An Overland Park couple enriches their lifestyle in this updated version of mid-century modern style.
Story by Andrea Darr Gekas | Photography by Matthew Anderson
Don Wratchford is no stranger to house projects, enjoying the process and doing much of the “floor plan layout” work himself. Having remodeled or built 10 different styles of homes since his twenties, it’s something of a hobby, but he might have landed on a keeper this time.
Rewind five years ago to when Don was in the middle of building a modern house in downtown’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, when his life trajectory veered greatly.
“We were in the sheet rocking stage when I met my fiance, Wendy,” he recalls.
Wendy Kleffner, a mortgage processor by trade, has a hidden talent in home decor. Her savvy eye for materials joined forces with Don’s design/build know-how; the combination was so good that the project was featured in the October 2016 issue of this magazine. They sold after two years, moving from the booming Crossroads District scene to Greenwood, Mo., practically the exact opposite.
“That was such a long drive to go anywhere or do anything,” Don laments. “It was a stunning area, we had a great lot and amazing house for the money, but everything we enjoyed was 45 minutes away. I said there’s got to be something in the middle.”
With Wendy’s kids in Olathe schools and friends in nearby subdivisions, Don and Wendy happened upon a cul-de-sac lot with no building next door and a view of a pond behind.
They insulated themselves by angling the house on the lot for more private views, but the neighbors have been so friendly that they all have become somewhat of their own cohort, spending time with the kids and playing Pickleball.
If ever there were a house perfectly situated to withstand social distancing during a worldwide pandemic, this is it. Music plays on the whole house speaker system, while the dogs roam freely indoors and out.
The house exudes a light, open feeling, utilizing a modified plan with some alterations that better suited the couple’s design goals. For instance, the front entry was pushed back into what would be closet space to allow light from three stacked horizontal windows to flood into the main room. A wider entry also made an exceptional spot for an engaging piece of art to hold its own. And Don had a friend make the aviation-grade aluminum stair balusters and clear center frames to maintain the sense of airiness. Large, round, mid-century style mirrors obtained from a Radisson hotel sale seem to expand light in the stairwell.
Ivory walls and pops of black refine the space, but true warmth stems from the use of natural woods and gold accents.
The six-foot-wide crystal media fireplace reaches toward the ceiling, set amid an old-school mahogany wood paneled wall, complete with gold dividers. A curved couch is served by a 300-pound driftwood and glass coffee table and faces a TV comfortably inset at seated height.
“We like the mid-century modern look, so you’ll notice a lot of lines are off center, more asymmetrical,” Don adds.
The accouterments are minimal, and the furniture is streamlined and lacking fuss.
“Rather than having this or that knick-knack, we wanted to spotlight things so they stand out when you walk in a room,” Wendy says. “We look at a lot of these pieces as art.”
Builder Larry Greco of LG Homes allowed Don and Wendy to bring this flavor to fruition, modifying the floor plans and going out of network for selections.
“I like working with Larry because he allows you the freedom to bring ideas yourself and really make the home your own,” Don says.
The couple used their allowance upfront by shopping Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Design Gallery’s clearance section for all their high-end appliances, like a Frigidaire Professional Series glass-front fridge with matching freezer, along with a Jenn-Air espresso machine and Dacor black Professional Designer Series double range.
“Wendy and I love to use this kitchen, which is why we wanted to make sure we got all the things we wanted,” Don adds.
The black cabinetry stuns in its tailored nature, paired with gold pulls and fixtures. Wendy, who also loves an all-white kitchen, got an all-white butler’s pantry instead, and just outside of it, in the back hall, she had her great-grandfather’s antique armoire painted black to transition between the spaces and eras.
The couple got the idea for the shallow built-in shelves on both sides of the range from a designers’ home tour, where they also were inspired to build their 8-foot ventilation hood custom-made by a friend in the aerospace business and a little installation help from Don and his friend Bill Smith.
The couple funneled several ideas from homes tours into this project, but always using their own creativity.
