The elegant structure in Andy Newcom’s backyard defies description. When he calls it a shed, his father, Barney Newcom, who did much of the work on the building, raises an eyebrow. His neighbor Aaron Heldt, who pounded his fair share of nails, suggests it’s more a garden structure than shed.
The compact building is anchored by a sort of gazebo-like center, complete with comfortable seating and a wrought-iron chandelier that makes a bold statement, as does ornate crown molding and intricate embellishments.
“We lost a little sleep wondering if we could fit that chandelier in,” Barney Newcom says..
Inside Andy Newcom’s home, his kitchen has a European feel, and modern art punctuates the walls in every room. Bold red leather chairs in the living room catch the eye, as do some of the modern light fixtures. The library has a Greek revival feel to it.
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We spent some time at Newcom’s 1,600-square-foot Fairway home, discussing art, home design and the joy of being surrounded by loving friends and family.
What did you envision when you built this garden structure?
One side of it had to be practical, because with a one-car garage, you need room for the lawnmower, paint and other things. So that’s the one practical part of this, and it’s hidden behind these great doors. We wanted this great seating area, so people can look out on the garden. You can see that I love to garden, though this backyard is still a work in progress.
Does the potting shed on the other side of the seating area serve as a sunroom in cooler months?
In some ways, yes. But I’m a photo stylist for Hallmark, and this is where I’ll do a lot of my work. I can guarantee I’ll be styling in here. We’ve talked about this shed since I bought the house six years ago, and I’m just so happy it’s done.
What were some of the big changes before the shed?
This house was built in 1945, and it needed work. We raised the roof, which created the studio upstairs. I downsized from my last home, so a lot of artwork, many from my friends, is stored up there.
And we did things like replace the rotting screens and concrete floor in the sun room, and put in French doors and a brick floor. Dad put ceiling beams in throughout the home, built bookshelves and put in all the touches that make this house special. We vaulted the ceiling in the bedroom when the new roof went up.
Where do you find your antiques and eye-catching touches, like old doors and statuary?
From all over. I’m always on the hunt for things for my job, so I keep my eye out. We got lucky at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and found these arched doors for the garden shed.
In the house, some of the older doors and pieces were from antique stores in Kansas City; others I found online.
Is it fair to say your tastes are eclectic?
I think the word “eclectic” is overused, but I guess it really suits me. I know midcentury modern is the thing now, but this house really speaks to me. The contemporary stuff cuts the flamboyant, gold-leaf look. But you have to know when to stop.
Who influenced your style?
I’m surrounded with creative people at work, of course. But Mom and Dad were so influential.
Mom was an artist and a proofreader, and Dad also worked for Hallmark for many years, and also was an art director for an ad agency. I grew up in an environment where creativity was everything.
How many houses have you owned?
This is the fifth house I’ve owned, and my family has helped me work on every one of them. My first house was a 750-square-foot home on Mom and Dad’s property. I’ve also owned a loft, and a couple of other homes.
And while I always make a profit selling them, I don’t go into it saying, “I’m going to flip this house.” But somehow, when it’s complete, I start thinking about the next project. This place, though, I have no plans to sell anytime soon.
Any advice for people struggling to find their own decorating style?
Experience is everything. Professional athletes don’t get where they are without a lot of practice. When you’re in other people’s homes, really take note of what you love and what you don’t. Make a mental file and tuck it away. And be comfortable enough to know what you love. Plus, Dad and I say if you make a mistake in an old house, it just adds character.
It’s obvious that the father-son bond is powerful. Does your dad enjoy helping out with these projects?
He doesn’t look it, but he’s 85, and when my mom passed away from Alzheimer’s a few years ago, I realized how full of life he is. It’s self-serving, right? I get the shed and all his great work. But he was such a beautiful caregiver, and now he has so much more life to enjoy.
I think we don’t care for our elders as much as we should in this country. They should be part of our lives. And working with him on these projects just shows how vital he is. I’m so lucky that he’s such a great part of my world.