In James and Cabanne Howard’s home, contemporary art is displayed alongside centuries-old antiques, and flea market finds blend effortlessly with high-end furniture. “We love mixing high and low,” says Cabanne. But what’s most important, says the St. Louis native, is that “each piece tell a story.”
Nowhere is the couple’s appreciation for storytelling more apparent than in the dining room, where a stunning crystal chandelier with cobalt accents hangs above a Hollywood Regency dining table. The early-1900s chandelier belonged to Cabanne’s grandmother Ellen Connant, and a collection of framed photographs show how it was worked into the décor of her David Adler–designed Chicago apartment. A large triptych, titled “Kate Moss Rorschach,” created in 2010 by contemporary artist Asher Penn, adorns another wall in the room. It features Rorschach test–style inkblots superimposed over images of model Kate Moss. The Howards acquired the work from Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, where they met in 2006.
The couple’s décor also tells the story of their travels, in a pair of sconces from Bali and a glass chandelier purchased in Miami. Smaller objects from India, Morocco, and Dubai are shown throughout the three-story Tudor Revival house. “They’re things from global cultures that help ground us,” says Cabanne.
Even though the family is surrounded by fascinating art and decoration, some of Cabanne’s most treasured works were created right here in St. Louis. In 2020, she commissioned portraits of her two children, Isabelle, 7, and Theo, 5, by St. Louis–based artist Anne Molasky Ibur. The two paintings, which rest on the mantel in the living room, are “a moment in time during quarantine that I just never wanted to forget,” says Cabanne. Next to her bed is another prized work: Outer Space Painting, which Isabelle created when she was just a toddler.
The house, on a gated street in the Central West End, is itself enveloped in history, and it, too, has a connection to art. Nineteenth-century portraitist Charles Franklin Galt lived there, and he left his mark on the house by lowering the floor in a room on the first floor to create a light-filled two-story studio. The Howards use this sunken space as a media room.
“We still meet people who will say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I grew up going to that house. My mom would go there, and they would be doing studies of a nude,’” says Cabanne, who was fond of the “distinctive” style of the room from the moment, more than 10 years ago, when she and her husband first toured the property.
The abundant natural light that streams through the large windows, especially on the sweeping front staircase, was also appealing. And there’s the symmetry of the foursquare floor plan and the many original features, such as the crown molding, pocket doors, and decorative transom windows, that were too hard to pass up. Still, the house needed significant renovations—including six months of plaster work on the walls—to prepare the residence for its new owners.
“We were so grateful, because [the previous owners] hadn’t done a lot to the house,” says Cabanne, “so there was so much about the original home that was still fully intact.” The couple’s intention was to maintain the home’s architectural integrity yet have it reflect their cosmopolitan tastes, as well as the needs of their family.
With two active kids, the family is writing its own story. On a sunny afternoon in late February, boxes of Girl Scout cookies are piled in the living room as gales of giggles erupt from the kids’ rooms on the second floor.
Cabanne says she’s grown to appreciate the house even more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in March 2020, Cabanne—CEO of Kaleidoscope Management Group—created a home office on the third floor, which had previously gotten little use. Across the hall are still remnants of the setup that the kids used while in the throes of virtual learning.
“I took more care and attention in the house because I was here so much,” she says. “It definitely forced us to live in every room.” With few evening activities, the family spent far more time in the dining room, kitchen, as well as in the backyard.
In fact, Cabanne has a newfound gratitude for the home’s nooks and crannies. There are two window seats—one on the landing in the stairway and another in the master bedroom—where she now loves to spend time. The small balcony off her son’s bedroom has a wonderful view of their backyard oasis.
“Even though 4,600 square feet is a lot for us, it feels proportioned to how we live. To be able to take a break, go read a book, be away from the action—it’s possible to do that here, which I just love,” Cabanne says. “Especially being a mom, sometimes you just need to go somewhere and not actually get in the car.”
As her family eats, sleeps, laughs, and goes about daily life, Cabanne is mindful that this is but one chapter in the long history of the Pershing Place house: “I think it’s important to try to live the best we can in this house until we pass it on to the next deserving person.”