“We put them all together in different and unique ways that no one else has,” Wendy says. “As things moved along, our ideas evolved.”
Practically a showcase home feature in its own right, a Crystallo countertop is immediately discernible from common granite. It’s translucent, and the couple plans to install lights underneath to intensify the effect.
Lighting was another huge category where builder-grade selections wouldn’t suffice.
“The expense was worth it because at night it makes a big difference,” Don explains.
Sputniks, globes and saucers harken back to the middle of last century but with a decidedly updated feel, and of course, they’re more efficient and user-friendly, such as with dimmer switches and automated technology.
“It was all about coordinating for Wendy — the lighting, hardware, mirrors, faucets and everything in between, in gold and acrylic,” Don says. “She’s very good at details.”
No space is wasted or left out of the design theme for a seamless look throughout, from a nook with a coffee bar and bar fridge located just outside the master suite to Wendy’s home office, bedecked in motivational quotes — using gold lettering, of course. Every bathroom finish perfectly synchs up, too, not just in the spa-grade master bath, with its Japanese soaking tub and zero-entry double shower walls and pebble floors.
The lower level, however, is the real jewel of the house, where the couple modeled many ideas off their favorite restaurant, Stock Hill. A bar lit by LEDs serves a crowd of two or 20, while an antique cabinet next to it stores bourbon. Several vertical wine racks in the underutilized stair space give easy access to bottles.
The lounge scene is fabulously captured in multiple setups, including prized booth seating lined with blue velvet panels all the way around and across the ceiling. Rat Pack photos and newspaper clippings are hung on the wall.
“Our favorite space to be is down here, there are just so many different features and different areas,” Don says. “We could have put a pool table down here, but that’s not our vibe. We just wanted a place to lounge.”
This level also comprises a theater room, featuring custom theater carpeting and stocked with popcorn maker and candy concession counter; as well as a gym, customized with swinging glass doors and details down to the gold hinges and vintage lime green carpet.
Fortuitously, the couple started the in-ground, heated saltwater pool project as the house neared completion, luckily avoiding any shutdowns. The water’s depth, at 4.5 feet, is ideal for dipping in with a drink, while a stand-up fire pit and tropical plants surround the pool deck makes the space feel like vacationland, which it is, in perpetuity. Multiple outdoor decks and patios on both levels of the house offer access to fresh air and lazy lounging spots, with cafe lights hung overhead and white linens softly billowing.
Neighbors call it The Vegas House for its glam styling and entertainment options. Don and Wendy love the moniker and gladly open their doors to welcome them in.
“We’re not done with everything we want to do to this house, but we’ve already been enjoying social distancing parties,” the couple says.
- Builder: LG Homes
- Architect: HD Engineering
- Appliances: Nebraska Furniture Mart Design Gallery
- Countertops: Global Stone
- Custom Furnishings: Seville Home
- Custom Lounge Area: Motivo Designs
- Decor: Motivo Designs, Home Goods, Seville Home, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Restore
- Drapery: Z Gallerie
- Fireplaces: Fireplace Direct
- Home Theater: Theater Carpet Direct, Restore, Nebraska Furniture Mart
- Interior Designers: Wendy Kleffner, Don Wratchford and Morgan Kleffner
- Kitchen, Bar and Pantry Cabinetry: Bob’s Custom Cabinetry
- Lighting: Wilson Lighting, Rensen House of Lights
- Mahogany Stairs and Wall Panels: Paxton Lumber
- Outdoor Lounge Areas: Restoration Hardware, Nebraska Furniture Mart
- Range Hood: ZLINE, May Technology and Mfg.
- Saltwater Pool: Pool Warehouse
- Stairway Components: May Technology and Mfg.
- Wine Racks: VintageView
- Don and Wendy would like to give a special thanks to all those who helped make their home a dream! Travis Houk, Jim Hunsucker, Morgan Kleffner, Flavio Mizusaki and Bill Smith