Not too long ago, I took a trip to St. Louis, MO, for a stone industry event.  The day that I left for the airport, I was telling our editor, Jennifer Adams, that it would be great if we could try something different in our “Classics” section.  Rather than focus on an historic piece of architecture, such as an Italian villa or a venerable America monument, it would be interesting to report on a landmark building that has been repurposed.  I remember saying, “It would be great to write about a classic structure that was redone for use today.”

Every so often, we editors stumble on exactly what we are looking for without even trying, and this was the case here.  That very afternoon, a co-worker and I met up with an old colleague of one of our tile publications, a gentleman named Mark Pitliangas of Antique Architectural Décor in St. Louis.  As it turns out, Pitliangas had purchased and restored two landmark buildings in Downtown St. Louis, and he eagerly gave us a tour of the two properties — both of which had been repurposed for 21st century use. 

A look at the renovation of both of these buildings — with an emphasis on the stone and tile work — can be found beginning on page 42 of this issue, and both properties date to the 1920s.

The first building we toured is a Gothic-style structure, which had once served as the Midwest Headquarters of National Cash Register (NCR), and now houses an upscale residential loft as well as modern office facilities and an entertainment space.

The other, which sits right across the street, was once known as the Eastman Kodak Building and has been renamed The Thaxton.  The Art Deco property is now a highly sought-after space for weddings and other cocktail style events, and it also accommodates office space as well as the “Speakeasy at The Thaxton,” a high-end bar space for public and private events.

For both properties, Pitliangas sought to repurpose the buildings for current use while also respecting the history of each design style.  In both cases, he relied on the use of tile and stone to achieve these goals.  Stone was used for each space in a variety of formats, including flooring, countertops and carved elements.

And while the stone lends a feel of elegance to both buildings, the tilework truly gives them a unique identity.  Throughout both projects, Pitliangas’ firm produced custom tile designs that depict everything from floral patterns to portraits of William Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss.

To create a one-of-a-kind look for each space, the decorative tile elements were drawn and produced by skilled artisans. “Nothing is machined,” he said. “We mask it off and do everything freehand.  It is sandblasted, then glazed and then fired.”

At a time when technology is obviously at an all-time peak when it comes to tile manufacturing, it is always a treat to also recall the craftsmanship in this sector — especially when that craftsmanship is alive and well today.