To say that Dennis Wick built his Caseyville home is a bit of an understatement. He designed a model of the home, ordered the materials, drove the equipment, hoisted the steel beams and drilled most of the bolts — there are 2,000 of them. He stained the concrete floors, built the countertops, painted the furniture, did most of the plumbing and electrical and created (by painting, drawing, photography, woodwork or forging) nearly every piece of art in there.
And his is no ordinary house. Built on a concrete slab, the open lower level contains a full bath with jetted tub, living room and kitchen combo and a studio. Up the open, floating staircase, you’ll find a bedroom and another bath. But it’s the upstairs architecture that is so stunning. Wick built it as a Quonset hut, a structure made of galvanized steel with a semicircular cross-section. You’ll most likely find something like this on a barn or machine shed, yet it seems perfectly at home in this minimalist space on a bluff that’s covered by crown vetch.
“I wanted to keep it simple. It’s really just a half-tube on top of a rectangle, about as simple as you can get,” Wick says. Of course, it looks anything but, and the design came with its share of challenges.
He wanted to keep the look of the steel beams on the inside, so to insulate the house he had to apply 3 inches of a high-density urethane coating sealed with an ultraviolet resistant coating to the exterior of the structure.
To create the home, he used concrete, granite, steel and wood, as well as walls of glass to take advantage of the panoramic western views. “The materials suggested to me a style that I refer to as ‘neo industrial.’”
Wick has another home in the country, near Collinsville, and a home on the bluffs in Grafton, but he built this home, starting in 2010 and taking five years to finish, as a studio and living space, a place to get away. There’s no television to be found.
“Nope. No TV. I come here to draw, paint or read, or sometimes, just sit and look out the windows.”
Those floor-to-ceiling windows (actually sliding doors) on two walls reveal quite the view: Downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch in the distance.
“It’s just beautiful to watch the weather up here,” he says. You can see a storm move across downtown, then the plains toward his house, which is atop a steep hill.
The décor is simple, minimalist even, made up mostly of his own work and a few pieces of furniture.
I guess it’s like Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Birds are a common theme. There is Wick’s sculpture of one on the entrance gate to his property. He erected the gate at the bottom of the hill early on, when people would become curious about this odd structure on the hill with neon lights running on the outside (“they do a good job of keeping the bugs away,” he says). There’s a granite bird carved into the concrete driveway right in front of the front door. There’s another sculpture on top of the house, above a door to an upper deck.
“I guess I look at this like it’s a big perch for birds,” he said.