Donna & Lyla's Tiled Wonder

House Tour

Name: Donna Mingo, Lyla Turner
Location: South St. Louis, Missouri
Size: 1850 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years — owned

Cheerful yellow tile greets you in the entryway of Donna and Lyla's Saint Louis home. It's a fitting introduction to a house filled with both color and decorative original details, but the real show stopper is in the kitchen. The room's walls and ceiling are covered with a milky green glass tile called Vitrolite. Once common, the material was eventually supplanted by modern materials, and is no longer manufactured. Here, it curves around walls, arches over doorways, and creates a remarkable and memorable effect.

Donna and Lyla wouldn't dream of removing the Vitrolite, or any of the other preserved features of their 1930s house. They love its art deco elements and have scoured eBay looking for fixtures to blend with the builder's original intent. A collection of radios from that same period populate shelves in the dining room.

Deep appreciation doesn't stop them, however, from incorporating other things they simply love, whether it's an Eames rocker, super saturated wall colors, or artwork by friends and each other. They are just added reasons why Donna and Lyla feel lucky to be the owners and stewards of such a unique home.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mid-century, antiques, eclectic

Inspiration: Donna - I work as an interior painter and see many different homes as well as occasionally work with designers.
Lyla- When it comes to antiques, my mother was quite the enthusiast. While no one else in the house appreciated her sense of value or taste, her affinity for collecting seems to be hereditary. Some years ago, the St. Louis Art museum featured a show on Charles and Ray Eames. Their designs left a deep impression on me. However, it failed to diminish my love for early century Arts & Crafts style. Subsequently, I'm forced to mix the two.

Favorite Element: Donna - I love all the wood in the house, dark hardwood floors and millwork that has never been painted. It adds a lot of warmth to the house. And we both broke down and cried when we saw the Vitrolite in the kitchen.
Lyla - My favorite, other than the Vitrolite kitchen of course, is the front of the house. Tudor style diamond leaded glass windows, top and bottom floor, serves as a great introduction and has been on my personal wish list for many years. Many older homes have lost their original charm for the sake of updating and replacing things that have broken or gone missing. I smile on the inside when I open a closet or bedroom door and consider the thought, that these doorknobs and plates were installed when the house was being built and have never been removed.

Biggest Challenge: Donna - The house has a pair of light sconces on either side of the front door that do not work due to having shorts in the wiring in the walls. After tearing out the ceiling in the foyer and having two different electricians say it couldn't be done without removing the brick from the front of the house we decided to have a neon sign made with our house number on it. No one has trouble finding us at night any more.
Lyla-Though I love old homes truly (the older the better), the dilemma in having this fancy comes with questioning where to place media devices. Incorporating new technology with a house's older design without bastardizing the look is often tricky. Honestly, a flat screen hung over the fireplace mantel is not the most comfortable place to view a movie.

What Friends Say: Can I house sit for you when you go out of town?

Biggest Embarrassment: We spent so much money on our mattresses that we haven't been able to afford the bedroom furniture yet. The beds have no headboards!

Proudest DIY: Donna - I changed out many of the light fixtures and put ceiling fans in the bedrooms. These old houses have odd electrical boxes that provide unique challenges. I'm not an electrician by any stretch, but I am pleased with some of my creative solutions.

Biggest Indulgence: The fireplace had gas logs in it when we bought the house, but they could not be used safely as the fireplace is not vented so we sprung for some ventless logs. They look great and also put out a lot of heat.

Best Advice: Donna - If you know what you want, don't settle for something else. Be patient. If you don't know what you want, keep looking until you do.
Lyla- Don't allow yourself to be romanced by charming exteriors. It's easy to be blinded by a few cosmetic attractions but often they distract you from costly problems.

Dream Sources: We would so love to have IKEA in St. Louis.

Resources of Note:

Granite tops for Radiator covers - Graniterra

Neon Address Sign - US Neon Sign Company

Fireplace Logs - English Sweep

Art Deco Light Fixtures - eBay

Vitrolite care and repair - Tim Dunn at Vitrolite Specialist

Thanks, Donna & Lyla!

Images: Ann Manubay, Dabney Frake

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