Feels Like Home

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When Olivia (Harlan) and Sam Dekker first walked into this home, it was a slam dunk to become their own.

Story by Ann Butenas     |     Photography by Matt Kocourek

For most people, the current pandemic has created somewhat of an unprecedented and chaotic time, perhaps punctuated with moments of uncertainty and indecisiveness. For Sam and Olivia (Harlan) Dekker, however, the intrusion of Covid-19 unexpectedly opened a new door for them, the door to their new home in Kansas City, Missouri. They had been causally looking at homes, but just couldn’t land on one or an area that fit their needs and lifestyle.



“It was hard to find anything that felt appropriate. We wanted something interesting, comfortable, and unique,” expressed Olivia, daughter of Kevin Harlan, television and radio sports announcer, and who worked for ESPN as a reporter for five years until she recently signed a deal with BetMGM (of MGM Entertainment) as a sports host. “I had never seen anything like (this home), and knew I loved the area.”

In fact when they first toured this particular place, Sam said it felt like his home. That feeling alone confirmed their search was over. 

“The first thing I said when I walked into this home was ‘I can be myself in here,’” recalled Sam, whose 6’9” stature reveals the reason why. As a member of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and in his seventh season, Sam has no problem reaching for the stars when it comes to both personal and professional accomplishments. “The ceilings, countertops and hallways are tall. The former owners incorporated a Scandinavian feel in this home with tall, sharp and upward movements. I appreciate the way they designed this as something working up, as it not only speaks to my height but also to the way I live, always reaching higher. There is definitely room for my energy in this home.”



This 3,600 square foot home with three bedrooms and four bathrooms has its own story and place in their lives now and stands as a strong testament to the thriving West Plaza neighborhood in which it is located.

“The bones were so tastefully and lovingly created,” emphasized Olivia, referencing the living room beams, floating staircase, slanted ceilings, copious fishbowl windows, bungalow backyard, large rooftop “Dekk”, and more. “The color palette is clean and crisp, all white with orange-hued woods and black wood floors throughout. There are times that it feels mid-century modern, minimalist, Scandinavian, and tribal all in one. We wanted our decorating to complement these bones, not overwhelm.” 



There’s no place like (this) home!

Olivia and Sam feel blessed to continue the legacy of this home, as they bought it from former owners, Robert Riccardi and Dominique Davison, both architects, who transformed new life into this one-of-a-kind residence.

“Robert and I designed this house in 2005 as our home, a total, modern transformation of a simple 1967 duplex,” said Dominique, managing principal of DRAW Architecture + Urban Design. “It was originally one story with a basement below and had two access points and two garages, a super simple L-shaped floor plate. We loved the corner site with terrific views toward the Plaza.”



The Riccardi – Davisons tore the roof completely off and built up to create a spacious roof deck to optimize those views, as well as raise the eight-foot ceilings to 14 feet in the main living space. 

“We maintained some of the original brick face but stained it and added wood accents,” she said. “Finally, we completed the L-shape with a large deck, arranged around a beautiful American cedar tree.” 

Robert and Dominique love what Sam and Olivia have brought to the home and are thrilled to have them as amazing stewards of this special place.



Attention to detail

There is so much careful attention to detail in this home, most notably with respect to the colors and accessories sprinkled throughout the spaces. And while one might think they hired an interior designer to provide these added touches, all of the inspiration came from Sam and Olivia themselves.

“We stuck to solid, base color furniture and décor, using light beige in the living room with a black and white art piece; white and wood in the kitchen, and no distracting area rugs,” noted Olivia. “The areas where you do see color are very intentional and tell a story. The color palette of bright jewel tones came from the sofa pillows originally. We got them from a local vendor in Cappadocia, Turkey, where Sam played basketball for a year.”



Another storyteller is the runner in the bedroom hallway, which is over 1,000 years old and is from Istanbul and was a Christmas gift to Sam from Olivia during the year he played basketball in Turkey. Continuing the global theme are the coffee table books from around the world, funky bar candles and Olivia’s record collection that complement the chosen color palette.

When it came to the kitchen, Olivia turned up the charm by replacing the former silver appointments with muted gold for added warmth. This included the light fixtures, pulls, knobs and various   accessories. She also updated the bar nook in the kitchen, painted the formerly bright turquoise walls white, added a mini fridge for beer and custom cabinets to match the wood in the kitchen. They also installed a tile backsplash over the bar. Olivia also loves the dining table and chairs for the way they integrate a feeling of art and nature. 



“The kitchen has so much influence from outside, so I wanted it to feel consistent,” she expressed. To sustain that relaxing presence of nature, Olivia and Sam relied on touches of greenery.

“I love big oversized stems that seem overgrown and wild,” emphasized Olivia. “I add these around the whole house. I also try to have as many live palms as possible. They seem to add a boho/bossa nova feel.”

With her creative wheels in motion, Olivia followed her instincts and designed the cozy wine nook near the lower level theater room. Wine aficionados, Sam and Olivia enjoy displaying their collection they have acquired from various vineyards during their travels to Italy. Olivia bears no shame in admitting she used peel and stick wallpaper and ordered the wine racks online and purchased the bar stools from a local home accessories store.

“It was inexpensive, easy and completes the theater,” she smiled.

Another highlight includes the basement gym, which underwent a complete transformation. Wood floors replaced the carpet and large wall mirrors and framed jerseys of Sam’s adorn the walls.



With so many interesting spaces in this home, it can be tough to pick a personal favorite, as each one speaks to a  certain mood and vibe. However, Oliva does have a penchant for her office, which became her “studio” during the pandemic.

“I started hosting my podcast from there, so had to set up professional lighting and microphone, as well as establish my background,” she explained. “It was a fun project to dig up all my old mic flags from all the networks I’ve worked at, as well as pictures and letters from coaches and players over the years.”

Because extended family resides in town, Sam and Olivia knew they would probably not host the big holiday meal, so instead of investing in a big dining room table, they opted for a table of another kind: a pool table!

“We re-felted it with this beautiful grey color to look more like furniture,” she indicated. “We wanted the space to be seamless and easy to entertain.”

At the end of the day, the rooftop “Dekk,” as they call it, is the perfect place to relax or entertain. Complete with a large-screen TV, sectional, fireplace table, string lights and lots of greenery, this spot has “where we belong” etched all over it.



The home of yesterday, today and tomorrow

The things that make this home special to Sam and Olivia have been acquired from their travels. They tell a story of everywhere they’ve been together but also set a foundation for a great future. 

“This house was the perfect landing spot for us when the world stopped,” reflected Olivia. “We’re both able to work comfortably from this house. We are able to entertain friends and family so easily. It’s all of this ‘good mojo’ that makes this house our first home. We may have traveled the world and experienced a lot at a young age, but the experience of owning and loving a home together is priceless. Every effort towards making it even more beautiful or comfortable is done with love and care.”


Resources

  • Dining table and chairs, TV console, basement couches, Olivia’s office desk and rug, and all rooftop deck furniture and TV: Nebraska Furniture Mart
  • Turkish Bench: Cases’ Handcrafted Furniture 


Scan to View Olivia’s Kitchen Transformation

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