Following a trusty recipe—equal parts handcrafted, new and renewed—a Kansas couple transforms a nondescript ’80s home into an enviable family oasis.

By Kelly Ryan Kegans; Photographer Adam Albright
January 02, 2020

It was love at first sight—or rather, site. Jill Hall didn’t fall for a house; her longtime crush was the land in Mill Creek Farms, a subdivision in Olathe, Kansas, south of Kansas City. The country-like setting of large lots lined with leafy oaks, ponds and rolling meadows reminded her of the 180-acre Kansas farm where she grew up. Her husband, Kevin, was equally smitten. The California native never believed he could have nearly 3 acres for raising a family.

Houses in the neighborhood tend to be scooped up by insiders, so Jill knew there was only a slim chance they could find a forever home here. But one Sunday, the couple drove along the winding roads and spotted a dad outside playing with his three girls. “I said to Kevin, ‘Babe, you’re in sales. Go say hi to him,’” Jill recalls. The push paid off. Six months later, the Halls got a tip-off call for a 1987 ranch-style home. They bought it the next day.

“The house wasn’t to our tastes, but it had possibilities,” Kevin says. Four years later, it was his turn to nudge Jill into finally starting the renovations. “It became one of those things where I was done talking about it and told her, ‘Let’s do it!’ We are raising four boys and we both work full time. I wanted us to enjoy this now, not wait until the kids were grown and out of the house to create what we wanted.”

Credit: Adam Albright

By then, Jill knew exactly how she wanted the house to flow: Creating a large kitchen with a substantial island was pivotal. She pored over Instagram accounts to find the right partner for the remodel, finally landing on Molly and Kevin Jarvis, founders of Brasstacks, a design-build firm in nearby Overland Park. Jill and Kevin bonded instantly with the Jarvises. “They wanted to create a place where they would want to live too,” Jill explains.

Molly echoes the connection: “Their aesthetic is in line with ours. They wanted lots of daylight, natural materials, not a ton of color, and fun textiles and handmade pieces to cozy it up.”

After devising a plan to reorganize the main-level living areas, Molly and Jill went to work on furnishings—a well-orchestrated mix of high and low and new and repurposed with a backstory that gives the recently completed remodel a lived-in appeal.

In the dining room, Molly re-covered vintage chairs the Halls bought when they lived in Los Angeles, where they met playing beach volleyball. In the laundry room, she took Jill’s suggestion to incorporate handcrafted, H-shape Fireclay Tile into the backsplash, a wink to the family name. “I love handmade things with a story behind them. You can see who you’re supporting,” Molly says.

Now the Halls can start adding a new chapter to their home’s story. “I’m so happy to have finally made this place ours,” Jill says.

Credit: Adam Albright

Cedar beams and a sleek fireplace give Jill and Kevin's once-dated living room some mod va-va-voom. Mirroring the look of the kitchen cabinets, white oak built-ins in the living room offer extra seating and discreet toy storage.

Credit: Adam Albright

By annexing the former screened-in porch, the Halls made room for a 16-foot kitchen island (aka The Mother Ship) with a sleek alabaster quartz waterfall countertop. “It’s where we do everything,” Jill says. “Where we eat, where we do homework, where we talk.” Lower cabinets and drawers mean the Halls’ four boys can access snacks on their own.

Credit: Adam Albright

Natural materials (white oak cabinets, leather stools, turned-wood lights) warm up the modern kitchen.

Credit: Adam Albright

To save money, designer Molly Jarvis advised skipping panel-ready appliances in favor of GE’s Cafe line in matte white, with custom bronze and copper hardware: “Appliances don’t have to be an eyesore.” Every week, Kevin posts a dad joke on the kitchen message board, inducing grins—or chagrins.

Credit: Adam Albright

Kevin and Jill Hall with their sons, from left, Zeke, 4; Liam, 10; Dax, 8; and Jonah, 6. “I’m big on numbers,” Jill says. “In the dining room, I wanted the light to have six bowls, and I wanted four pendants above the island for the four boys.”

Credit: Adam Albright

The Halls opened the wall between the living room and kitchen so the family could be together even when doing different things. Jill says the decorating style channels the casual spirit of Southern California, where the couple met: “Clean, a bit minimal and comfortable.”

Mod black trim provides the only window dressing. “At first, I struggled with no window treatments,” Jill says. “But we live on a big lot with plenty of privacy. I love all the light.”

A friend’s dog had chewed a hole in the jumbo ottoman’s original upholstery, so Molly re-covered it with a vintage rug Jill found online.

Credit: Adam Albright

Kevin made a new wooden top to replace the cracked marble one on a side table Jill hauled back from California when the couple relocated to the Midwest.

Credit: Adam Albright

The Halls transplanted their dining room’s brass chandelier to the master bedroom to glam up the warm leather sconces and grass cloth walls. The campaign chest nightstands were a Craigslist purchase as newlyweds (from a couple who received them as hand-me-downs from their parents). Kevin recently refinished them in glossy white.

Each year, Jill and Kevin choose one inspirational word apiece to hang above their bed. “It’s good to set intentions,” Jill says.

Credit: Adam Albright
Credit: Adam Albright

“We walk into the laundry room from the garage, and that’s where the boys change after school. I literally do laundry every day,” Jill says. “If I’m going to stand there, it’s going to be a happy place.” Her favorite splurges: the H-shape tile backsplash, herringbone-tiled floor and gold-finish faucet.

Credit: Adam Albright

In a pantry behind the kitchen range wall, Moroccan terra-cotta tiles and a raw-edge shelf dress up IKEA cabinets. Molly explains that the tiles vary slightly in color and shape, so they don’t line up perfectly—which Jill adores: “I love small spaces that have cool details.”

How to Nail a Renovation

You’ll spend a lot of time (and money) working with your contractor, architect or designer. Brasstacks’ cofounder Molly Jarvis offers advice on building a good relationship.

Be Collaborative “We don’t like to come up with all the ideas. We want the clients’ input and want them involved, as Jill was in her home’s remodel,” Molly says. Think about the challenges you have in your current space and explain how you want the home to function for your family.

Have Realistic Expectations “HGTV has been a blessing for a lot of businesses and opened people’s eyes to remodeling,” Molly says. “But it can also make people think remodels happen overnight, or cheaply. There’s a process to doing it properly, and it does cost money.”

Do Your Research Hiring a contractor or designer you trust is important, Molly says. Get multiple bids and make sure you’re asking questions and getting answers. “There are always stressful moments in the process, so you want to work with people who provide good communication, transparency and clarity.”

Move Forward, Not Back “There’s a point in the process when it’s too late to change because of the domino effect it took to get where it is,” Molly explains. “You might have to rework electrical or redo drywall, so being mindful of that and sticking to the plan is important.”