House + Home Q+A

History and creativity come together in Jeanne and Don Bieger’s Overland Park home

Updated: 2013-10-27T02:25:31Z

By ALICE THORSON

The Kansas City Star

Step inside the Overland Park house where Jeanne and Don Bieger have lived for 47 years, and you’ll think you’ve entered an early American museum. The interior of the one-and-a-half story colonial, designed by Jeanne with a gambrel roof, is a showcase for the couple’s taste and talent for early American furniture and decor. The furnishings are not rare museum pieces, Jeanne Bieger points out, but were gathered on trips and excursions to antique shows in an extended “labor of love.”

The scheme, which includes multiple pieces of furniture and sculpture made by Don and curtains and cross-stitch samplers sewn by Jeanne, speaks volumes about the Biegers’ creativity. In July 2001 the couple’s home was featured in a six-page spread in Country Sampler magazine.

Your living room really gives the feeling of stepping back in time.

It’s all things I picked up at mall shows and antique shows. Don built the bookcase and put the beams in the ceiling. That’s a Chippendale-style sofa that I had upholstered in a gingham patchwork print. I chose brick-red checks and solid dark blue fabrics for the pair of wing chairs. I found the rag rugs in Shakertown, Kentucky, and that’s an old musket over the fireplace.

That’s a dough box at the end of the couch. The dough would be stored inside, and the top could be turned over to work it. I found it in a shop at 45th and State Line. The lamp is old jug. I took some blue paint and added the bird motif to replicate salt glaze. And I love models of houses. The group on the shelf includes a model of Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the George Wythe House in Williamsburg.

Many of these pieces were created by you and your husband.

Don makes barn sculptures out of scrap lumber, including one he modeled after the old barn where Hawthorne Plaza is now. I did all the cross-stitch reproduction samplers and that small Amish quilt above the bucket bench in the hall. That grouping includes Amish dolls, an Amish bonnet and a Shaker straw bonnet.

I also painted the reproduction of “The Man With the Golden Helmet” (once attributed to Rembrandt, now thought to be the work of one of his students), that hangs in the living room.

I saw it in St. Louis, where I grew up, as part of an exhibition of paintings hidden from the Nazis during World War II. I took a little painting instruction, and sitting at my mother’s dining room table, I copied the painting from a postcard.

What inspired all this?

Looking at magazines and trips to the Northeast and Williamsburg, Virginia. All of the colors blend from one room to the next.

All the walls are off-white, based on the original simple houses with plaster walls. The woodwork was always painted. I’ve used a colonial red, a Williamsburg blue and also a gray.

How did you furnish the dining room?

The bird-cage-back Windsor chairs were kits from Cohasset, Mass., that I put together. I found the table at an antique show in a mall. Those are my grandmother’s chocolate cups in the hutch. My aunt, who was a china painter, decorated them. We received the Melon silverplate tea and coffee service as a wedding present, and I put it on a wood chest I found in Spring Hill, Missouri.

The breakfast nook is charming.

We designed it to have lots of windows onto the open expanse out back. None of the neighbors put up fences. I made the blue and white checked curtains. They’re tab curtains, easy to make and easy to hang. My sister found the pie cabinet in St. Louis, and I painted it. Three years ago we had new flooring put in. I chose a laminate that looks like rough-sawn planks.

You’ve continued the illusion in the upstairs bedrooms.

The second bedroom, which used to be my daughter’s room, is the doll room. The old doll bed was mine when I was a little girl. The same aunt who did the china painting made that quilt with the morning glories. I saw the bobble-edged curtains in a country curtains magazine, so I copied them.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to athorson@kcstar.com.

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