Jen Spilker loves baseball. She also loves to cook. All she wanted was a kitchen that didn’t force her to choose sides.
Jen and her husband, Alan, recently relocated to Greenville from St. Louis, where they renovated an historic home overlooking iconic Forest Park, site of the 1904 World’s Fair. Built in the 1890s, well before open floor plans were a thing, the layout of the Spilkers’ St. Louis home reflected the fact that the kitchen was rarely used by homeowners of that era, but rather by the people who worked for them, and was therefore far removed from the living spaces.
“In St. Louis I’d have to be in the kitchen cooking and then run in the living room to check the score,” Jen remembers. “So it was really important to me to be able to watch my ball games and cook.”
Jen and Alan hadn’t originally planned to build; they contracted local agent Melissa Morrell to help them find a ready-made house, but soon realized what they wanted — a spacious, functional layout (with a clear view of the TV from the kitchen) on a few acres in town — came attached to more bedrooms than they needed.
“We just couldn’t find what we were looking for, and we decided if we want what we want, we’re going to have to build it,” Jen says. “What we wanted was maybe about three acres, we ended up with seven. We knew it was going to be a bit more to upkeep, but then you get excited about having a little orchard and a garden…”
When it came time to interview builders, Jen, an elementary school teacher, was unable to leave her classroom to attend the initial meeting. She drew up an admittedly elementary sketch of the layout she had in mind and sent it with Alan, along with exterior photos of Rob Lowe’s Santa Barbara home, featured in Architectural Digest. Goodwin Foust Custom Homes was up first, and they knocked it out of the park with a proposed plan that was a mirror image of Jen’s drawing.
“Chris Shockley of Shockley Designs made the initial presentation, and it was so phenomenal, so well articulated. He had preliminary plans and everything already there for us,” Alan remembers. “Mentally I was feeling like it was going to take a lot not to hire these guys.”
The Spilkers worked with local landscape architect Blake Sanders to come up with a plan that incorporated a large fenced area for Chip and Snickers, their much-beloved and energetic border collies, to safely scamper, while preserving the impact of the mature landscape already in place. A fledgling fruit and nut tree orchard is under way, and Jen is crossing her fingers for a bountiful harvest from year two of her vegetable garden.
All that Shimmers
The home offers a wealth of outdoor living space from which to enjoy the gently rolling acreage. In addition to porches that span the length of home’s rear, there are balconies off Alan’s office, the game room, and one of the two guest rooms upstairs. Jen says she often joked with the Goodwin Foust team that she didn’t really care what the inside of the house looked like because she and Alan — and Chip and Snickers — would be al fresco as much as possible.
Still, the interior is a thing of beauty, with tasteful touches of Jen’s affinity for things that shimmer and sparkle. This is thanks in no small part to the artistic stylings of Sandra Frushour with Wallworks Design and Finishing. Jen had a friend helping her choose wallpaper, and as they flipped through samples they found, they loved certain patterns but not in the available colors, and vice versa. Her friend commented that it would be nice to be able to custom design wallpaper in just the right pattern and color for your home; Jen replied that she was sure it was possible if one was willing to pay for it.
“Then our designer introduced us to Sandra,” Jen says. “And that’s kind of what she does. Basically you can pick whatever wallpaper or wall design you want and she puts it right into the wall. She can do any color you want, glass beading, or whatever.”
Frushour’s work is beautifully showcased in the foyer, powder room, and dining room, and she is currently adding a bit of shimmer to the master bath.
The foyer, dining room, and master bath also play host to a bevy of breathtaking antique chandeliers and sconces, an affinity for which the Spilkers developed during their time as stewards of an historic home. Their St. Louis house retained a number of original chandeliers; others had been sold along the way. Through the process of replacing those the Spilkers discovered a local lighting store specializing in antique fixtures.
“When we came here we decided, because we both love antique lighting, that we would put in some antique chandeliers to kind of mix it up,” Jen says.
The end result, by all accounts, is a home run.