Area Designers Renovate to Keep Things All in the Family

Doug Wells, left, and Marcio Reis, with their two dogs, Rocco and Tiago, relax in their back garden. Photos by Aaron Leimkuehler.

Seven years ago, Kansas City designer Doug Wells bought a nifty raised-ranch house in Fairway Manor to use as his office and a home for his mother, who was downsizing. Four years later Wells and his husband, Marcio Reis, were considering selling the house and buying a condo for his mother to simplify all their lives. Then Reis—who is also a designer—suggested she move in with them.

“Marcio is from Brazil and their culture is all about family,” Wells says. “He thought the natural solution was for my mom to live with us. We don’t really do that in the U.S.,” Wells deadpans. After a family conference they settled on the idea of one home with a mother-in-law suite.

They considered searching for a new home and then realized that with some modifications the “office” property would be a smart set-up for all of them. Wells, who trained as an interior architect, went to work reimagining the space.

In the living room, a Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sectional is topped by custom pillows. The turquoise and brass lamp is vintage, and the oil painting is by Gregory Eltringham.
Top: The kitchen opens to the dining and living areas. Custom rift-oak wall cabinets from Dadon Builders are stained, while the lower cabinets are painted white. Integrated refrigerator, microwave, and wall ovens are tucked out-of-sight behind wall cabinetry. Kravet armchairs are custom upholstered in mohair. Bottom Left: A flower arrangement from Bergamot & Ivy Design is centered on a marble-topped table surrounded by custom, worsted-wool upholstered dining chairs. Bottom Right: The powder room in the couple’s home is papered in an agate-print Candace Olson wallcovering from KDR Showrooms.

“For my mom’s apartment we converted two bedrooms into the new kitchen/living room area and added an addition to accommodate a new bedroom and laundry,” Wells says.

While he makes it sound simple, the infrastructure supporting the plan is more complicated and very well thought out. Well’s mother is healthy and still working, but they took a long-term approach to the project.  The garage, which was under the original bedrooms, was expanded and an elevator was added to ensure that access would always be easy and provides his mother her own entrance. Then Wells essentially moved the components of his existing kitchen to her section of the house. Now it opens to a chic—yet cozy—living area with a fireplace and television. 

Left: In the master bedroom, a paneled back wall adjoins the custom upholstered headboard, which runs the length of the room. Painting by Brady Legler; flowers by Bergamot & Ivy Design. Top Right: The couple carried the same rift-oak custom cabinetry throughout the house. Brushed brass pulls from Locks & Pulls. Bottom Right: Kohler tub and Delta plumbing fixtures are from Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. Hunter Douglas motorized shades disappear when raised.

Her bedroom and bath suite feels as luxurious as a high-end hotel. The gray and white palette is both soothing and sophisticated with the silvery gleam of the fixtures providing just the right amount of sparkle. High glam mirrored bedside tables and pink chinoiserie pillows provide a feminine touch. This is not a boys’ club after all.

That said, Wells did take special care to make sure the entire house received the same level of attention. He raised the roofline to provide high ceilings in the living and dining areas of the main portion of the house. The new built-in cabinetry in the kitchen reads more “paneling” than cabinets. It’s here that the men’s combined aesthetic is announced, though it whispers more than shouts. The rooms are modern, but there is a conscious blend of rich texture and natural materials that keep them warm and approachable.

On the lower level, two club chairs from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sit below a gilt-wood sunburst mirror.

Wells took advantage of every inch of the property. Between work and travel—they are recently back from Argentina as well as Brazil, where they are remodeling their second home— the men don’t have a lot of time to loaf, but the basement with its dark walls and deep seating is the perfect spot to relax and watch a movie or enjoy cocktails with friends.

The couple added a new master suite that is a soothing oasis of off-white, warm wood, bronze and ocean blue. A smartly designed closet gives both men ample space and the bath is flooded in natural light.

The room overlooks a newly reimagined backyard. Wells wanted the property to have two distinct, private areas—one for his mother and one for the couple.

Top: In the Mrs. Well’s living room, the sectional is from Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Design Gallery; the silk and wool rug is from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. The brass lamp is vintage. Bottom Left: The diminutive kitchen is outfitted with full-sized KitchenAid appliances from Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. Flowers are from Bergamot & Ivy Design. Bottom Right: The bed is custom-designed and upholstered in dark gray velvet; pillows are custom.
Left: There’s an Asian flavor to the landscaping that borders the entrance to Mrs. Wells suite. Right: In the adjoining courtyard, a wrought-iron daybed is draped in all-weather fabric.

“We really wanted my mother’s space to feel like a Japanese garden,” Wells says.

The wood walkways, sculptural plantings and stone patio create a soothing energy.

Wells and Reis’s garden is a more modern space blending their aesthetics.

“Brazilian culture is all about friends, family entertaining, and the outdoors, so we decided to make our yard more like outdoor rooms,” Wells says.  “We just finished up this dining area.”

The chic garden pavilion is framed by vintage screens that Wells unearthed in a local salvage shop. The Lucite table and the chandelier make outdoor entertaining as comfortable as inside. A raised pond replete with lily pads reflects in the dramatic mirror that is installed at the rear of the garden.

Top Right/Bottom Middle: Rows of European hornbeams create a backyard privacy screen. A chandelier the couple found at a West Bottoms antique shop was painted white and now hangs in the dining pavilion. Bottom Right: The koi pond is topped by a large fountain. Left: Two vintage Italian lanterns from Rich Hoffman’s West Bottom’s antique booth flank a Kelly Wearstler shield mirror from Madden McFarland.

Ah, yes, but what about the office? Ever resourceful, Wells reimagined a former free-standing storage shed. A large mirror on the back wall reflects the light and visually doubles the space.   

“It’s great,” Wells says of this private room complete with conference table. “It’s so easy to meet clients out here and the light’s amazing.”

While this multi-generational, multipurpose dwelling was not the original intent, its evolution seems like kismet.

“I’d rather spend more money on a smaller space and focus on quality over quantity,” Wells says. “It’s so much more personal.”

The It List

Bergamot & Ivy Design

Interior Design
Wells Design Studio