House & Home

Creative vision flips downsize into upgrade

Kansas City designer Anne Epstein recently renovated a fixer-upper home for her family of five. She bumped the ceiling up into unused attic space, covered a wall in shiplap, accentuated the fireplace with hand-painted tiles and used a piece of reclaimed wood as the mantel.
Kansas City designer Anne Epstein recently renovated a fixer-upper home for her family of five. She bumped the ceiling up into unused attic space, covered a wall in shiplap, accentuated the fireplace with hand-painted tiles and used a piece of reclaimed wood as the mantel. Tribune News Service

It started as a whim. My cousin Anne Epstein, a designer at Nell Hill’s, has three daughters who would soon be out of the nest. Why not sell their larger family home and downsize into a fixer-upper she could renovate?

“It sounded so fun,” Anne says with an eye roll. “Looking at pictures and finding what you want is fun. But living through it isn’t as much fun.” Their home sold lightning-fast, and their busy family of five had to move in with her sister-in-law for nine months. Taking on the renovation was a lot more work than she had anticipated.

Now that she, husband Andy and their daughters are settling into their new home in Fairway, Anne knows she made the right call. This beautiful, bright, happy and inviting home fits them to a T.

She worked nothing short of a miracle in her kitchen.

At the time they were looking for their “project” house, Anne had friends who were also in the market. When she told them which house she bought, they thought she was crazy.

“That house was awful!” they said. Anne agrees.

The floor plan of the kitchen — long and narrow and divided by a stairwell to the basement — was not going to work for this active family who was used to doing life around a big kitchen island. So they moved the stairwell, took out the dated cherry laminate cabinets and elevated the ceiling by taking advantage of unused attic space above.

Anne knew she wanted a bright, white country kitchen. She covered the cabinets in a clean white paint and extended the subway tile up the wall around the range, pairing it with a charcoal grout so each tile would pop.

Since the family spends a lot of time gathering around their kitchen island, Anne wanted to rim it with comfortable seating. She picked a great bench and slipcovered it in a Sunbrella fabric so spills were not a problem. If she ever gets tired of it, she can just replace the slipcover.

Anne’s contractor turned reclaimed wood into display shelves. Anne really likes warm metals, so she perched the rugged wood on gold brackets. You can see her design talents come to life in the display she created on the shelves, which will change with each season.

Anne also likes to use freestanding furniture as storage in her kitchen. A large-scale buffet is the perfect place to store her china. She used baskets to collect small pieces like cups and saucers, and to weave in texture.

Anne says that it wasn’t until she added her accents, layer by layer, that the new house began to feel like home.

Anne also wanted a casual, inviting dining room. Instead, she was faced with a small, awkwardly situated fireplace, low ceilings and a floor that had seen better days.

To open up the room and give it more light and life, they bumped the ceiling up into unused attic space, covered a wall in shiplap, accentuated the fireplace with hand-painted tiles and used a piece of reclaimed wood as the mantel.

Anne is a master at making any space feel warm and inviting. I love the centerpiece on her dining room table and the touches of blue that echo the tile in the fireplace. My next question for Anne is, “When can I move in?”

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