HOUSEGUEST | Gary Johnson and Rod Schuch

A Realtor and artist showcase their talents in old Leawood

Updated: 2014-02-23T02:28:40Z


The Kansas City Star

Over the past 31/2 decades, Gary Johnson and Rod Schuch shared six houses before settling into the three-bedroom ranch in Leawood where they have lived for the past 14 years.

Johnson, a former advertising executive who is now part of the Madden Myers team at Reece & Nichols, designed the large garden in the backyard. Stands of echinacea, lilies and other blossoms provide summer inspiration for Schuch, a floral painter who also specializes in decorative painting, as seen in the interior and furnishings of their home.

With a fire blazing in the fireplace, all was coziness and order on a recent winter morning, until two athletic kittens came bounding and tumbling into the room.

“They knock everything over,” Johnson said with an indulgent smile.

Tell me about this house.

Johnson: It was built in 1953, and we bought it in 2000. Everything was white, and we started adding color. We beefed up the crown molding in the living room with an extra layer, and we also added it to all the other rooms.

This was a real quality house when it was built. The windows still slide up beautifully, and the rooms are generous-sized. We’ve kept all the original tile in the kitchen and bathrooms, and we have the original Venetian blinds in the bedrooms.

The walls have a kind of sheen.

Schuch: The walls are pure basic spectrum red with an eggshell finish. Then I stippled it with a transparent purple glaze and added three coats of high-gloss varnish.

How would you describe your decor?

Johnson: It’s a collection of things we like, a mix of Asian and traditional. We don’t really want everything to match. Most of the furnishings came from estate sales and auctions. We got a lot of the rugs and furniture from Selkirk’s in St. Louis. We bought the dining room chandelier in Paris during a trip in 2000. Most of the paintings are Rod’s.

So Rod, have you always been an artist?

Schuch: I taught art for 41 years in the Grandview school district — drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, graphic design. Everything I do is related to my art background. I have my studio in the basement, and my focus is traditional florals and landscape. I also do decorative painting and murals for private clients.

Tell me about some of your commissions.

Schuch: One client wanted a carousel horse, so I did a 4-by-4-foot mosaic for the family room of her house in Kansas City. A friend of ours lived in Brazil as a teenager and always had a tropical thing going in his decorating. The parrot painting on the easel in my studio is for him.

One of my biggest projects was a table for the 2010 Dining by Design event. I did a water garden theme that included papier mache koi swimming through an arrangement of lotus blossoms on curly wires that looked like seaweed. I also designed seawood votive holders, and I hand-painted big white chargers with a lotus design for the table guests to take home. Each one was different and came in a silk bag with a lotus applique designed by our friend, Cheryl Goodwillie. I also do painted furniture.

What’s the story behind this large cupboard in the hall?

Schuch: It was a plain birch cabinet. We were going to replace it with an armoire but decided to keep it because it holds tons of stuff. I added the moldings and then put on a red base coat and topped it with a black crackle effect. I used a gold pen and brush to create the bamboo motif and finished it off with new hardware.

The colors and artworks you’ve chosen are very cheerful.

Schuch: In the hallway I used lemon yellow with a butter glaze to give it subtle interest. We found that old painted screen at Selkirk’s in St. Louis and had a carpenter build a base for it. The framed painting is a scene from the garden when the lilies were in bloom. I did a whole series of lilies, working from life and photographs and lots of preliminary sketches and studies.

You also have a very sunny scheme in the kitchen.

Schuch: I painted the walls light yellow and spattered it with three colors. Those are the original 1953 cabinets. I added molding and new hardware and painted them with a terra cotta base coat with ivory on top and sanded the edges. That’s a French refectory table in the dining area. I like a little French influence too.

Tell me about the pottery and those unusual plates on the wall above the sink.

Schuch: Gary has collected Quimper pottery from Brittany in France. He bought some of it in Quimper, where we visited the factory, and some on eBay.

Johnson: I used to be an eBay junkie. I try to buy old piece,s and I have some from the 1920s and ’30s. I bought those Quimper flounder plates thinking we would use them for salads, but when we moved here, we decided to hang them on the wall. I have many Quimper pieces in that old pine cupboard, which we bought at Hall’s. We found the big ceramic rooster at the old Sebree Galleries.

You have a great view of the garden from the kitchen.

Johnson: The yard really attracted us. Before, we always had small yards, mostly in shade. Here I did two water gardens and a formal border in the center. I bought the big urns and the columns from an antique dealer in upstate New York. They’re all cast iron. For spring, I’ve planted 5,000 tulip bulbs.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to

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