This Renovation Took Nearly 20 Years, But It Was Worth It
As a kid, Lisa Schmitz spent summers at a log cabin her granddad built. It had midcentury panache, with a butterfly roof that angled down in the middle. Her grandparents had furnished the interior eclectically, with traditional and modern pieces and scads of art, much of it their own work. Looking back, Lisa traces her career in interior design and her hobbies of watercolor and knitting to that place and time. And, with her husband, Chuck, she's built a home for her own family that runs on the same fuel, where old marries new, color bursts everywhere and there's always a handmade craft (or twelve) in progress.
Chief among ongoing projects: the house itself. Lisa and Chuck moved into their Kansas City, Missouri, fixer-upper in 2002, swayed by the Brookside neighborhood's old-growth trees and classic architecture. They immediately embarked on a remodel that, in retrospect, was rather cart before the horse. "We started with the second-floor bedrooms, bathrooms and the backyard and left the kitchen for last. We knew that we would be spending most of our time outdoors, so we prioritized that," Lisa says. They both work in the biz (Chuck's a contractor; Lisa runs Lisa Schmitz Interior Design), but even so, they never anticipated that their young kids would be teens by the time the house felt complete—or that when they finally expanded the kitchen, the construction would last 22 months.
"We lived in it for 10 years with it literally being awful," Lisa reflects. "As a designer, it's easy to put on blinders when renovating your own home. Things are so familiar that you sometimes don't see the reality or the potential. And, of course, clients' projects come first, so our own home often took a back seat. It was a total shoemaker's kids story!"
Maybe so, but no one's going barefoot anymore. The house is a neighborhood standout. In front, Lisa and Chuck traded the porch for a minimalist, industrial-style portico and a door painted in peppy chartreuse. On the back and side, an L-shape kitchen and laundry room addition hugs the home, sheathed in wood to sharply contrast the period stucco that cloaks the rest of the house.
That bump-out, the capstone to decades of improvements, was worth the wait. "It changed the family dynamics," Lisa says. "Before, no one wanted to spend time in the kitchen. It was small, closed off and outdated, and there wasn't room for gathering. Now, it's warm, modern and always in use."
Natural light pours through a bank of modern, single-pane windows that wrap around the corner of the new kitchen.
Another favorite space is the sunroom. It has served myriad jobs over the years, including a home office and temporary kitchen. Now it's a hyper-organized craft room (complete with a small sink for washing brushes), where Lisa can paint, daughter Avery can work from home crafting whimsical footstools and son Grady can tie flies for fishing.
Lisa and Chuck use the big sunroom in their home as a lounge, craft space and winter greenhouse. A throw pillow isn't the only way to perk up furniture; Lisa's ottoman and chair have cushions in a contrasting print.
And what of Chuck's hobbies? "He's a tinkerer with a love of anything vintage," Lisa says, pointing out back to a gleaming 1959 Airstream and sky blue 1960 Ford pickup. They flank a patio that's hosted countless family dinners and parties. The soccer and softball era may have passed, but the big yard that lured the couple here nearly 20 years ago is still a perfect fit—and finally, the rest of the house is too.
Chuck plays banjo in a band and often provides the entertainment for the couple's backyard bashes.
Tour More of This Kansas City Home
Personal cubbies and wide under-window shelves provide ample storage for the whole family's hobbies.
Working from home at what is surely the most creative college job ever, Lisa and Chuck's daughter, Avery, stitches "feathers" on a chicken footstool for local artisan The City Girl Farm.
In the crafts room, art books provide inspiration for both family crafts and Lisa's interior design work. Lisa's painting journals include watercolors from past family camping trips; they hit the road every summer. Lisa also knits to relax. One of her larger projects, a blanket she knit during a difficult year, drapes over the sofa. Always looking to support artists, Lisa sneaks functional and decorative pottery (center of photo) into almost every room. The portrait of Lisa and infant son Grady (lower right) was drawn by her grandmother, whose sketchbooks inspired Lisa's.
Blues, greens and warm dollops of orange ripple through the home—in art, textiles and even on the mudroom door, painted in Benjamin Moore's Dark Celery. Lisa hunted down these lockers for the mudroom in a local vintage store. "I liked the texture and patina," she says. "They balance the crispness of the kitchen."
Lisa lined the kitchen's cabinets, including this hidden bar, with blue-spattered wallpaper from a local company, Porter Teleo.
Though the bedrooms are awash in contemporary style, Lisa and Chuck retained many historic details, like crown molding, rich hardwood floors and crystal doorknobs.
Lisa keeps this sweet dresser her grandmother painted in high school in the master bedroom.
A painting by Lisa's grandfather serves as a lodestar above son Grady's bed, inspiring a kaleidoscopic collection of furnishings and fabrics. Durable Flor carpet tiles, available in an array of hues, patterns and shapes, allow anyone to mix and match a custom rug.
The dream of every kid (and many adults), a reading loft cuts into the attic in daughter Avery's bedroom. It's trimmed in maple, walnut and Baltic birch. A sleek and airy alternative to an imposing prefab bunk bed, the custom "floating" bed is attached on two walls and to the ladder. A cozy upholstered panel hugs Avery's bed, the anchor to an energetic palette of fuchsia, turquoise and ocher.