At home: Couple celebrates first year in Charles E. King-designed Belleville home | National

Firsts are always special, and homeowner Brittani Allen notes joyfully that she and her husband, Jeff, are celebrating a milestone of their own.

“It’s our first birthday of living in this special house.”

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The midcentury modern home they bought last January was designed by celebrated architect Charles Erwin King and came with a set of original blueprints, now framed and proudly displayed. It was built in 1962 for a prominent doctor and his family. The single-story home nestles into woods in west Belleville.

King began a 14-year architectural practice in Belleville in 1947 and later relocated to St. Louis. He practiced around the country, earning many honors and awards. In 1991 he was named one of the “The Top 100 Architects in America” by Architectural Digest. King died in St. Louis in 1993. He is most associated with the popular design style known today as midcentury modern, which generally developed from 1935 to 1965; it emphasizes open floor plans and ample windows, opening up interior spaces and giving a sense of living in nature. In 2016 the Belleville Historical Society founded the Mid-Century Modern Architecture Museum in a King-designed home, not far from the Allen home and eight other King designs. The organization continues to identify residential, commercial and public buildings and additions that King designed.

Brittani Allen says: “I have loved ‘mid-mod’ style since I was 8 years old and visited my grandfather’s house in Panama, Ill. It was furnished in ’50s and ’60s decor that I love, and I inherited his living room furnishings. Jeff and I were not necessarily looking for a Charles King house because we thought it would not be in our budget, but we found this house for sale online. The bones were there and the wood ceiling was intact. We put in an offer the next week.”

The exterior is a contrast between graphite-colored brick and white stucco, with a bright yellow door. The main floor is 2,100 feet square feet and encompasses three bedrooms, a full and a ¾ bath. There’s also a screened porch and a deck. The full finished basement has another half-bath. Although the couple had renovated and flipped a small house in Belleville, they welcomed their parents’ experience and knowledge on this larger project. “Fortunately, we have family in Illinois who know what they are doing,” she says.

“We’ve done an update, more cosmetic than structural. Our goal is cozy but with clean lines.“ In just their first year the couple had all carpet replaced with cork tiles for a neutral, natural base. After they removed wallpaper, she learned to plaster when some of it adhered to the old grasscloth coverings. Then she painted walls white for uniformity. “I wanted to create a canvas that we could work against, to hang artwork and to change and update it.” The striking exception is a show-stopping blue wall behind the master bed.

Much of the eclectic furnishings are upcycled and reflect their mid-mod aesthetic. Neutrals and shades of green reference nature but the couple keep things fun with punches of orange, turquoise and red. She rotates décor items often to change the look. “I’m always ‘shopping’ the house.”

As the chief decorator she names her mom as “my interior decorator sidekick.” Her husband says: “I don’t have much say, but I’ve given my thoughts anyway. The console and old records are mine.”

She responds, “Jeff’s my filter; he has more say in decorating than he thinks he does.” Cherished furnishings and photos from both families lend a blended feel. Green plants, family mementos and unique wall décor reflect the owners’ personalities.

Wide and welcoming, the entry ushers visitors into a semi-open living and dining area that is bathed in light and views. The ceiling peaks at 15 feet in the middle; dark wood beams punctuate the soaring space. The free-standing brick fireplace on one side of the room allows more natural light in and a wall of glass on the other side overlooks deep woods, creating a serene nest.

Brittani and Jeff are feline-fanciers with two rescue cats Gracie and Finnegan; she enjoys posting the couple’s pets and home projects on Instagram under the account, “Midcentury Meow-dern,” and has 1,500 followers. “We love it here,” she says. “We are so lucky that this house has been so loved. The house has stayed what it was meant to be. I feel like Charles King would be pleased.”


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