Nicole Johnson was eight months pregnant with her son, Lane, when she and husband Dane closed on their 1956 ranch home in Ladue in October 2019. Moving from a condo in the Central West End, they were seeking the added space, yard and great schools the area provided.
Located on a large lot in a heavily wooded, private subdivision, the house had many original features that were big selling points, including hardwood floors, numerous built-in shelves and cabinets, soffits with built-in lighting and a stunning curved stone fireplace in the living room.
“I was pretty much in love with it,” Nicole remembers.
While the house was well-maintained and perfectly livable, the kitchen was a closed-off galley right off the foyer with aging appliances and only a small opening leading into the adjacent dining room. The Johnsons knew they wanted to update it as soon as they could, but with the new baby arriving shortly after moving followed by the onset of the pandemic, those plans took a backseat for a couple of years.
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In 2022, with Lane now a toddler, they were finally ready to make the space work better for their family. The Johnsons had an existing relationship with interior designer Laura Strohm-Armstrong with Patricia Schmidt Interiors, who had previously done work at their condo as well as Nicole’s mom’s house. She also helped them with small projects like window treatments when they first moved in.
“She loved the house and was super excited and already telling us what she would do,” says Nicole.
Naturally, the Johnsons reached back out to Strohm-Armstrong when they were ready to take on the larger renovation.
Ultimately, the designer provided a concept that was a full overhaul — flipping the locations of the existing kitchen and dining rooms for better flow and fully opening them up by removing the wall between them.
“I was pretty scared honestly — about how long it would take, and how much money. But we thought about it, and it made the most sense,” Nicole says. “I didn’t want to regret not giving ourselves more space, and we’ve never looked back. It was the right move.”
Before beginning the project, Strohm-Armstrong brought in architect Jerry Cannon of The Bend Architectural Group and general contractor John Erlinger of Erlinger Construction, as well as a plumber, electrician and painter to ensure the plans were solid.
Knowing they would eventually renovate, the Johnsons had kept their condo, and moved back in September 2022 as the renovations began, living there until they were complete in March 2023.
“Deep down, once we were committed, I felt really good about it,” Nicole says of the renovation. They couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
In the former kitchen, now dining area, Strohm-Armstrong designed a built-in bench under a bank of windows overlooking the front yard to provide an uninterrupted view and seating on one side of a long glass-topped Barclay Butera dining table, complemented with modern white leather chairs from West Elm on the other side. A beautiful bronze sputnik chandelier hangs above.
With the wall removed, the dining area is now fully open to the new kitchen, adjoining the living room for one seamless main living space. Taking cues from the home’s midcentury modern roots, the design is sleek and minimal with a large gray quartz-topped island that has seating for three, outfitted with white leather barstools from West Elm to match the dining chairs.
Mennonite woodworkers Country View Furniture custom built rift-cut quarter-sawn oak cabinetry in a soft hue that matches the home’s refinished original hardwood floors. Strohm-Armstrong used a unique white wave textured large format tile for the backsplash and front of the island.
An avid cook, Nicole appreciates the space and flow of the new kitchen. Sliding glass doors leading to a covered patio, and another bank of windows in the living room fill the space with natural light, one of the features Dane loves most about the house.
The renovation also helped highlight some of the living room’s features, in particular, the ceiling-high curved stone fireplace that first caught their eye when they looked at the house.
The meandering ranch has two hallways leading in opposite directions — one to the original bedrooms, and another to the Johnsons’ spacious primary suite, an addition built around 1990. A bedroom connected to both hallways and closest to theirs serves as Lane’s room and includes another small fireplace. The house also features a finished basement with a small family room and large play area where all of Lane’s toys are kept.
The Johnsons’ patience paid off, and they are proud to have preserved and revitalized their midcentury modern ranch.
Photos: At Home at the Johnson’s lovely Ladue location