A Mission Hills home with good bones, European charm gets a neo-traditional refresh

Sometimes the home of your dreams is right in front of you, hidden just beyond the limits of your imagination.

That was the case for Rick and Christy Bartelt, who recently relocated to the Kansas City area from Columbia, Mo., to be close to their grown children and grandchildren. (The Prairie Village home of their son Aaron Bartelt and his wife Shelby was featured in the June/July issue of Spaces.)

Rick was on a business trip when he scouted out a Mission Hills home built in 2001 and previously owned by Suzanne Allen, the granddaughter of J.C. Nichols.

Designed by architect Bruce Wendlandt and built by Joel Fritzel, the sprawling home exudes European charm, with open, large-scale rooms, perfected lines of sight and attention to views out of every window.

“As you could imagine, Suzanne spared no expense,” Rick says. “The craftsmanship and quality were what really attracted me.”

The house’s handcrafted, reclaimed woodwork is a phenomenal organic detail, but there was too much of it for the Bartelts, who wanted a lighter feeling.

“The house was fantastic to start with, we just changed the palette to fit our tastes,” Rick says.

It was a new beginning for the couple in many ways. They embraced a sea change in their personal style with fresh and whimsical touches.

“The house has such a masculine feel that Christy’s femininity makes a perfect marriage,” says the couple’s interior designer, Laura McCroskey of McCroskey Interiors. “The dark wood actually helped ground it all.”

Recognizing Christy’s impulse toward pastels and florals and Rick’s open-minded attitude, Laura pushed the Bartelts out of their comfort zone. She was careful not to alter the character of the house, but lighter-colored walls and fewer heavy built-ins freed up visual space. The kitchen was refreshed in white, with a captivating seven-foot ventilation hood and cabinets adorned with decorative cremone bolts and metal grills.

They opted to remove dark green slate flooring in several rooms and replace it with classic black and white marble. New lighting fixtures brightened the rooms, and large-scale floral wallpaper brought in Christy’s personality.

“One of my happiest days was when they started hanging wallpaper,” Christy says.

Laura’s take on the appropriate furnishings is grounded in traditionalism, with an eye on current trends. Decisions were a team effort, with Laura leading the way on rugs and art.

“She is an excellent colorist,” Christy notes.

Trust was built with every choice. Many times Christy said “no” to Laura’s suggestions — then later realized that what was first presented was the best option.

Laura’s top win was the gold-dipped tree trunk poster bed frame for the master suite, which she had installed for the couple’s reveal party unbeknownst to them. It plays off the magnolia branches in the bedroom’s Phillip Jeffries wallcoverings.

“Once I saw it there, I couldn’t not have it,” Christy admits. “It is perfect for the room.”

Part of lightening up the house included the addition of pastels to cabinetry and trim work. At first, Rick was wary of the idea. He struggled with Christy’s desire to paint the laundry room (see page 62) blue, but seeing the uplifting result informed him that it could be done to other areas without being detrimental to the integrity of the material. He then agreed to pale pink cabinets in the master bathroom.

“Rick is the most open husband ever,” Laura says. “It takes a big husband to let his wife do that wallpaper in the bedroom, then turn around and ask him, ‘Hey, can we do pink in the bathroom?’”

Laura also advised the Bartelts to keep the pink toile wallcoverings in the main-level guest room but remove the matching drapery and bedding. She then introduced black accents, a hint of which can be seen in every room for unification.

The study, where the Bartelts stretch out on dual couches to watch TV, is dark and dramatic with its modern art and gold-trimmed, black-painted bookcases flanking a deep-veined marble fireplace.

Rick, a mechanical engineer, was not only a full participant in the project’s design decisions — he also acted as general contractor and even designed a number of components, from the fireplaces to the master closet and vaulted ceiling.

Some of Rick’s projects helped the 18-year-old home feel new again. For instance, technology has changed so much since 2001 that the bulky cabinet built for a tube TV was no longer necessary, and was taking up valuable space. Rick extended the hearth’s stone wall in its place and recessed a flat-screen TV inside.

He also brought Bruce Wendlandt back into the project for help in vaulting the low master ceiling. It was a relationship that would later reveal an eerie connection.

As mentioned, Laura selected the works of art, three of which were painted by Kansas City artist Helen Wendlandt.

“I knew her colors were spot-on for this house,” Laura says.

The first twist of fate was that Helen died on the day Laura hung her art in the house. During the reveal, when Laura told the story, there was a second, skin-tingling moment when the Bartelts realized that Bruce, who had designed the house, was Helen’s son. It all felt like fate.

“The whole situation floored us,” Laura says.

By the end of construction, the Bartelts were ready to move out of the basement and into their revived surroundings. They gave the highest credit to Laura for leading them where they didn’t know they wanted to go.

“There’s nothing we would change,” Christy says.


Flowers: Beco Flowers

Custom hood: Gieske

Tile: International Materials of Design

Countertops: Carthage Stoneworks

Fireplaces: ADI Cast Limestone