Before & After: A Prairie Village Home Renovation

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.”

Painting the red brick and window frames transformed a traditional home to a contemporary one.
A cozy courtyard is tucked between the sunroom and the family room at the rear of the house.

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.

After: Just off the entry, Bebe, a boxer/bulldog mix, sits in front of a Bernhardt distressed leather and iron bench from Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Design Gallery.
After: A contemporary brass pendant from Wilson Lighting hangs over a brass and enamel table from CB2. Nourison silk rug is from Area Rug Dimension, chairs are from Ethan Allen, and the flower arrangement is from Randy Neal Floral.

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.

After: Andi, a labradoodle/Weimaraner mix and the newest member of the McCarthy clan, matches the family room color scheme. The quilted leather sofa and the marble-topped wrought-iron coffee table are both from Seville Home.
After: An overdyed rug from Knotty Rug anchors the living room. “I’ve had those chairs for almost 20 years,” Nancy says. “And I’ve recovered them at least four times.” The current fabric was the impetus for the color scheme in the room. The coffee table is topped with a vintage brass scale and flowers from Randy Neal Floral.
After: The kitchen and sunroom floor is paved in porcelain tile resembling aged brick. “It’s one of my favorite things about the renovation,” Nancy says. “It’s indestructible—the dogs can’t harm it—and it never shows dirt.” Zinc pendant trimmed in brass (one of a pair) from Wilson Lighting anchors the kitchen island.
In the kitchen, new cabinetry raised to bar height replaced a desk.

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.

After: Morning light streams in the sunroom. Two commodious club chairs from Seville Home face the TV, while an oversized lantern from Wilson Lighting hangs over the bar table.

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.” 

Left: A guest room’s reproduction iron bed is adorned in bedding from Annabelles Fine Linens. Right: In the connecting bathroom, embossed porcelain tiles that resemble vintage tin run counter-to-ceiling behind the custom-built vanity.
Left: A pair of circa-1880s antique French walnut beds from Woodson Antiques are the centerpiece of a guest bedroom. Middle: In an alcove, two vintage pink-velvet upholstered chairs complement the graphic oversized wallpaper that inspired the room’s color scheme. Right: A custom vanity echoes the suite’s chartreuse accents.

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.   

A linen-upholstered bed from Pottery Barn is flanked by Hooker chests from Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Design Gallery. Flowers from Randy Neal Floral.
After: Porcelain tile covers the walls and floor of the master bath; while a garden stool provides extra seating. Dual vanities of zinc-wrapped wood from Restoration Hardware sit on opposite sides of the room.
Left: In Nancy’s office, a vintage Howard Miller clock face is the centerpiece of a gallery wall of art. Right: In the powder room, walls are papered in Brewster’s Runes Brushstroke.

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