Life in KC

At Home With the Kerstens in Prairie Village

The front of the Kerstens’ house hints at their personality, with the pop of orange window trim and welcoming patio. Kara describes her home inside as “practically modern, but for real life.”
The front of the Kerstens’ house hints at their personality, with the pop of orange window trim and welcoming patio. Kara describes her home inside as “practically modern, but for real life.” jsleezer@kcstar.com

The sign of a good designer is one who can work well with various styles and budgets, whether $6,000 or $600,000. Interior architect Kara Kersten used her designer’s bag of tricks to transform her once bland 1,200-square-foot Prairie Village ranch into a modern family home with little money but lots of character.

“I’m very hands-on, and my husband likes to build things,” Kara says. “DIY is where we save a lot of money. We did most of the work to the house ourselves except electrical and plumbing. We also got creative, finding things at garage sales and spiffing them up.”

She and husband Matt, a librarian with a fun, lively personality akin to his wife’s, updated every room for both functionality and aesthetics. “We were looking for a project,” Kara says. “Every house we looked at that had already been done wasn’t to our style. I didn’t want granite countertops. Prairie Village homes tend to have a common feel with their updates.”

They bought this particular house because the expensive infrastructure, including the roof and windows, had already been replaced, and Kara saw potential in the light-filled spaces. She and Matt busied themselves painting, ripping out carpet and staining hardwood floors, updating light fixtures and generally placing their own stamp on the place, before their kids, Greta, 2, and Torin, 1, came along.

When they couldn’t find storage for the living room, they built dual floating cabinets, one with a custom coffee bar the couple use daily. An oddly placed washing machine in the kitchen was moved to a closet, making room for three bins for glass, trash and recycling underneath an extended countertop that can double as eat-in space with a stool pulled up.

The creative couple also turned what was meant to be a living room addition into their private bedroom retreat, with a sitting room for watching TV or working at the computer. “It’s the surprise of this house,” Kara notes.

Their biggest alteration was tearing out a run-down screened porch and pouring a patio for daily use as well as for their annual blowout Oktoberfest parties. “We love to entertain,” Kara says. “We invite way more people than can fit in this little house.”

Whether it’s just the four of them enjoying family time or partying with 80 of their closest friends, this old home works hard and looks great while doing it.

“At Home With,” a feature that takes you inside cool and unusual apartments and homes in the Kansas City area, appears in Ink the first and third weeks of the month. Know someone with a kick-ass pad? Send info and photos to info@inkkc.com.

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