Easy Breezy Living

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Offering smooth and seamless access from indoors to out, this alluring poolside veranda creates a virtual hot spot for blissful year-round entertaining. 

Story by Jeanne de Lathouder     |     Photos by Matt Kocourek

A new home tucked neatly amid the lush, tree-lined neighborhoods of south Leawood celebrates al fresco living in spectacular fashion. Featuring an all-seasons veranda that offers easy-breezy access to an expansive poolside oasis just outside, this exquisite dwelling captures – spot-on – the unmistakable joie de vivre inspired by that of its homeowners. Avid entertainers with a fun-loving passion for living, Christine and Joe Leto have made their home a memorable hangout for family get-togethers, special occasions, and grand-scale parties with their friends.

Designed by architect Scott Bickford of Bickford + Company, the Leto home’s open, free-flowing spaces meld together effortlessly and deliver seamless entry to an impressive pool and patio area that wraps around the entire back yard. An indoor/outdoor veranda was an absolute must for the homeowners, who entertain year-round and wanted an all-seasons room that could serve multiple functions. In the summer, the veranda is an extension of the patio. Guests can stroll in from the pool, get out of the sun, and relax carefree on comfy wicker seating upholstered in waterproof fabric. In the winter, the room becomes a cozy retreat with a crackling fire, radiant floor heating, and stunning views of the evergreen landscape.

“We wanted a wide-open design for our home with lots of room for entertaining and family gatherings,” notes Christine. “Our veranda is the perfect setting with a bar and indoor custom grill for cookouts year-round. Folding glass doors allow us to open up the room to the main house or isolate the room if we want to close it off for outdoor use during the summer,” she adds.

With the help and expertise of interior designer Carla Rieke of Madden-McFarland Interiors, the Letos were guided to first visualize – and then to create – the ideal home for their lifestyle, and the entertaining space of their dreams.

“Joe and Christine fell in love with a piece of Brentwood slab that dictated the color scheme and absolutely had to be used for the bar countertops,” notes Carla. “For the veranda, we also incorporated the same modern design style they wanted throughout their entire home. We made this room function exactly as they had envisioned – a relaxing place for just the two of them, or an additional space for entertaining. And they do love to entertain,” she laughs, “having been a guest at one of their parties.”

The versatile bar and grill area includes a sink, ice maker, beverage center, and a custom stone counter top emulating fossilized wood. An additional custom console buffet table has the capacity to hold numerous chafing trays and serving pieces for large get-togethers. A rustic stacked stone fireplace flanked by double doors creates a dramatic focal point, and a composed, neutral color palette flows gracefully from inside to out. Smart design decisions including waterproof fabrics, outdoor furniture, worry-free occasional pieces, and nature-inspired accessories pave the way for guests to put their feet up and their drinks down, generating a no-fuss atmosphere for the Leto’s happy place.

“Carla was exceptionally creative and so easy to work with,” says Christine. “Her attention to detail made our home truly special. She helped us understand her vision during the design process, and she always gave us options so we could simply choose what we liked. The absolute best experience was when she implemented graphic design software that could depict the look of each room. This made it incredibly easy for us to see the final project before it was ever finished.”

Just steps from the veranda, a sweeping wrap-around patio beckons with its free-form saltwater pool, an isolated spa, a sun deck, a waterfall, and a wood-burning fireplace for cool nights, where the Letos make s’mores with family and friends. A separate seating area with plush chaise lounges, a 60-inch round dining table, and a raised patio level offers a peaceful, more intimate setting.

“The raised patio was designed – and looks like – an actual baseball,” notes Christine. “We have four sons who are crazy baseball fans, and they thought it would be a cool addition to the yard,” she laughs. “Our entire patio is equipped with a surround-sound music system so we can listen to the Royals games or play our favorite tunes.”

Landscape and patio designer Todd Higgins of Backyards by Design worked with the Letos to conceptualize the design for the pool and rear patio. To distinguish the space from the typical, he incorporated huge stone pavers imported from Florida that keep the deck cool in the sweltering summer sun. Towering Blue Spruce pine trees line the retaining wall behind the pool, creating a secluded, woodsy backdrop. Taking color cues from the eye-catching pines, the pool’s deep blue hue lends a Zen-like tranquility to this alluring open-air haven.

“The soothing sounds of the water features make this an exceptionally serene environment,” says Christine, “and the sun deck is a great place to sit and read – and someday – play with our grandchildren,” she laughs.

Since the completion of their home, the couple have enjoyed countless celebrations for graduations, engagements, birthdays, and Super Bowls, as well as many impromptu pool parties. On hot summer nights, Spa Leto – a name affectionately assigned by one of their friends – has become the place to be after work for festive cool-off gatherings.

“We loved making our dream a reality,” says Christine, “and working with Scott, Carla, and Todd was such a creative experience. They could see things we couldn’t even imagine – their skills and product awareness helped us understand what the end results would be.”

During the construction process, Christine commented to architect Scott Bickford that it must be exciting to see all the finished homes he’s designed. He replied to her that it was a shame, but he rarely had the opportunity to see the finished home.

“That’s when we decided to invite everyone – Scott, Carla, Todd, our builder, John Geer, of Woodbridge Custom Homes, and many of the main contractors – to a party,” she recalls. “We cooked a big Italian dinner   so they could enjoy the completion of the project and we could say thank you. It was that moment when I think everyone finally understood why we needed all this space for entertaining,” she laughs.


Builder: Woodbridge Custom Homes    |    Architect: Bickford + Company    |    Designer: Madden McFarland – Carla Rieke    |    Pool & Outdoor Furniture: Swim Things    |    Landscape/Patio Designer: Backyard by Design    |    Grill and Hood: Smoke ‘n’ Fire

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