A Prairie Village family takes modern architecture to a new level in this inside-out rebuild.
Story by Andrea Darr | Photography by Matthew Anderson
Like many families in the bistate area, Allen and Lynneah Gregory had many conversations about leaving their South Plaza Missouri home for one in a Kansas school district. While on the phone learning about an available lot in Prairie Village, Lynneah literally entered a den of snakes, finally moving the dial toward packing their bags.
“I took a step and the yard moved,” Lynneah recalls. “I was like, ‘yes, I want to see this lot right now!’”
The premier corner property was situated at the apex of The Village Shops and buffered by a park. “We bought it that day,” the couple says.
A Cape Cod-style house on the site couldn’t be salvaged. “To me, tearing down houses seems pretty extreme,” says Lynneah, owner of REconstruct, a residential remodeling company. “I was feeling guilty about it, but after living there for three months, I knew it was a definite candidate. I see the idea of trying to preserve a house, but also the expense of it.”
In its place, the couple dreamed of a Modern two-story. “If I had my way, I’d live in a glass box in an open field,” Lynneah smiles.
But that’s not so practical in a heavily trafficked neighborhood. Lynneah designed floor plans and an appealing facade, “but I struggled with the size of the lot and what I wanted to accomplish,” she notes.
As a designer, Lynneah certainly had the skills, but doubling as the client, she found it tough to balance the two roles. So the Gregorys sought an outside opinion from Dennis O’Roark, AIA, owner of Design Lab and a fellow Virginia transplant.
“What I appreciate about Dennis is his process,” Lynneah says. “ He asked questions like: Are we front yard or back yard people? Where do we spend most of our time? He had us thinking about the psychology of our family.”
“I was trying to get them to use words, rather than pictures they had seen to convey their goals. The photos they liked were designs for other people on other sites,” O’Roark explains.
This rethinking led them to basically wipe the slate clean. The facade maintained a similar design, yet the floor plan reflected a change of direction. “Dennis did a lot in capturing our lifestyle,” Lynneah says.
Lynneah runs her business from home and wanted more than a bedroom office. O’Roark created what he calls a subset to the house, with a two-story entry, dedicated office and half bath encapsulated in an area that closes off with a sliding door to keep the rest of the house private.
Although, privacy isn’t black and white here. “We never wanted people to feel like they can’t go somewhere in our house,” Allen says. For instance, a second-story covered deck allows guests upstairs to get a prime view of the neighborhood happenings from its “treehouse” space. It’s maxed out with substantial furnishings, a TV and crystal fire pit. A raised deck allows water to drain out to hidden gutters, which are concealed by concrete panels, to preserve a clean-lined exterior aesthetic.
A single stringer staircase is at the center of the house. The view from it, overlooking the park, is a good terminus,” O’Roark adds. The stairwell also doubles as a window well, diffusing light to all three levels of the house.
“It’s all about the flow,” says O’Roark, who placed the stairs next to the master bedroom at the top level, and next to the kitchen and across from the mudroom and garage on the main level. “It minimizes footsteps in their everyday processes.”
The kitchen went through a few design generations, flip-flopping positions with the dining room. “We ended up opting for much more openness, plus it allowed for access to the backyard,” Lynneah says.
The cabinets are streamlined mostly on one wall, leaving only a few upper cabinets against a light-reflecting porcelain backsplash. An elliptical hood provides a great focal point for what was a challenging ventilation conundrum under a set of horizontal windows where the wall meets the ceiling. Beneath it, an orange stove — an homage to one of Virginia Tech’s colors (maroon and orange) — gives the otherwise monochromatic space a pop of color. (It also matches the front door!)
Between the kitchen and dining rooms, a mammoth-sized pivot door that conceals the pantry was an error that turned into an opportunity. Upon delivery, the door wasn’t tall enough, so Lynneah created a live edge with zebra wood at the base to give it the boosted height plus added interest.
A hospitality center against one wall of the dining area continues the list of amenities: fridge, coffee maker, ice machine and warming drawer, all under a large buffet counter backed by a mirror that further expands the feel of the space.
The exterior wall occasionally pulls a disappearing act, when the Gregorys open up the glass panels and slide them out of the way, revealing an outdoor living space, with seating and a built-in grill. “It has great flow and blurs the lines between in and out,” Lynneah says.
The couple considered a back-to-back fireplace between the living room and back patio, but decided to skip the expense and get creative with an Opti-myst LED and misting “fireplace,” which is safer for kids and pets. A horizontal Kayu Sapphire wood surround rising to the ceiling matches a wood wall feature behind the TV. The material is also the same as that used on the exterior to tie everything together.
An overlook from the upper level breaks up the living room’s tall volume and has a functional purpose, as well. “It’s mostly about maintaining communication between upper and lower levels, especially when there are children around,” O’Roark says.
It houses “the nest,” a sitting area for the family to watch TV or play games, plus three bedrooms and baths, outfitted with lighting and plumbing fixtures by Ferguson, thanks to Allen’s knowledge of them as their Southern Plains Showroom Director.
To get to the lowest level, the family can, of course, take the stairs, or they can ride the slide. The metal chute’s main user is the Gregorys’ son, Gunner, but it was a must-have element for Lynneah, who describes herself as a kid at heart. “I wanted something fun in the house,” she notes.
Beyond basement storage, the lower level has an evolving media room, kitchenette, full bath and guest room. Allen even thought ahead and sunk a pit for the installation of a future golf simulator beneath the suspended garage.
“We’ve finished the construction phase,” Allen says, “and now we are remodeling. It’s good and bad when your wife is the G.C. You hold off on making certain choices or get busy doing other things, so you’re always creating as you go.”
It amazes the Gregorys that they were able to achieve so much on a small Prairie Village lot. The house measures up to 4,600 square feet, including the basement, yet its visual size doesn’t overpower surrounding houses.
Ultimately, the house is about connections — between family, neighbors and nature.
Lynneah got a version of her glass box dream house, after all, with storefront windows throughout, offering the family the lifestyle they desired.
“To me, modern architecture really brings the outside in and the inside living environment out,” Lynneah says. “It’s a form of art. It evokes emotions, which it definitely has succeeded in doing here.”
- Architect/Home Designer: Design Lab KC
- Builder/Contractor & Project Designer: REconstruct
- Interior Designer: REconstruct/Design Lab KC
- Appliances: Ferguson/Factory Direct Appliance
- Paint: Benjamin Moore
- Foundation: Bill Curth Foundations
- Windows: Brandt’s Glass
- Outdoor Furniture: Build.com
- Heating & Cooling: C&E Cooling and Heating
- Electrician: Chase Electrical
- Painter: Covenant Painting
- Roofing: Dan Jones Roofing
- Audio/Video, Home Security and Home Theater: Digital Sound Systems
- Outdoor Grill: Doolittle Distributing
- Flooring (Carpet/Hardwood/Tile): Dwell Interiors
- Landscaping/Hardscaping: Eden Landscaped Gardens
- Light Fixtures/Plumbing Fixtures: Ferguson/Factory Direct Appliance
- Doors/Lumber: McCray Lumber
- Cabinets: Portfolio Kitchen & Home
- Framing: REconstruct
- Masonry: REconstruct
- Excavation: Sayers Excavation
- Countertops: Stone Surfaces
- Glass & Mirrors: Topline Glass