Brad Drees was at the edge of his 20-acre property just outside Wellsville, Kan., when the son of an elderly neighbor asked if he had gone and gotten himself married.
As Brad recalled: “He said, ‘Usually with a guy — as long as you have a place to eat, drink and sleep — you are all good. Now I see you building this house.’ ”
Turns out, that guy was right. Brad had been living contentedly in a two-bedroom ranch home on the property since 2008. About five years ago, he met Connie, a longtime Mission Hills gal. The two started dating, and she moved in.
Then he got a hankering one day about three years ago, dropped to his knee near the entrance to his huge arched metal tool shed and proposed to her in full view of a giant moose head hanging from the rafters.
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“How could I resist?” Connie said, standing just inside the shed one recent afternoon.
“I’m a true romantic,” said Brad, joking that he would be moving the moose head to a spot above the fireplace in the living room as soon as Connie leaves for a horse-jumping competition in Colorado in coming days.
It doesn’t take long after meeting the Dreeses — now married — to realize that he’s a farm boy through and through and that, despite living in a tony suburb for many years, she has come to love this rural Kansas landscape as much as he does.
It doesn’t hurt that the move here, about a half-hour past Olathe off Interstate 35, allowed Connie to further indulge her passion for horse-jumping. She had grown up riding horses in Virginia but put it aside to raise a family. About 10 years ago, she took it back up.
“I said, ‘As long as I can have my horses with me, I’m fine,’ ” Connie said. “All my life, I have had to board my horses. And I didn’t want to do that anymore.”
A new horse stable now houses Finn McCool, her 23-year-old retired gelding, and Zoe, her 15-year-old mare, as well as her friend’s black colt, Snow. There are also two large paddocks and a jumping arena.
“I’m kind of an all-or-nothing gal,” Connie added.
Their “contemporary farmhouse” is the centerpiece of the property.
The Dreeses hired Dominique Davison, principal with DRAW Architecture, to design plans for renovating the original ranch. But after seeing Davison’s plans and hearing the cost to make them happen, living so close to a dusty gravel road that serves several other properties didn’t seem right.
Connie called Davison and told her she had bad news and good news: They were not going to renovate the existing home, but they were going to use Davison’s renovation plans to build a contemporary farmhouse 600 feet away.
“Everything in this house is driven by what was the original home on this property,” Connie said.
The footprint of the contemporary farmhouse is almost exactly the same as that of the original ranch. So are details like the windows that flank the living room fireplace.
The goal was to create a modern farmhouse with an interior that highlighted the Dreeses’ art collection and the pastoral views outside, while using as many reclaimed and local materials as possible. The white oak for the flooring, the reclaimed wood for support beams and the Kansas limestone for the kitchen countertops and fireplace surround all came from within 300 miles.
Brad owns Drees Built Homes, which specializes in custom homes, so he built the 5,000-square-foot contemporary farmhouse himself. It has four bedrooms and 4 1/2 bathrooms.
It provided challenges, he said, particularly constructing the multi-pitched roofs and running utilities 600 feet beneath the ground so power lines wouldn’t interrupt views of the bucolic landscape.
“And I think it’s harder to build your own home, because we both have to live in it, and we both have opinions,” he said.
Connie agreed but said using Davison’s renovation plans for the ranch provided much-needed constraints.
“If we had started construction with from-scratch plans, it would have been a lot harder to make decisions,” she said.
The original ranch did not have an attached garage so, technically speaking, neither does this one. A huge garage that could hold eight Mini Coopers and has epoxy-coated floors sits several feet from the home and can be accessed via a breezeway with ornamental barn doors.
One of the first things that catches the eye when you enter the large kitchen are a pair of white ceramic antler chandeliers hanging above a kitchen table from RH, made of reclaimed oak and surrounded by midcentury modern chairs designed by Arne Jacobsen. The design throughout the home is a lot like this: an elegant mix of rustic and contemporary.
“This is my way of honoring my husband’s love of nature and my desire for a modern home,” said Connie, an interior designer and LEED-certified energy consultant.
The large living room has two seating areas divided by a staircase that leads to a second floor loft and master suite.
The seating area near the front of the home has a baby grand piano, while the rear seating area has a tall fireplace surrounded by Kansas limestone and flanked by two pairs of long vertical windows based on the way they would have been built in the ranch home.
A small vestibule off the living room leads to two mirror image bedrooms, each with its own bathroom.
The loft at the top of the stairs serves as an office and leads to an all-white master suite with sliding glass doors and a balcony overlooking Connie’s jumping arena.
“The picture outside the windows is different every day, especially as the seasons change,” Connie said.
The railing on the balcony is constructed of raw wood posts, notched to allow horizontal glass strips to lie on them at a slant, giving it a stylish and louvered look.
The master bath has Carrara marble tile on the floors and in the shower. A stand-alone tub sits in a windowed corner. Brad likes to watch sunsets from the tub, Connie says.
Brad built the home to last, using 2-by-6-inch studs on exterior walls, with six inches of spray foam insulation and an industrial-grade metal roof. The cedar siding was primed and top-coated on all sides in a factory.
Several features operate on smart technology. Stereo speakers, window shades and lights in the house and barn can be controlled by an iPad.
Connie admitted that moving so far south of the city was an adjustment. But she has come to realize that she rarely saw friends who were at arm’s reach when she was living in Mission Hills, because they all took one another for granted. Not now.
“I had a girls’ weekend retreat out here,” she said. “We had a sleepover with a life coach who came, and we did meditation and talked about what we hoped to achieve in the next year and just had a good gal-pal time.”