It’s an old saw that “change is hard.” But when Nancy McCarthy opens the door of her newly renovated house in Prairie Village the message is clearly, “Change is good.” When she and her husband, John, bought the house, they dug in for a complete renovation. While some homeowners would lament the trials and tribulations of such an undertaking, McCarthy is as breezy and bright as her new digs. “We bought it about a year ago. Then we changed almost everything,” she says with a laugh. The changes were not only to the house—which were significant—but to the couple’s lifestyle.
“We’d lived in Hallbrook, which we’d loved. But we wanted to get back to a spot where there was a little less traffic. And we loved the idea of being so close to a park that we could take our grandchildren to,” she says. “This house was comfortable for two but could accommodate a crowd.”
The lure of the neighborhood was not the only appeal. While their new home accommodates their lifestyle—and their children, grandchildren, and friends—it’s easier to manage. Still, the couple needed to make it their own. McCarthy, who has always done her own decorating, was enthusiastically up to the task. “I could never understand how people turn their decorating over to someone else,” she says. “It’s so personal.”
A born hunter and gatherer with good instincts and a distinct eye for proportion—she was formerly a fashion buyer for Macy’s—McCarthy began to peel back the layers of the house and uncover its strengths. She relied on black-and-white as the foundation for the design both inside and out. “We painted the exterior white—it had been red brick—and put in new landscaping in both the front and back,” she says.
The crisp, black frames of the doorway and windows gives the house a fresh, updated façade. The same palette made bright with doses of fresh green continues just inside the front door. New hardwood floors unite the living spaces of the first floor where McCarthy replaced a traditional brick fireplace mantel with floor-to-ceiling marble. While the tufted sofa and floral wing chairs are formal in shape, they are lively in spirit and set the tone for the rest of the house.
The couple maintained the original footprint of the kitchen but installed a new tile floor that hides the evidence of grandchildren and the couple’s two dogs. They removed an unneeded desk and created a handy bar. Repurposing part of the garage—“It was three-car, but we really only needed two,” McCarthy says—the couple was able to create a spacious first-floor laundry.
The solarium off the kitchen was one of the things that drew them to the home. With its peaked ceiling and English greenhouse vibe, it’s a stunner. Nancy and John often have coffee together there in the morning. “It’s really fantastic when it rains,” she says.
While the entire house is incredibly personal, McCarthy’s spring-green office, which was formerly a bedroom, holds many of her treasures, including a vintage clock face and a bas relief fish that was a wedding present. “I love beautiful things,” she says. “I’ve framed scarves and wallpaper samples. I love living with things that mean something to me.”
While the house works well for two, the McCarthys do love a crowd. A family gathering alone may include 25 to 30 people. The family room, which opens onto the patio and the welcoming expanse of the backyard, is an easy spot for everyone to gather. A double-height ceiling and walls of windows make the room light and bright. The leather sofa and chair mean children and dogs can do no harm.
While they planned with entertaining in mind, the couple wasn’t only thinking about others when they planned their new home. The master suite, which received a complete renovation, is as comfortable as it is luxurious. Textured fabrics combined with subtle touches of blue and taupe create a soothing oasis. The free-standing tub is ready for a long soak and separate vanities and sinks mean they’re never vying for space.
The couple is finishing up the landscaping in the backyard, one of the last projects on the list.
“The lot size really sold John,” says McCarthy. “And, honestly, we’ve never had trees like this.”
As it turns out, downsizing has been really grand.
The It List
Contractor: J.S. Robinson Fine Homes
Flowers: Randy Neal Floral Design
Lighting: Wilson Lighting