Modern Family

3874 0

A design-savvy couple transforms their Brookside bungalow into a spacious family home with eye-popping color, contemporary furnishings, and sleek modern style.

Story by Jeanne de Lathouder   |   Photos by Matt Kocourek

Dave and Jennifer von Fintel came across their beloved Brookside home purely by accident – when they weren’t even looking. Sometimes, good things just happen when we least expect it. Newly married and living in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Kansas City’s Quality Hill, the couple ventured out one afternoon to check out some houses and get an idea of what to prepare for when they were actually ready to purchase. By chance, they happened on a quaint little bungalow-style house in the charming community of Brookside that had been put on the market just that day. The sellers were uprooting to San Francisco and wanted to move quickly – the perfect scenario, as Dave recalls.

“We were pretty clueless as first-time home buyers in 1999,” he laughs, “and we completely lucked into this neighborhood. We weren’t very handy back then either, so the fact that the previous owners had recently made some electrical and plumbing updates to this house was a huge plus,” he adds.

Despite lots of walls and small enclosed rooms, the couple moved in and made the house their own. With just the two of them, the space was more than suitable while they both pursued their careers. But as the years went by – and they found themselves with a dog, their first child (a girl), and later a set of twin boys – Dave and Jennifer began looking at other homes in the neighborhood that would better accommodate their growing family. After searching for almost two years, they realized many of these treasured Brookside properties would require kitchen and bathroom updates, so they decided to focus their energy on improving their own home, one room at a time.

“It’s funny to remember all the quiet time and extra space we had back then,” Dave recalls, “but once we realized we were  showering in a bathtub, we had to do something,” he laughs.

Updating both bathrooms, the boys’ room, and the kitchen was first on the couple’s renovation agenda. Dave, a professional film maker specializing in aerial cinematography, and his wife, Jennifer, a physician, guided the entire project from start to finish, creating much of the design scheme themselves.

“I grew up in Switzerland, so was always surrounded by modern design,” says Dave. “Jen grew up on a farm but luckily shared the same vision for a clean, contemporary layout. She’s been planning this house in her head for the past two years, so once it came time to make some decisions, we collaborated on a few finishing touches but luckily always saw eye to eye on where this project was going,” he notes.

Sleek and streamlined, the master bathroom renovation included a zero-entry shower, radiant heating on the shower floors, an open-air Velux skylight, a built-in medicine cabinet, a pull-out storage drawer next to the shower and a large two-person sink with independently operating faucets on both sides. Bright orange accent tiles applied sparingly – a witty color technique and notable von Fintel signature mark that appears throughout their entire home—bring a bold pop of color to the otherwise clean, monochromatic palette.

“After that, we moved on to our main-floor bathroom and the boys’ room, adding pocket doors wherever we could to maximize space,” says Dave. “Then came the big one – taking down the wall separating the dining room from the kitchen to open up the whole house,” he adds.

By far the family’s favorite gathering spot, the once-enclosed kitchen was brilliantly transformed into a multi-functional space free of walls, with wide-open views to the outdoors and easy access to the backyard patio. Dark-stained hardwood floors and rustic reclaimed barn wood on the island create a dramatic contrast against the room’s bright white palette, while stainless steel appliances, quartz countertops, and a glass tile backsplash give the space a lustrous modern aesthetic. Built-in speakers provide crisp surround sound throughout. But arguably the most innovative feature here is a three-panel NanaWall accordion-style folding window from Germany that opens onto the backyard. A roll-down screen that pulls from the top was also installed to cover the entire exposure.

“The natural light is fantastic, and the new window really connects the interior and exterior spaces,” says Dave. “As a filmmaker, I’m always focused on the details. It was a bit of a curse at times, but we didn’t stop until we found the exact piece we had envisioned for the space – the window from Germany, the stools and chairs from France, the Blum cabinet hinges from Austria, the handles from Sweden (IKEA)—everything had to be perfect,” he laughs.

For extra storage, the couple added a mud room to the floorplan to minimize the accumulation of coats, shoes, and kids’ gear formerly stashed in the kitchen. Cleverly designed, the mudroom exterior is crafted from unpainted cypress wood and fitted with a stylish frosted-glass door framed with vibrant acid-green painted trim.

“This addition was essential to making the kitchen space work – you can imagine the clutter from all three kids,” Dave jokes. “We love how this new room, even though small, has given our kitchen the illusion of being even bigger. We can now enjoy a wide-open floor plan, much like a downtown loft,” he adds.

The couple’s edgy modern style flows seamlessly throughout their entire home. In the dining area, a wall outfitted with reclaimed barn wood provides a warm backdrop for contemporary artwork that Dave and Jennifer purchased at a local Brookside art fair. An exquisite Danish dining table pairs perfectly with sleek multi-colored chairs, and an elegant halo-like pendent light hangs overhead. In the living room, quirky accent pieces including a flea-market coffee table and an old wagon wheel poised atop the fireplace mantel are smartly positioned opposite a graphic accent wall of stencil-painted birch trees.

From room to room, unexpected bursts of color – deep teal green applied to the kitchen and dining room walls, and even the stair steps, vibrant orange accents in the master bathroom and kitchen, and a blast of bright yellow on the front porch – bring whimsy and modern freshness to the couple’s imaginative design scheme.

“I love the call to have the yellow ceiling on the front porch,” Dave notes. “It really brightens up the place. We truly designed this home to suit our taste and lifestyle, and I think setting up a list of priorities you want to accomplish helps keep you on track,” he adds. “And research everything – you quickly become an expert in a variety of areas, so be patient and don’t rush decisions you may later regret.”

At work planning phase two of their renovations, Dave and Jennifer are certainly anything but regretful as they savor the ease and spaciousness of their brand-new home.

“There are so many ways this project has improved our lives,” says Dave, “and one of the most amazing changes is that it’s become much easier to sit down and eat as a family again. This update really just provided us with a new home to enjoy without having to move,” he jokes. “Our next phase will include finishing the backyard – we’re thinking artificial grass, an infinity pool, and a nice bar area that will put you bellying up to our kitchen window – stay tuned.”


Builder/Contractor: Renew & Design LLC   |   Interior Designer: Jennifer & Dave von Fintel (homeowners)   |   Master Bath Designer: Mercury Contract Resource   |   Kitchen Consultant: Urban Prairie   |   Master Bath Pullout Storage: Trusted Construction Co.   |   Bathroom Vanity Cabinet: Superior Wood Pro   |   Appliances: Nebraska Furniture Mart   |   Audio/Video: Polk Audio Speakers    |   Cabinets: Cabinets by King   |   Countertops: SCI – Surface Center   |   Furniture: My Deco Shop    |   Hardware: IKEA   |   Lumber: The Barnwood Farm   |   Tile: The Tile Shop    |   Kitchen Bi-fold Window: Nana Wall   |   Lighting: My Deco Shop and 

About The Author