After an electrical fire destroyed their historic New York dwelling, a Kansas City couple returns home to make a fresh start in the Northland.
Story by Jeanne de Lathouder | Photography by Matt Kocourek
Even for the most unflappable, losing everything in a fire — including your entire home — would be a daunting experience. But this New York couple, originally from the Midwest, took it in stride by seeing the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Their previous house was a beautiful 100-year-old colonial, but with all its historic charm, it also came with the character of 100-year-old wiring and no insulation.
“This, combined with the occasional use of a space heater on bitterly cold nights, resulted in an electrical fire that destroyed our home and furnishings,” says the homeowner. “Ironically, we had been contemplating a move back to Kansas City after 25 years in New York. So, knowing that we were prepared to relocate, we rented a furnished home until our sons graduated from high school, then packed up our remaining belongings and moved closer to our families and a lower cost of living.”
The couple had already been looking for a home in Kansas City and quickly narrowed their search to new construction in Forest Ridge Estates. As they approached the end of the 18-month construction timeline, they found themselves overwhelmed by the task of furnishing and decorating an entirely new 3,700-square-foot home from scratch. “We were excited for a fresh start but didn’t know where to begin,” adds the homeowner. “The style of our new home was more open and casual than the formal layout we just came from.”
After asking everyone they knew for designer recommendations and scouring the internet, they discovered Jen Surface of Surface to Surface Interior Design & Construction. Their first meeting was on Labor Day. “We weren’t sure whether she realized it was different than any other day,” jokes the homeowner. “That is how dedicated Jen is to the craft she loves, and before she felt comfortable leaving, she assured us she would make it a smooth process.”
Jen then dedicated a substantial amount of time to the project, including several shopping trips, many texts with endless ideas to consider, and frequently visiting the site to orchestrate multiple furniture deliveries and installations. “She was always available and made us feel like family — in a good way,” the homeowner comments.
“I met this couple in their temporary apartment,” remembers Jen. “We sat on rented chairs and proceeded to get to know each other. I learned they lost everything in a fire and needed full-service design guidance with their new build here in Kansas City. I reassured them I would do everything possible to make the project stress-free — and I hope I did.”
Shortly after, Jen visited the new site when only the sheetrock was completed. But in true Jen fashion, she immediately began explaining her vision for every square inch in-depth with exuberance. “Oh my, did I ever lead them in the opposite direction,” laughs Jen, “but I think it was more suitable for their personalities and lifestyle. Their former New York home embodied a traditional look with various shades of brown, jewel tones, and lots of floral patterns. Looking back now, I think the clients might have wondered about me. Most people have difficulty believing me when I tell them I can see things finished before they begin, but I can—and somehow, I always manage to prove it.”
The openness of the floor plan presented an opportunity for the spaces to flow seamlessly into one another. Jen strove for her signature classic, timeless aesthetic and the perfect blend of textures, patterns, and colors. Everything about this home speaks to the family’s elegant and laid-back lifestyle — relaxed and refined, casual yet sophisticated. “For a soothing natural color palette, I referred to Mother Nature as she showcased herself outside the magnificent tall windows,” the designer adds. “I also scattered accents of black and white throughout to change it up a little.”
Neutral furniture upholstery blends in quietly with the surroundings. A beautifully balanced placement of accessories, colorful patterned pillows, area rugs, and artwork — several of which are Jen’s custom pieces — add interest and warmth. Table lamps and floor lamps provide a warm glow and cozy ambiance in the evenings. “I installed oversized custom mirrors in the entryway and over the staircase to reintroduce light and reflect all of the beautiful things,” notes Jen. “Custom mirrors are truly becoming one of my trademarks.”
The home’s soaring ceilings and grand expanses of glass create an airy, open atmosphere with lovely moments of natural light from nearly every vantage point. Even the staircase descending to a lower-level entertainment area is walled with glass displaying the property’s peaceful woodsy setting. A trio of skylights illuminate the kitchen, highlighting a gorgeous textured stone slab that tops a massive custom island. Lustrous hardwood floors and rustic ceiling beams counterbalance the sleek, contemporary aesthetic, emanating an inviting warmth with their beautifully grained patinas. Plush area rugs introduce softness and luxurious texture, anchoring the seating areas.
The owners have already enjoyed sharing their new home with family and friends — some of which confessed they wish they could live here. They relish spotting the deer, turkey, and other birds and wildlife that wander into the natural setting that is their backyard and are hoping to host a Chiefs Super Bowl party in February.
“We put our faith in Jen’s experience,” says the homeowner. “She was able to identify central pieces of furniture that we liked and match them with other accents and décor. Sometimes we struggled to see the big picture, but we learned to trust Jen’s vision and were impressed with the results. She even added personal touches to some of the artwork we purchased to make the perfect fit, along with some of her own artwork when we couldn’t find the right look.”
“I could not have wished for more perfect clients,” says Jen. “They are fun, kind, and had great input — my favorite kind of people. I loved meeting their grown sons as well. This family has been faced with many challenges, and it is now time for them to relax and enjoy the wildlife from their deck in their serene Midwest setting.”
- Interior Designer: Surface to Surface Interior Design & Construction
- Accent Furnishings: Century
- Accessories: All Modern
- Cabinetry: Profile Cabinets
- Flooring & Countertops: Kenny’s Tile & Floor Covering
- Furniture: Nebraska Furniture Mart, Restoration Hardware, Wayfair, Perigold, Uttermost
- Lighting: Wilson Lighting
- Mirrors: Fountain Glass
- Window Treatments: Superior Drapery & Interiors