Jack and Kate LaGere found exactly what they wanted when they least expected it. The couple wasn’t intentionally house hunting when they drove by 3524 Saint Johns Drive and spotted the For Sale sign. But after several subsequent walk-throughs and exploring every nook and cranny, the LaGeres knew the 1928 Tudor was a perfect fit with their family and historic vision.
Since Jack and Kate had three small children, they wanted to live within a safe walking distance to an elementary school and playground. Armstrong Elementary is not only across the street from the historic home, the school is Kate’s old alma mater. The house is likewise located on a large corner lot at St. Johns and Byron, which contained plenty of yard space for the active kids to practice sports and play outdoors.
The LaGeres had envisioned finding a classic home they could redesign while preserving its history. The Tudor had endless possibilities.
“I loved the Tudor style, but [the interior] had never been remodeled, except for the kitchen in the 1970s, and [the house] didn’t have central air conditioning,” Kate said. “It still had the original doors, windows, and plaster walls. It had beautiful bones though, so [we] saw the potential.”
While the LaGeres preserved the home’s historic façade and original hardwoods on the first floor, they took the remainder of the sprawling interior down to the studs for a yearlong, blank-canvas redo architecturally designed by Scott Slagle.
Between Kate’s undergrad degree in art history and her passion for collecting art, she was in her element as she collaborated with Avrea Wagner on the interior design.
In 2015, the finished fusion of 1928 history and today’s modern design emerged as a stunning work of art all its own. The lower level includes the open kitchen, multiple living areas, and access to the outdoor living space. Walls on the second floor were reconfigured to accommodate four bedrooms and three baths, and the raw unfinished attic on the third level was reimagined into a guest suite, game room, office, and small bunk room.
“I purposefully kept finishes simple because the art we collect is a major focus downstairs,” Kate said. “So we wanted white gallery-style walls to showcase the art.”
The clean modern design is complemented by the warm feel of historic art pieces, which were mostly acquired during family travels – like four original post-World War II lottery posters from Normandy, France. But two prized pieces are from history found within the house.
Hanging in the dining room is “12 Moments in American History” that Humble Oil Company printed in the 1960s, and in the foyer is a large time capsule containing a treasure trove of relics from 1930 to 1958 that were discovered behind a wooden fireplace mantle, walls, and in flashboards during renovation.
“I placed it there as the center of the home,” Kate concluded.
The Park Cities Historic Preservation Society Home Tour is Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Go to www.pchps.org for ticket information.