Meander down Lake Quivira’s Lakeshore Drive and the view of the houses is as interesting as the water. Each is unique.
At the home of Steve and Northam Rempel, the interiors delve deep into the couple’s story.
“There’s nothing cookie-cutter about this house,” says Julie Baker, the Rempels’ interior designer, who created a bespoke home that reflects their personalities, travels and love of entertaining.
“It was a tall order to find someone who could incorporate all the choices we made,” Northam says.
But Julie and Northam clicked.
“I got her vibe immediately,” Julie recalls. “She knows what she likes, whereas most people will only tell you what they don’t like and you have to dig from there.”
After living in the house for two and a half years prior to the renovation, the Rempels had more than a surface understanding of what their home needed.
“That was key because it gave us time to experience what we liked and didn’t like about it,” Northam says.
The pros included a large entertaining space on the main level, an unused sitting room that could become a formal dining room, and an upper level for a dedicated master suite. The con was that the rooms were choppier than the wake behind a speedboat, thanks to two major additions that disconnected the rooms with awkward transitions.
“We liked the layout, we just wanted everything to flow better,” Northam says.
Julie’s design direction began with the most comprehensive discussion of possibilities.
“We talked about everything out there we could do and then reined it in to ‘OK, this is what we should do,’” Northam says. “That was good for me in the sense that I now don’t feel that there’s anything I would have done differently.”
Addressing both flow and storage, Julie removed a partial wall that divided the dining room and kitchen and jutted into the great room; reorganized the constricted kitchen’s layout; and redistributed items to separate cabinets in nearby rooms.
“I love remodels, putting the puzzle pieces of an old home back together,” Julie notes.
But she had the most fun specifying and sourcing materials for the Rempels, who trusted her to give them only a few choices so they could make quick decisions.
“Northam is a modern Southern woman who loves to entertain, so that was always top of mind,” Julie says. “It was important to give every room a show-stopping focal point.”
Julie’s favorite space is the dining room, with its large picture window and a fireplace she emphasized with graffiti-like wallpaper and an Art Deco-style cast stone surround.
Centered in the space is Northam’s grandmother’s 19th century Empire table surrounded by four hulking egg-shaped porter’s chairs, a combination Northam describes as having an “Alice in Wonderland” vibe.
“To bring in an antique piece gives the room a lot of soul,” Julie says.
Another heirloom piece is the salvaged wood table in the great room, made from University of California, Berkeley bleachers, that remind the Rempels of their previous life in Marin County, California.
Northam also wanted to incorporate quirky new items, such as a hanging chair in the great room overlooking the lake.
“Steve was able to bring it to life in a way that made sense and would be useable,” Northam says. “He brings balance to my far-out ideas.”
Steve got to satisfy his own cravings for uniqueness in the kitchen, where he worked closely with Julie to make space for everything he owned, from the pots and pans down to the spices.
She created a coffee bar outside of the main cooking space, a built-in china cabinet for serveware in the dining room and a wet bar for stemware in the great room. Everything was designed for multiple uses and to easily transition to other purposes in the future.
“To get the appliances, vital storage, needs and wants the Rempels had, every inch mattered,” Julie says.
The same was true for the couple’s private quarters upstairs, where a bowling alley-style master bath was simply not functional. Julie resolved the issue by flip-flopping the floor plan and expanding the closet into Northam’s office.
Whereas the neutral bathroom has a soothing spa feel, Northam’s office bursts with bright colors in Christian Lacroix butterfly wallpaper and patterned carpet.
“My office is one aspect of my personality,” Northam says. “To me, it’s the only room in the house that is solely mine; I could do anything I wanted to without considering anyone else.”
Steve’s chance at personal space was in the garage-entry-level cigar room, which Julie masculinized with Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy, reclaimed wood accents and lived-in leather chairs.
The Rempels’ art, photos and travel mementos appear on every wall and surface throughout the home. But the story isn’t over yet. The Rempels recently transferred to London for a temporary stay, and return home to vacation at Lake Quivira.
“Our life in London is so different from our life in Kansas, but we’ve got the best of both worlds,” Northam says. “It’s hectic here (in London), and when we go home, we enjoy the lake and stables and go down to the Plaza.”
Job opportunities have made the Rempels learn to be flexible in this world. She recently retired from the software industry, and he is an international retail industry executive. Now the couple considers Kansas home.
“This is where our roots are,” Northam says, even though they are transplants to the state. Northam’s family is in Atlanta, and Steve’s sons live in Arizona, but friends at the lake have become like family.
The different cities and chapters of the Rempels’ lives add depth to their history and their home.
“We want our home to be a reflection of us,” Northam says. “It’s not necessarily about getting the most expensive things or doing what everyone else is doing; I won’t put anything in there that doesn’t have meaning.”