple use the open shelves to display some of the collection of midcentury modern items they appreciate. Foremost are several pitchers by Russel Wright, regarded as the leader in bringing design to everyday home items in the 1930s and 1940s.
To open the space even further, a wall enclosing the stairway to the second floor was eliminated and replaced by a stairway banister.
“The second floor was a teenage ‘mancave,’ and gross,” Amy remembers. “Apparently, the sons of the former owner were teenage boys who could do whatever they wanted up there. The ceiling was only six feet high, and the walls were flimsy sheets of plywood paneling.”
“Remodeling that area was the biggest home improvement project I ever tackled,” Adam says. “It took 15 months to gut and convert the space to a master bedroom suite with a cathedral ceiling.”
The project also included adding a bathroom with the soaking tub Amy always wanted, and a spacious walk-in closet complete with its own chandelier. “That light is the only really ‘girly’ thing in the house,” Amy says.
Then Adam installed a second-floor washer and dryer. “How it became the norm to have a first floor or basement utility room I will never know,” he says.
Now, with an accent wall painted a midcentury orange, floating nightstands which Adam made, and a diamond and rectangular geometric patterned bedspread, the suite is akin to staying in a five-star, midcentury modern hotel. “I just love it up here,” Amy says. “Adam even built a niche into the wall where the dogs can sleep.”
The previous homeowner was a contractor and had made several improvements to the residence the Rustiges’ enjoy. The kitchen features an adjoining and spacious family room thanks to an outside porch that was enclosed. The large windows that were added allow a 180-degree view of a large grassy schoolyard next door.
Also, the lower level already had a home theater the movie-loving couple was excited to discover. Now a 108-inch screen, complete with red velvet side curtains, is where they enjoy Wednesday night movies in the comfort of two mammoth reclining chairs. Their wedding invitation, designed to look like a vintage movie poster, is on one wall. Favorite quotes from famous movies are painted on another. A popcorn machine and a video game complete the setting.
Their passion for St. Louis and the midcentury modern era is also seen in their art. Framed posters feature images of a TWA advertisement, articles on the long-gone Parkmoor Drive-In on Clayton Road, the “saucer building” on Grand Avenue at St. Louis University (now a Starbucks,) and an art deco poster of the Coral Court Motel.
“Most were purchased at STL-Style on Cherokee Street,” Adam says. “The store only carries St. Louis-themed merchandise.”
A television cabinet from the 1950s that once contained an early black and white television screen with rounded edges now displays a colorful tableau of a tiny beach scene with beach chairs. Look closely and it becomes evident the couple have repurposed it as an aquarium. “We just found the old rabbit ears antenna on top,” Adam says as two tiny fish swim by.
After four years of home improvement projects, Adam says he is now taking a break. Amy says she is making a list of things to do.
“She draws it, and I build it,” he adds. “The perfect team.”
Photos: At home in Lidenwood Park with Amy and Adam Rustige