St. Louis Mid-Century Modern Design: Architect Charles King

Written by Josh McDermott

architect Charles King st louisOne of the best ways to preserve a city’s residential architecture is to find homeowners and professionals in the design and construction industries dedicated to preservation. In St. Louis, the ranch houses built in the mid 20th century, and where many baby boomers grew up, are getting the love and attention they need to survive.

At J.T. McDermott, we love the mid-century modern homes that can be found throughout the area. Some of us are downright passionate about it! What I personally appreciate about these homes is their openness, simplicity in style, and how they are designed to bring nature indoors via lots of glass and big windows.

Whether they know it or not, many of the design details clients ask for today have their roots in mid-century modern architecture. Big windows, creative storage solutions, an open floor plan, ergonomic design, and a seamless flow between indoors and out all have their roots in mid-century design.

Worth Preserving

I was exposed to St. Louis mid-century modern architecture – and one of its practitioners, Charles King – at a very early age. As the pendulum swings from demolition to recognizing the historical significance of these homes, communities like Glendale, Ladue, Kirkwood, and Fenton are working to place mid-century houses on the National Register of Historic Places. The Bennett Avenue Historic District in Richmond Heights and the Ladue Estates district in Creve Coeur are two major accomplishments of this movement.

The Belleville Historical Society also holds tours of King-designed homes in the community and has produced a video on King’s work.

Architect Charles King and St. Louis Mid-Century Modernism

Charles King was a Kentucky-born architect who designed dozens of mid-century modern residences throughout the state, city, and St. Louis suburbs. In 1991, King was named one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 architects. The architect, who died in 1993, enjoyed a prolific career: his body of work includes over 200 residences and commercial buildings in Missouri, Illinois, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

King was a graduate of the University of Illinois School of Architecture and practiced in Belleville from 1949 to 1961, producing an estimated 100 custom-designed residences and home additions during that time. One of the last homes King designed while here in St. Louis is currently being worked on by J.T. McDermott. We’ve done some minor work over the past years, such as replacing the original casters on the huge sliding doors between the eat-in kitchen and patio.

King started work on this house in 1961 (his last year in Belleville). It was intended for his personal use, but during the process, he and his wife divorced. He then sold his architectural firm and never lived in the house. In 1967, he remarried and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The current homeowner took up residence in 1967. At some point before that, an addition was built by another owner, but most of the home’s architecture is as originally designed and built.

We’re doing some minor updating to the kitchen. The homeowner, who has a reverence for the original design, wants to maintain the integrity of what is already there, so the changes we’re making are minimal. The goal is to give the home a breath of fresh air while staying true to its character and history. We’re simply refinishing the cabinetry and leaving small interesting details

There is a unique bar sink that will have a countertop put over it, but everything else, including the flooring, will remain the same. One interesting challenge has to do with the backsplash, which needs to be planed down so the homeowner’s sink and faucet will fit properly. We’re partnering with Stone Fabricators of St. Louis to complete that work.

Learn More

Mid-century modern architecture has an impressive following here in the St. Louis area. ModernSTL, a non-profit group of St. Louisans who share a passion for modern architecture and style, boasts over 5,500 followers on its Facebook and Instagram pages. The members are dedicated to the identification, education, celebration, and preservation of St. Louis modernism. The group offers pop-up open houses, day tours, and other events, all celebrating this iconic architectural style.

Do you have a kitchen, bathroom, or whole house remodel in mind? If you’d like to learn more about the influence of mid-century modern architecture on today’s home remodeling trends, drop us a line today. We would love to hear from you!

For Josh, it’s always been about relationships. As J.T. McDermott’s 2nd generation owner, he believes nothing matters more than the enduring friendships that are built with the homeowners he serves. “If I can help both our clients grow and the team grow, everything else will take care of itself.”

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