The Historic Unsell-Cabell House

Photography by:

Alise O'Brien

The Historic Unsell-Cabell House

A new life for a historic Kirkwood treasure

Built in 1873, by Captain Elijah J. Unsell this house is a registered landmark and a beauty to behold. After a few rough years, this landmark started to fade from its former glory into disrepair. Luckily, this did not go unnoticed by a young Kirkwood couple who saw this piece of history begging for another chance at life.

The Historic Unsell-Cabell House

Entry Way Stairs

Working with the tall ceilings, windows, and original moldings but limited natural night in the entrance hall, Idol chose an oversized damask wallpaper to create a dramatic first impression. While the pattern is typical of the era the charcoal color feels updated and creates a moody core allowing the adjacent rooms to each have a distinct personality.

As history buffs, our clients wanted a home that maintained the notable charm of its Victorian roots while touting a truly unique sense of interior style. While they wanted the spaces to feel authentic, they trusted Idol’s vision to create a layered approach, mixing styles and updates so it was less formal (stogy or museum like).

Robert Idol Design

American Empire Sideboard

The dining room is created with time-stamped authenticity including antiques chosen to produce a thoughtful, curated, and collected feel. The walls are adorned with a Vervain paper employing the flora and fauna of days and places past, delivered with crisp charcoal tones on a mellow off-white background to produce a mural-like effect throughout. Key pieces in the room include the American Empire sideboard and a Victorian crank table. The traditional and ornate blue tone rug and warm, blue upholstered dining chairs are inspired and pulled together by the clients’ treasured collection of blue and white ginger and temple jars and plates. Clean-line and monotone draperies in a midnight-navy almost matching the grey-toned millwork complement the foyer.

Robert Idol Design

Dining Room

Robert Idol Design

Chair Detail

Robert Idol Design

The Library

The Library is a considerate appreciation for the era of Victorian men’s clubs and cigar rooms. The custom built in bookcase paired with the original soapstone fireplace and might be mistaken for Sherlock Holmes’ study. The Ralph Lauren fabric clad walls, dark greens and rich burgundy hues set the stage for the upscale Victorian masculine traditions are balanced with a more feminine Chinoiserie pattern draperies. Warmth is added by a rich maroon velvet love seat and the owners’ collection of paintings and books and brass accessories.

Finishing touches in the client’s timeless antiques, books, paintings, brass accessories, and fabric wrapped sconces medallions make this space a cozy retreat for the family and their guests.

Robert Idol Design

Robert Idol Design

The Music Room

Robert Idol Design

Our clients’ distinct needs and tastes are weaved into the entire home’s design. The music room, formerly a sitting room, inspired by a need for a dramatic visual break, boasts a refined trellis patterned ceiling surrounded by clean, soft gray walls. The bold over scaled damask on the window coverings paired with the colloquial round back side chairs gives this room the finishing touches that the Victorian style demands. At the room’s center stands its “hero”, a baby grand piano who’s rich mahogany finish stands center stage in the neutral palette.

Robert Idol Design

Robert Idol Design

Grasscloth adds color and texture to the walls in the newly expanded great room. The generous seating area is a favorite gathering space and play area for the kids.

Robert Idol Design

The Great Room

Robert Idol Design

Robert Idol Design

After a day at the pool, the family retreats to their enclosed outdoor living space to relax in the extra deep sofa and chairs, covered in Perennials® Fabrics. The interior philosophy of mixing styles is continued here for a seamless transition.

Enclosed Outddo

Our work at the Unsell-Cabell House represents a fulfilling collaboration for both designer and client. It was an honor to help bring their vision and this historic landmark back to a vibrant home for this young family. The project received three first place Architect and Designer Awards in 2021 from Design STL juried by a panel of national and international judges for residential renovation, home office & library, and dining room. The clients were pleased to hire us for continued work on the second floor of this home, as well as, a second separate property.

Robert Idol Design