Little Luxury

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A classic Craftsman bungalow is lovingly revived with comfort and style.

Story by Gloria Gale    |    Photography by Matt Kocourek

Decades ago homes were built with front porches. This was logical. First to cool off in the swelter of Kansas City summers then automatically encouraging next door friendliness. Promoting cohesion still matters in Brookside, the genteel neighborhood that’s managed to maintain its urban desirability. 

Jan Tracy found what she was looking for nearly 40 years ago in the Brookside area when she purchased a bungalow – porch and all. She’s never looked back.  

As a graphic designer, Jan is blessed with a critical eye and impeccable style – all translating to her advantage as a (then) young house hunter.  

The early 1980’s was a time of affordability. “There wasn’t a particular rush to buy like there is today.  It was more about quality, charming style and of course, the price.” 

The 100 year old Craftsman bungalow was ideal. “I could visualize the potential – updating it into my style.” 

Time, Elbow Grease and A ‘Can-Do’ Attitude

Similar to many homes in Brookside, houses were built close together, with small lots and a floorplan built with a warren of modest sized rooms. Jan’s was no exception. 

Analyzing the 1,280 square-foot interior she focused on cosmetic changes that would give an immediate lift. 

She painted the ceiling in the dining room pale, celery green then painted the woodwork white. Like most of the homes in the Craftsman style, the home featured heavy dark molding throughout.  Once the woodwork was painted white it visually opened the rooms significantly.

Another positive feature was the windows — a hallmark of this architectural style. 

“They’re all original and solidly built with double pane glass. They even have the old fashioned standard issue — weights and cords.” Some would render this feature antiquated, Jan delights in its vintage appeal. 

Flexing Her Sense of Design, This Homeowner Effortlessly Merged Outdoors with Indoors.

Opening the spaces with a fresh coat of paint made a considerable difference but the real work was about to commence.   

No stranger to hard work, Jan rolled up her sleeves, enlisted the support of her father, a builder by trade. “The kitchen footprint was too small, too boxed in and had an unnecessary so-called mud room closing in the space.” 

She installed a french door that opened on to the backyard, hung new cabinets and installed tiling over the old linoleum. In a matter of months, she had herself a newly remodeled kitchen. 

It seems that Jan wasn’t content to sit and let her innate sense of style sour. Over time, other rooms in the home would get a face-lift. 

That is until recently when Jan’s life was significantly disrupted.

In 2020, while watering her front yard, Jan fell off a retaining wall and broke her leg. Wheelchair bound, she found the kitchen door opening too small.  

“Couple that with getting married and having two people bumping into each other made working conditions tight,” she says. 

It seems necessity was the impetus to gut the room and remodel…again. 

In the meantime, the 2 bedrooms, 1½ bathrooms were revamped as was buying new furniture for other rooms. 

Since decorating is one of Jan’s talents, her ability to scour tag sales incorporating cast offs into her design was met with confidence. 

Jan hired a space planner to assist with the blueprints and together the job of remodeling the kitchen took shape.  

It took a few months to reconstruct the space. “It was a good thing since my original cabinets were literally falling off the walls.” Now there’s white, Shaker style cabinetry complemented with open shelving, quartz countertops, a wine/storage cabinet and new appliances.  The result is form and function fully realized. 

A by-product of revamping the kitchen is how it allows the beauty of the backyard to shine.  

“Now that the access to the yard is much more efficient, it makes entertaining so easy.”

Hoe, Hoe, Hoe

The landscaping in the front yard, initially a priority, has long since grown to maturity. But its backstory shows the determination necessary.

Upon purchase, unfortunately, the house was barren of any landscaping.   

Undeterred with trowel in hand, Jan tackled the small, sloping front yard. “There wasn’t much to work with other than a plot that badly needed amending.” 

Jan decided a shade garden would be a solution. She planted shade-loving ivy on the slope and Vinca vine and Pachysandra ground cover. A Japanese maple plus the existing oak didn’t open the yard to much light considering the east facing house only catches modest morning sunshine. Now, after 40 years, the mature lot is a testament to Jan’s green thumb. The house is a confirmed show-stopper. Lush to the point of drive-buys craning to take it all in. 

With space at a premium in the front, Jan turned to the backyard to wield her magic.

“I actually had more space to work with and though partly shaded, I decided to define the whole yard into zones. These zones, assembled with dry stacked stone and flagstone pavers, create pathways.” 

Among the plantings; reliable hostas, boxwood hedges, yews, Japanese maples and various evergreens that provide height and privacy.  

Come spring, astilbe, bleeding hearts, azaleas, hydrangeas, all pop for a blitz of color. With various points of interest such as a garden bench or wooden arbor to stroll through, the garden is a rewarding prize. 

Enhancing the overall backyard gardens “John and I recently enlarged the wooden deck by 10-feet.  It transitions during the   seasons becoming an extension of the kitchen nearby.” Even in winter, as decorative strings of holiday lights adorn the entire backyard, it’s a treat to be invited over, sit by the firepit and enjoy the company.

Not that it isn’t as lovely throughout the year. “We just store the winter furnishings when another season comes along. We adapt.  A big table comes out of storage and chairs are repurposed.”

This house has proved to be a great investment and ultimately, even with all the remodeling, hasn’t disappointed. 

“It’s a good thing John trusts me. I never know when the next project will bubble up.”  

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