Well, They Did, Actually!
This historic Lake Lotawana gem delivers good energy and a fun vibe with its welcoming presence.
Story by Ann E. Butenas | Photos by Matt Kocourek
When Ruth Finet first crossed the threshold into the run-down, overgrown, neglected and worn out home located on Lake Lotawana a few years ago, she instinctively knew it had her name written all over it. She and her husband Tom had been looking for the perfect lake home and they discovered it in this 1929 historic gem. Well, perhaps it was more like a diamond in the rough initially, but its potential was undeniable… and quite possibly unforgivable if not brought back to life.
With their primary residence in Cedar Creek, Ruth and Tom decided it would be fun to have a lake house to which they could retreat with family and friends. Ruth, who is owner of The Korner Shoppe, a flower shop on the Sprint Campus in Overland Park, had lived at the lake prior to marrying Tom, who works in the energy business, and had developed a host of fabulous friendships over the years. Now that they had combined their families, it seemed like a great idea to purchase a lake home for everyone to enjoy.
Of course, Ruth will admit that Tom was not as initially smitten as she was about this residence.
“When we first reached the front stoop, he simply asked me, ‘Do we really need to go any further?’” Ruth recalled. “At the time the yard was overgrown and the house was in pretty bad shape.”
However, her gut instinct told her to give it a minute, and without further hesitation, she walked in the front door and immediately knew this was the one.
“There was something about the overall feel and vibe of the house that overtook me,” noted Ruth. “It just spoke to me in a way that suggested it wanted to come alive again.”
This turn of the century home was the second residence built on Lake Lotawana by Lou Holland, an industrious man who was primarily responsible for getting the downtown airport established in Kansas City, as well as initiating airmail services through Kansas City. This home, known as Rock Holland Pointe (in tribute to the Hollands, the rock from which it is made, and the point of Union Bay at Lotawana), was his full-time residence and at the time included a 10-acre parcel across the street from the main home. Additionally, there was a large barn, which is still in use today as a barn for hay and horses. It was formerly Lou’s woodworking shop and some of his creations can still be seen today as he made some of the doors in the home.
“Lou and his wife Lorance lived in the home until they passed away. Lou was in his 80s and Lorance was close to 100,” said Ruth. “Two other families owned it subsequent to the Hollands and before Tom and I bought it. And even though Tom was somewhat bewildered as to why we would even consider buying it, the place immediately felt like that ‘lake home’ I wanted to own.”
Fortunately, the walls spoke loud and clear enough for Ruth to understand, and her enthusiastic response resulted in a 22-month complete renovation and preservation of the home, breathing new life into it while still preserving its former spirit.
While the exterior of the home boasts 196 feet of water front property, along with a dock where friends and family gather to board the pontoon (a/k/a “cocktail cruiser!”) to get out on the lake, it is the interior of the residence that truly intoxicates the senses.
Partnering with contractor Greg Smetanka, Ruth and Tom knew this would be a “roll up your sleeves and wipe the sweat from your brow” endeavor, but they were up to the task and bear no regrets with respect to the end result.
“When we met with Greg, we were initially considering just painting over the existing paneling, fix up the bathrooms and the kitchen,” noted Ruth.
However, after Ruth learned from her real estate agent that the house previously had an outdoor patio that was enclosed, but later on the windows overlooking that patio were covered with mirrors and subsequently became walls, Ruth’s plans shifted gears.
“I wanted to open the walls where the mirrors were,” said Ruth. “And when we opened them up and got behind the paneling to get to the windows, we discovered stone (local limestone from 1929), and as we kept opening it up, stone was revealed on all the main level walls. It quickly escalated to a bigger project at that point.”
Upon that exciting discovery, Ruth knew this house deserved to be restored for its historical meaning. After all, the locals have always referred it to as “the Holland House” and Ruth was unwavering in her commitment to help it come alive again.
“The house deserved to be awakened,” she smiled. “Sometimes I would just stand on the balcony that overlooks the main level inside and just listen. It was as if the house was thanking me for what we were doing.”
The home boasts wood flooring throughout – no carpeting – and since the wiring to update the home could not go through the stone, Smetanka accentuated on the ceiling beams and also put big beamed doorways in several areas through which the wiring was placed and remains hidden. The two-story open floor plan with vaulted ceilings lends itself to the residence’s grand style.
Upon completion of the project, Ruth and Tom hosted an open house and invited some of the Holland’s descendants over for a visit.
“They were so grateful to see what we had done and were in tears. They began to reflect on their memories of spending time in the house when they were young,” stated Ruth.
“In reality, I really don’t feel as if the house is truly mine,” reflected Ruth. “I consider myself its current caretaker. I plan to own it until I drop dead and hope that the next owners feel the same way about it as Tom and I do. It really is a fun space and everyone who comes here feels that good energy and welcoming feeling. When I walk inside now, I feel as if I am getting a comforting and familiar hug.”
Builder/Contractor/Framing: Greg Smetanka | Interior Designer: Ruth Finet | Appliances: Factory Direct | Cabinets: Sandy Jackson Woodworking | Countertops: Grandview Top Co. | Countertop granite slabs: Bedrock International | Countertop fabrication: Camelot Countertops | Doors: Morgan Wightman | Drywall: Swift Drywall | Electrician: O’Connell Electric | Excavation/landscape lighting/sprinkler system: IDL Company | Fireplace: Flue Brothers | Hardwood flooring/tile: Kenny’s Tile | Foundation: Quality Construction | Furniture: Arhaus & Designer Library | Garage Doors: Radio Controlled Garage Door | Glass & Mirrors: Precision Glass | Hardscaping/flagstone/masonry: Masters Masonry | Hardware: Knobs & Locks | Heating & cooling: United Heating & Cooling | Home Security: Atronic Alarm | Light Fixtures: Rensen House of Lights | Lumber: Owen Lumber | Linens: Frontage, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond | Paint: Benjamin Moore & Spectrum | Painter/specialty painting: Rob Lewis Painting | Plumbing: Integrity Plumbing | Plumbing Fixtures: Grandview Winnelson | Roofing: Lifetime Roofing Systems | Tile – kitchen countertop & backsplash: International Materials of Design | Tile – summerhouse mosaic tile material: Premier Tile | Tile – summerhouse mosaic tile labor: Matt’s Tile | Trim Work: Pratter & Sons | Windows/doors: Marvin Windows & Doors | Window coverings – silhouettes & woven woods: Sebring & Company | Window covering installation: Metro Drapery | Window coverings – fabricated all draperies, pillows, shower curtains: Jeannie’s Draperies | Landscape design: Million Designs | Landscaping maintainance: Down to Earth | Docks/ladders: Midlakes Marine | Dock maintenance/seawall: Richard Davis | Tram/lift: Access Lift