Lake Escape

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Just a short drive from downtown, a Kansas City couple create the waterfront home of their dreams on the shores of Linn Valley Lakes.

Story by Jeanne de Lathouder    |    Photos by Matt Kocourek

Living on the water has always been a way of life for Kansas City couple Brandon and Danette Sutherland. Brandon grew up in Seattle on the Puget Sound, and Danette’s parents had a cozy lake house in the Ozarks, so having a home on the water was something they both had always loved. Years ago, they purchased their own place in the Ozarks when their children were very young, but over time, the three-hour drive just got to be too much as their kids got older and became involved in sports. While searching for an alternative closer to home, Brandon and Danette were introduced to a charming little lake community known as Linn Valley through their close friends Troy and Angela Moore.

“Troy, who is also a custom builder and owner of Madi Mali Homes, invited us down to their home in Linn Valley for an annual hog roast with their family,” says Brandon. “We ended up loving the community, the lake, and most of all, the drive time to get there from our house —it only takes 40 minutes. We loved the idea that we could go down on a Friday night, get up and go to games with our kids, and just drive back down when we were done. We’d have the best of both worlds — lake life and city life all in one day,” he adds.

With that idea in mind, Danette got to work and started the process by finding a picture of a house she loved on Pinterest that was rooted in the Dutch Colonial style and inspired by the extraordinary beach homes that line the Hamptons on the East Coast. The only issue was there were no additional pictures and she had no idea what the floor plan looked like. No problem. Danette and Brandon teamed up with their friend and builder Troy Moore and were able to design the entire home based on just a single photo of the front elevation.

“What resulted was this amazing, 3-story retreat designed for entertaining and lots of guests,” says Troy. “Linn Valley is such a hidden secret south of Overland Park. It’s a smaller 180-acre lake but still allows boating, jet skiing, and family fun on the water. There is also an 18-hole golf course and a small clubhouse restaurant on property that has the best tenderloin sandwiches,” he laughs. “The place has this small-town, million-miles-away-from-home feel—it’s as if you’re on vacation every time you come down here,” he adds.

When the construction first got going, Danette went into full design mode and thought very carefully about everything the family had or didn’t have from their years of spending time at the lake in the Ozarks. She created a “lake house board” on Pinterest and started saving her inspiration photos.

“I knew the most important thing was to build a home that was all about family and to be able to hand it down to them one day,” says Danette. “So, with our kids in mind, one girl and one boy, it became all about them. I loved the idea of a girl side and a boy side — that with the idea of one day having them visit with their families and us all being there together,” she adds.

Since they had no definitive floor plan and only a front elevation to guide them, Brandon and Danette really took time to discuss with Troy their wants and needs for the lake house. Danette thought it best to truly divide the house into two sides, so on the lower level, there are separate girls and boys bath and changing areas on opposite ends. The second floor features eight built-in bunkbeds — four on each side — along with a private bathroom and bedroom on each side for the grown-ups who are lucky enough to get to stay. The greatest architectural feature, and perhaps the most challenging to construct, is a remarkable tongue-and-groove ceiling that soars 38 feet high.

“This was not originally in the plan,” says Troy. “The gambrel-style roof was an elevation choice, but during framing, Brandon thought it would be awesome to just finish all the way up to the rafters instead of doing a flat ceiling. Great idea — challenging to finish, but the result is absolute magic. It’s one of my favorite features in the home,” he adds.

On the main floor, the spaces are very open and designed for family, and the kitchen is the heart of the home. The Sutherland’s wanted a large island where they could all sit, no kitchen table tucked in a corner. Two built-in ovens in the island make holiday cooking a breeze, and a roomy deck just off the kitchen features a large table with more than enough seating for family and guests. Danette kept the overall interior color palette clean and modern, with soft greys and whites accented with subtle pops of mint and coral, and in the basement, mirrored tile makes the space appear more open and bright.

“The basement is just so much fun,” she says. “We have a large sectional couch for watching movies that holds a lot of people. In the bar area, I designed a large gas-pipe table on casters that I had a friend build for us. I wanted to be able to roll it around so we could open up the space if we needed it. The basement also has two bathrooms for the boys and the girls. It’s such a convenience not to have to share a restroom when you’ve been in the lake,” she laughs.

While the house was being built, Danette had lots of time to gather the perfect accessories, appliances, and kitchenware. She shopped online for furniture — light-colored couches and beautiful wooden accent pieces—and found her favorites from Restoration Hardware, Overstock, Wayfair, Target, and HomeGoods. The artwork throughout the Sutherland’s home also provides pops of color and focuses on the wildlife one might see on the drive down to the lake — foxes, owls, horses, raccoons, and deer.

“I wanted the house to feel like a lake house and not an ocean house, so things had to make sense for our area,” laughs Danette. The outside areas of the house are another wonderful part of lake living — we have a swim dock and a boat dock, and the patio by the lake is a great place for the fire pit where we make s’mores at night. The best thing about the house to me is the back patio with the rocking chairs looking at the lake. My parents have both passed away, so I put those chairs out for them, hoping they are sitting there looking at their grandkids playing on the lake,” she says.

“It’s so fun seeing this place bursting with people, gathered around the kitchen island, or out by the dock,” says Troy. “I’ve done many projects with the Sutherlands, and what I enjoy most is just working with them — they’re so creative, involved, and truly appreciate the process of doing something custom,” he adds. “That was their goal throughout this entire project—a place to have fun, make memories, and spend time with those you love — I think we nailed it.”


Development: Linn Valley Lakes

Builder/Contractor: Madi Mali Homes

Door: McCray Millwork/Thermatru Doors

Windows: McCray Millwork/Andersen Windows

Landscaping: ADKI Group

Paint: BudgetPro Painters

Carpet: Carpet Direct

Roofing: Casino Construction

Electrical: Electrical Investments

Appliances: Ferguson Enterprises 

Plumbing: Fred Pflumm Plumbing

Tile Labor: HP Tile

Hardware: Locks and Pulls

HVAC: Midwest HVAC

Tile Material: Premiere Tile

Furnishings: Restoration Hardware

Countertops: SCI Surface Center

Flooring: Signature Flooring

Flatwork: Walker Brothers

Lighting: Wilson Lighting

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