After 44 years of living in a three-story Georgian Colonial near Loose Park, Bob and Joan Kissick decided they were tired of climbing stairs.
Their daughter, a Prairie Village resident, alerted them to the sale of a ranch house directly across the street from her.
“It looks like a miniaturized version of our old house,” Joan says.
The three-bedroom house was built in 1962, the same year the Kissicks married, with ample sized rooms and a large, shaded yard.
“It’s all on one floor, a big plus of moving,” Joan says.
All the items in the pro column certainly were enticing. However, the house had a few cons on the list. In fact, the house was the sore thumb of the neighborhood. It lacked curb appeal, with a concrete wheelchair ramp out front, and the interiors were dark and dingy.
The home had last been rented by a single family for about 10 years. They had updated a few things in hopes of someday owning the house, but mostly their decisions were not up to par with the Kissicks’ vision of home. The moldings were well-done and some of the cabinetry was decent, but there was much work to do.
The stress of such a large-scale undertaking almost deterred the couple.
“How many times did we get cold feet?” Joan asks Bob. “We thought, ‘What are we doing at our age?’”
Fortunately, they had a longtime professional to lead them through the process. Steve Nuss has been the Kissicks’ designer for the last 20 years.
Personally knowing his clients’ taste helped Nuss hone in on design details that would make a difference in the look and feel of the house. The Kissicks told him to keep it light, bright and young.
“There would be no granny wing chairs here,” Nuss laughs.
He tailored the house into a personalized version of a Palm Beach retreat mixed with Midwest classicism.
First, they made a few structural improvements, including widening the entryway to make a grander impression of the main living area and let in more light.
They also closed off an open stair to the basement, creating a cozier sitting area within the expansive living room.
“The Hallbrook-style staircase wasn’t right for the house, and it just made the room feel enormous,” Joan says.
The entry’s marble tile was one of the few original elements to stay, but they curtailed it at the hallway and replaced the rest with hardwoods for a more cohesive look. Wainscoting was added to the walls for a finishing touch.
Nuss turned a dead end of the hall into a powder bath with a vaulted ceiling and hung a crystal chandelier. Its teal chinoiserie wallpaper competes for the boldest move in the house, matching the vivacity of the hot pink paper in the guest bath.
“I think a bathroom needs wallpaper,” Nuss says. “It’s a way to make a small room special.”
“You either like it or you don’t,” Joan notes. “And I like it.”
In the bedrooms, however, Joan wanted more soothing tones: light yellow for the den and pink for the guest room. In the master, she selected light blue and white striped paper.
“It’s so much more interesting having that contrast,” Nuss says.
Major cosmetic lifts were made to the dual master bathrooms, as well as to the dining room, where they removed a 1960s-looking built-in and a parquet floor.
The kitchen layout was solid, with bonus natural light from a skylight, yet it was all outdated. The Kissicks again chose contrasting colors, with crisp white cabinets on the perimeter and a dark blue island base. They added bamboo bar stools for convenient seating.
Nuss found a way to work two vintage bottle-glass panels into a pair of cabinetry fronts. They’re special to Joan because she salvaged them from her great-grandpa’s former restaurant.
The Kissicks have many important pieces from their lives that they weren’t willing to part with when downsizing and wanted to find ways to incorporate them. Rugs and chests transitioned to their new spots easily enough, and Nuss reworked the couple’s existing chairs and couches with updated fabrics.
“The process involved a lot of weaving, editing and weeding out,” Nuss says. “It’s about keeping the things you love and putting a new spin on them.”
Some of the pieces are so beloved and well-built that Joan simply refreshes them as the years wear on them—a handful are on their third or fourth upholstery job. The furniture works and lasts so long because Joan chooses only classic pieces and family heirlooms.
“I’m sentimental about things,” Joan says, adding that she’s quietly saved a few things for her grandkids after their parents passed on taking them. “It’s the same story you’ve heard over and over. My kids weren’t interested, but they said it nicely enough: Let someone else enjoy it.”
No matter the age of their objects, in this house, the overall aesthetic is timeless.
“What I like is that it doesn’t shout 2018,” Joan says.
Nuss chose a color palette of soft blues and salmon—sunset hues that remind the Kissicks of their annual family vacations to Florida.
“It’s all very fresh and clean,” Nuss says.
Of course, green is another prominent color in the couple’s design, as seen in the beauty of the natural environment outside their doors.
“We got a smaller house but a bigger backyard,” Joan says.
The increased yard work wasn’t part of their ideal retirement plan, but Bob is in his element when he’s outside. Hiring out the landscape installation and maintenance to John Gabler of Gabler’s Nursery leaves time for Bob to putter with his deck pots. And there are a lot of them.
The Kissicks built a 1,600-square-foot deck across the back of the house to accommodate their patio furniture. The low-maintenance railing in a Chippendale pattern carries the classic design theme from indoors to out.
To break up the long rectangle of space, they designed a cut-out in the middle section and created a natural area as a focal point; at its center is a gas lantern mounted on an authentic New Orleans post.
Inside or out, the Kissicks can sit back and enjoy the new space—indeed, the new life—they’ve built for themselves.
After meeting with Nuss three days a week throughout the project to get the details just right, Joan now says she feels a certain sense of accomplishment.
“When you’ve lived somewhere 44 years, it can be traumatic to move, but we were excited about this,” Joan says. “It was the best decision we ever made.”