When Libby Sullivan was pregnant with her fourth son in five years, she and husband Brady decided a bigger house was in order. They found the ugliest house on the block. It was way too small, but Libby thought it was perfect.
The house Jenni Zorn and husband Trip were living in with their four sons and one daughter didn’t meet their growing family’s needs either. So they decided to build a home with space for everyone — and a disco ball — from the ground up.
Both women, who also happen to be interior designers, are opening their homes for the Renovation Sensation Homes Tour on Sept. 14. Proceeds from the tour will go to Shawnee Mission East’s SHARE program. SHARE stands for Students Helping in Areas Related to Education, and the nonprofit, student-run group matches students with community service projects.
The Sullivans’ house was built in 1952 as a three bedroom ranch. It was painted peach and teal and had a layout that did not work. Libby Sullivan saw potential.
“I had a list of the things it already needed to have, and this house had that. It had to have fireplaces and the ability to add stairs,” Sullivan said. “None of the houses we looked at had what we wanted. I figured the only way I was going to get exactly what I wanted was to do it myself.”
To make it a perfect family home for their four boys — Wheeler, 8; Tate, 6; Teddy, 5; and Henry, 3 — they had to go up. The couple added a second story with four bedrooms, two baths and a laundry room. They turned a first-floor bedroom into an office and created a master suite from two others, remodeled the great room and kitchen at the back of the house and did it all with careful attention to the house’s original character.
“We wanted it to feel like it had always been here. I wanted it to feel clean and classic,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan calls her decorating style “collected.”
“If I find something that I like, I will make it work. I bring together all different styles,” Sullivan said. “My home is a collection of things that I love.”
Part of that love is shown in the way she has decorated rooms for her sons. Each is inspired by a print or a pattern. All of the rooms have a neutral base but are filled with color, including a green metal bed that was her’s as a child.
A second-floor landing includes built-in desks. Three of the boys also have closet spaces that have been converted into play nooks.
“Teddy wanted a fort. The closet in his room was just being used for storage. We did it at night when he was asleep. On his birthday, when he woke up, we opened it, and he had his fort,” Sullivan said. “Then the other kids felt like they needed to have one.”
During the 18-month renovation, the Sullivans were never sure they were actually going to move into their dream home, because they were lukewarm about the location and kept looking. It did not take long after moving in to realize they had landed in the perfect place.
“It is not where we expected we would live, but we would never leave now. We love this street, and we love how quiet it is, and we love our neighbors,” Sullivan said.
The Zorn family had already found a location they loved, but they could not make the house work for their growing family. So they decided to build nearby.
The California modern home they built was inspired by the life they were already living.
Jenni Zorn wanted the space to feel clean and crisp, like a gallery space. Big white walls and clean negative space characterize much of the home.
“It is something I never tire of. I could make this into a traditional home, or I could make this really modern. The clean lines are here. I like that,” Zorn said.
She also wanted a space that would allow her to balance beauty with the reality of having active children.
“Everything has to be bullet-proof. There has to be nothing in here that I care about too much, because you never know when a soccer ball is going to come in from the balcony,” Zorn said.
Each of Zorn’s children — Tucker, 19; Barrett, 18; Sam, 16; Zoe, 14; and Briggs, 10 — got their own bedroom. A seventh bedroom serves as an art studio for Jenni.
The house also has a trap door in the floor for Lego storage; a cushion pit on a second-floor landing just for watching TV; a gym in the basement; and a two-acre yard with a four-hole golf course.
“At one point in the design process we had to decide if we were building this for resale or for ourselves. We just designed for ourselves the whole way,” Zorn said.
The Zorns also chose a smaller master bedroom, floating closets in the bedrooms, three decks and large windows to enjoy the outdoors.
A large great-room space includes the kitchen, living and dining room, and a smaller library provides a cozier place for quiet. Zorn says the house was designed so they could enjoy the outdoors and have plenty of space where everyone would be able to get away, but also be able to enjoy being together.
“If we stay here long enough, there’s also room for each of (my children) to come back with families,” Zorn said.
Renovation Sensation Homes Tour
The tour, a benefit for the nonprofit SHARE program at Shawnee Mission East, is 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 14. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door of each home. For more information go to facebook.com/rensen. The featured homes:
▪ 2421 W. 65th St., Mission Hills
▪ 5644 Mission Road, Fairway
▪ 8407 Ensley Lane, Leawood
▪ 9309 High Drive, Leawood