A magical mix of glamour, whimsy, and sleek Savannah cats make this magnificent rural home a haven of blissful enchantment.
Story by Jeanne de Lathouder | Photography by Matthew Anderson
When visitors first step foot onto this sprawling Johnson County property that spans across 10 acres of open field, it quickly becomes apparent the owners let their imaginations run wild when designing this spectacular country home. Amidst a vast lush lawn and wide-open views to the sky, the finished home comprising 6,600 square feet represents nothing less than a remarkable labor of love for homeowners Melissa and Mike Morris.
“Our house is a custom build home by James Engle Custom Homes,” says Melissa, an interior designer at heart who also breeds exotic Savannah cats on the adjoining property. “I love a clean, modern home with some traditional elements and, of course, glam,” she laughs. “So, the floor plan design was expanded with several modifications on my behalf. There is an abundance of mirrors, chrome, and other reflective elements. There is lots of natural light, and out here in the country, we get spectacular sunrises and amazing sunsets,” she adds.
Dressed in a neutral palette of soft grays, creams, and elegant touches of black, the home provides the perfect backdrop for Melissa’s surprising splashes of teal, violet, magenta, chartreuse, red, and opulent metallics. Her absolute must-haves for this home were an open spiral staircase, a massive island to seat at least six, a large boot room, two laundry rooms — one for her and one for the kids — heated floors, and an open floor plan with many windows. The main living room and entryway have 18-foot coffered ceilings, and the living room’s refined yet rustic stone fireplace stretches from floor to ceiling. Expansive windows flood the space with beautiful sunlight and provide fabulous views of the landscape outside.
“The home is a blend of contemporary and traditional styles,” says Ben Tarwater, president of James Engle Custom Homes. “Many homes today are a combination of styles, allowing homeowners to decorate differently. It’s easy to make adjustments as their tastes and needs change. Gone are the days of being in a one-style box,” he notes.
A case in point? The custom kitchen is a luxurious yet inviting space that incorporates all the best elements of Melissa’s glamorous signature style. A trio of brilliant pendant lights illuminates a lustrous marble-topped island that offers plenty of room for family and friends. Bold black cabinetry, stainless steel appliances, and a shimmering mosaic marble backsplash dotted with diamond-like glass accents lend an air of opulence to this special heart of the home.
“What I love most on my main level is the kitchen and living room area,” notes Melissa. “I love all the floor-to-ceiling windows — the open, clean feel with lots of natural light makes me happy. The main level has heated floors, so my feet stay warm in the winter,” she adds. “I also love the sparkle and shine in the kitchen — the beautiful backsplash and hardware, lots of chrome, perfect lighting and lots of mirrors to reflect light.”
The master bedroom emits a luxurious vibe with a captivating tray ceiling illuminated with a deep violet hue. Outfitted with posh accents, including a lavish marble fireplace, halo-style pendant lights, art deco-style mirrored-glass nightstands, a tufted velvet headboard and footboard, and a plush magenta coverlet, the room bespeaks Melissa’s passion for vibrant color and glamorous vintage-Hollywood style. Clad in marble and a sophisticated gray palette, the adjoining master bathroom exudes a spa-like feel with its crystal chandelier, spacious vanity, elegant soaking tub, steam shower, and expansive windows that open onto a garden-trellised outdoor space.
But perhaps the most extravagant space in the entire home is the lower level, where a fantasy-like Moonlight Cinema — complete with red velvet ropes, framed movie posters, and a concession stand — awaits family and friends for the ultimate movie night.
“What I love about our home that makes it extra-special is our epic basement, or what my husband calls the ‘lower-level man cave,’” laughs Melissa. “The finishes are fancy — herringbone wood floors throughout, three different rock walls in different rooms, and marble countertops and backsplashes in three different rooms. The lobby to the theater room has a heated mosaic marble floor, and the concessions area is filled with treats of your dreams — a whole room of candy, chocolate, popcorn, chips, and gummies — with glass-windowed drawers showcasing their irresistible contents. I smile every time I walk into this room,” she adds.
The theater — or viewing room — is a veritable haven designed for luxurious comfort. It features thick, delightfully spongy carpet and custom bed-like loungers staggered on two tiers for optimal viewing that invite you to snuggle in and relax. The bathroom is straight out of Old Hollywood, embellished with Sputnik-like chandeliers, black marble, gleaming gold accents, heated marble floors, and a toilet with heated seats and a bidet cleanser. A separate exercise room, painted in vibrant lime green and accented with graphic black motivational messages, offers a bright, upbeat place for a vigorous workout.
By far, one of the most interesting details about Melissa is that she breeds Savannah cats in a 2,222 square-foot “second house” that is attached to the main home via a breezeway. Her African serval, King Kyro, is a main attraction with his gorgeous markings, sleek physique, and majestic poses.
“Inside my main home, I have a birthing room where the moms birth and raise kittens,” she explains. “The adjoining cat house is where they breed.”
Throughout the home, unique trinkets and other decorative finds reiterate Melissa’s passion for her Savannah cats. Their presence in the home creates an element of whimsy and feline mystique that so uniquely aligns with the homeowners’ elegant — and magical — aesthetic.
“The Morris’s creativity and eye for design produced an incredibly beautiful home,” says Jim Engle, founder of James Engle Custom Homes. “We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with them.”
“As far as working with Engle and his team, I would never choose anyone else,” says Melissa. “They are incredible to work with, and I love that when you build with them, you get your own website with all your selections for the entire job. Then, at any given time, you can check your running total, so there are no surprises or hidden costs that hit you at the end. This is the second home we’ve built with them. They are super responsive and are great about fixing any problem that comes up,” she sums.
“The Morrises have definitely become a part of the JECH family,” adds Ben. “They are kind people and like to have fun with the process, which is truly reflected in their home.”
- Builder/Contractor: James Engle Custom Homes, LLC
- Architect: Sarah Baird – JECH
- Appliances: Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery / Factory Direct
- Audio/Video: SLS
- Cabinets: Shamrock Cabinet
- Countertops: Rock Tops
- Doors: Builder First Source / KC Building Supply
- Drywall: KC Drywall
- Electrician: G&H Electric
- Excavation: JAG Excavating
- Fireplace:Complete Home Concepts
- Flooring: Total Design Tile & Floor / Weber Flooring
- Flooring Carpeting: Weber Flooring
- Flooring Hardwood: Total Design Tile & Floor / Weber Flooring
- Foundation: BW Foundation
- Framing: Lumber One
- Garage Doors: Builders Overhead Door Company
- Glass & Mirrors: Fountain Glass
- Hardware: Gallery Design
- Heating & Cooling: Mike Bryant Heating and Cooling
- Home Security: SLS
- Kitchen Ceiling Beams: Henderson Trim Carpentry
- Light Fixtures: Gallery Design
- Lumber: Lumber One
- Masonry: Canyon Stone
- Paint: Sherwin Williams
- Painter: Gecko Painting
- Plumbing: Garrison Plumbing
- Plumbing Fixtures: Delta
- Roofing: Aspen Contracting
- Staircase Railings: Henderson Trim Carpentry
- Stone Company: Canyon Stone
- Tile: Weber Flooring
- Trim Work: Henderson Trim Carpentry
- Windows: Builders First Source / KC Building Supply
- Window Coverings: Gallery Design
- Landscaping & Hardscaping: Solutions Lawn and Landscape
- Hardscaping Stone Company: Canyon Stone
- Sprinkler System: Organic Warehouse