Design & Remodeling

Country Club Punk

Sci-fi imagination and architectural perfection define this South Plaza home.

Story by Andrea Darr  |  Photos by Bob Greenspan

Like the science fiction stories she writes, Erin Mos’ home has more than a few elements of surprise, from the Scribe-graffitied piano in the formal living room to the museum-quality Star Wars diorama in the basement. “It’s quirky in a good way—ours,” Erin says. “I call it Country Club Punk.”

Seekers of the unusual, she and husband Steve immediately liked the organic lines and dramatic details of the 1924 Renaissance Revival home amid the more buttoned-up brick and white colonnade homes lining Ward Parkway. When Steve found himself in one of the photos on the wall during a walk-through with the real estate agent, the couple took it as a sign that they should buy the house. “It was fate,” Steve says. From that pivotal moment, they knew the house could become extraordinary.

Over the course of an 18-month renovation, the Moses’ West Plaza home was transformed from a disjointed collection of rooms to a cohesive reflection of the family’s style—bold, unconventional and never boring—with help from architect Chris Fein and designer Jennifer Bertrand.

Unfortunately, two previous haphazard additions had rendered the floor plan incoherent, with awkward transitions and general misuse of space. “You felt it moving from one architecturally distinct space to another,” Erin says. “It was like a rabbit warren of rooms.”

The Moses’ goal was to restore the grandeur of the 1920s architecture while modernizing it for their family of four and, of course, imprinting their personal taste. Considering the couple’s edgy style, they needed an architect and designer who could push them and be pushed in return. Chris Fein, a longtime friend and former hockey teammate of Steve’s, provided the shove the house needed.

“From the start, we were all very interested in how we could create a contemporary 21st-century home while still respecting the historic nature of the original house. This ended up, in my mind, becoming the driving force behind the project,” Fein explains. “We really worked to develop the dialogue between traditional and the contemporary aspects of the house in a subtle way.”

Preserving outdoor space where the kids and pets could play was important, so the family repositioned existing rooms to create a much needed sense of openness between the kitchen, breakfast room and family room. The space-saving pot shelf allows more room for fun
in the kitchen, which features an epoxy lab countertop.

Nearly every room was altered in some fashion, and where Fein’s contributions ended, HGTV “Design Star” Jennifer Bertrand’s began. She created a palette of neutrals for the walls and furnishings so the details would pop. “Jen is in left field, I’m in left field. We can be ‘out there’ together,” Erin says.

The trio spent more than a year redesigning the old house, not straying outside of the existing footprint. “The yard is important to us. We have big dogs and kids,” Erin says of the decision to not build another addition.

Neutral walls and furnishings allow such quirky details to pop along with more contemporary design elements, like the honed-granite and steel fireplace in the living room.

Instead, repositioning the kitchen and yanking an added bath returned sense to the first-floor plan, restoring space in Steve’s office and creating openness among the kitchen, breakfast room and family rooms. Efficient storage, including a modern pot shelf Fein designed above the island, maximizes space for the family’s Asian, Creole and Indian culinary adventures and made visual room for interesting touches, including an epoxy lab countertop (like you’d find in high school chemistry class), a Milky Way window shade and color-changing LEDs in the upper cabinets.

The connecting breakfast room houses a slick black glass and steel wet bar with a built-in keg cooler, and just beyond, in the family room, is another dramatic Fein-designed detail: a bold, honed-granite and steel fireplace surround.

“A huge part of our time is spent in these three rooms,” Steve says. “But every room is used more than it used to be.”

Even the Moses’ kids, Morgan and Damon, got in on the fun of redesigning the family’s home. Morgan’s room stands out with a hot pink divider filled with toys, while her brother asked for items like a shoelace rug and fancy full-service toilet for his bedroom and bathroom.

That includes the top floor’s staircase landing, which now opens into a reading nook and row of linen closets. All the bedrooms upstairs were reworked and redecorated. Even the kids got into the process. Damon, 8, worked with Bertrand to pick out stuff for his room, such as grass vinyl floor tiles, a shoelace rug and metal ceiling. For his last birthday, he asked for (and got) a high-tech Toto toilet. “He’s a unique little kid,” Erin says proudly.

Morgan, 11, bummed she didn’t get her brother’s room, instead got a nifty hot pink space divider designed by Fein and Bertrand. She, too, has rather curious decorations, such as purple Dr. Who toile wallpaper, a bloody footprint bath mat and skull knobs. “I have moments where I’m like, ‘Yes, you’re mine,’” Erin says of her kids.

But the master bedroom, with its custom bed with pop-up TV in the footboard, and the bathroom, featuring a Duravit hot tub and steam shower outfitted with a rain head, waterfall head, regular shower head and body sprayers, are everyone’s favorite places to be. “I want to be able to swim in my bath tub and drown in my shower,” Erin notes.

Everyone in the family’s favorite room? The master bedroom and bath, complete with a pop-up TV in the footboard and a hot tub and shower outfitted with a variety of shower heads as well as body sprayers.

The basement level, formerly a tandem garage then a ballet studio, is also getting more use. “We wanted to make it just a fun space,” Steve says. A magnetized map of Earth shows where the kids have traveled, while happy face wallpaper in the bath comes with markers for drawing on, but the undeniable cool factor is the special tribute to Erin’s lifetime collection of original Star Wars memorabilia. “It’s a fun way to create scenes,” she says of the lit glass case.

LEFT: The top floor’s staircase landing is a much more popular spot now that it serves as a reading nook. RIGHT: Many neutral elements keep things in check, while letting the decor display the family’s personality.

A similar quirky display can be found hidden in the hall bath: a replica of Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs. “We can always tell when someone has looked because they come out giggling,” Erin says.

The things that comprise this home tell a story of the Moses’ childhoods, their travels, their dreams. The house’s narrative is built on its inhabitants’ love of science fiction, but it’s a true story of unique characters, contrasting themes—class with whimsy, pragmatism with creativity—and a climax of returning home after 18 months of renovations.

In a final stroke that epitomizes the project, Fein’s gift to Steve and Erin, besides a livable new home, was a Salvador Dalí print. The grotesque nature of Dalí’s time-bending motifs sum up the project perfectly: the odd with the eternal. While the house bears the Moses’ individual stamp, it will stand through the generations. “I expect this house to be here when my great grandchildren are around,” Erin says.

Geek-chic elements, such as a Star Wars diorama made from Erin’s lifetime collection of memorabilia in the basement and replica of Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs housed in the hall bathroom, keep the family’s home fun.