Featured Homes

Half-Century Modern

Straddling two centuries, a Rockhill Colonial lives for today

Every 50 years or so, a homeowner has pushed the “refresh” button on a center hall colonial near the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Built in 1919 with generous proportions and lots of windows, the home started with classic bones. The second generation of owners added a ’60s zeitgeist with vividly colored wallpaper and carpeting, plus one of the first Sub-Zero refrigerators in the area.

“I am always looking for new house projects,” says Ryan Hiser, a counselor for adolescents, couples and families. “I saw this house and realized I had walked through it during an estate sale.”

He hurried back to the West Plaza home he shared with David Tran, a pharmacist. “Ryan says ‘I can show you some video’ and I look at this shaky cell-phone video that he had taken of the interior,” says Tran. He wasn’t impressed. However, they both soon realized that this house had major potential. “What sold me was the center hall,” says Tran. “And the layout works for today’s living.” They bought the house in 2015.

Only the third owners since the house was built, Hiser and Tran acted as their own general contractors, highlighting yet modernizing period details but keeping a neutral color scheme throughout.

Balancing their styles was key. “I go crazy and bold,” admits Hiser. “David tones it all down and makes it work.”

“I prefer a collected look,” says Tran. “A base in the traditional with a touch of the new.”

“I am always looking at estate sales,” adds Hiser. “Maybe 25 percent of what I bring home actually makes it into a room. Sometimes David looks at a piece and says one word: Closet.”

Yet their finds can be genius. “Estate sales have good curtains,” says Hiser. “You can find really well-made draperies for little money, much better than what you can find at a store. And if you hang them from near the ceiling instead of just above the window, it makes the whole room look more grand.”

As soon as you walk in the door, it is difficult to tell what was original and what was added later—just the impression they wanted. The vintage-looking marble tile in a basketweave pattern in the small vestibule is new but looks old.

And then it opens up into a generous center hallway. Hiser and Tran repurposed the oriental rug from their former dining room, added a vintage leather-topped drum table, and arranged some of Tran’s favorite blue-and-white china. Farther back in the hallway, a japanned credenza hosts some of Tran’s vignettes. “Ryan makes fun of me for moving things around until the arrangement is just right,” says Tran. “Yeah, only three hours and you’re done,” jokes Hiser.

ISptrqinuoxiy11000000000The entry before.The entry before.


The two created a powder room at the end of the hallway. Ingeniously, they used French doors to keep the light streaming in from the original back door and hung draperies that can slide over the glass for privacy. The sink is an example of their clever repurposing; an old chest was giving a black marble top and a brass sink before being given new life in this bathroom.


To the left of the entry is the living room, its wall details and original sconces painted a soothing white, contrasting with dark stained floors. Hiser and Tran spotted two retail display tables, painted them black, and voila! A coffee table. The red-and-white toile draperies were discovered at an estate sale, and the vintage modern art comes from Urban Mining and the antique shops in the West Bottoms. Hiser and Tran recovered the vintage chairs.

IS9p13mbn699o01000000000The living room before.The living room before.



On the other side of the center hall, the dining room gets moody in charcoal gray. “I love it when you eat in a space that’s dark,” says Hiser. Golden draperies puddle to the floor, their sheen echoed in the gilded bar cart from Nell Hill’s and the vintage federal mirror across the room. The long reclaimed-wood table with an iron base is surrounded with chairs in gunmetal gray.


The sunroom, just off the dining room, is where the two hang out. A ficus tree and a bougainvillea anchor each end of the charcoal sofa, while seagrass carpeting keeps the indoor/outdoor feel. Old metal letters, once electrified, spell their initials “H” and “T.” A vintage birds-eye maple table, from an estate sale in Mission Hills, holds another of Tran’s vignettes.


IStcxelyeqseo01000000000The sunroom before.The sunroom before.


“We love to use the Bungii app,” says Hiser. “Even if you have a small car, you can go to estate sales and have Bungii pick up and deliver your furniture for cheap.”

In the kitchen, white cabinets, white tile with black grout, and marble countertops work for the old/new style of the house. Contemporary still-life paintings and prints go high while the Ikea island adds style at low cost.

ISl6v23saikho01000000000The kitchen before.The kitchen before.


ISp5p8sccnsnb11000000000The kitchen before.The kitchen before.


Upstairs, the master bedroom echoes the living room beneath with white walls, black-and-white patterns and red accents.


They had to completely reconfigure the master bath to make room for a shower. Large gray tile and a white pedestal sink reinforce the old/new philosophy.

“And now we’re ready for the next project,” Hiser says. Tran would like a little more time at this house. Who will win?



Nell Hill’s


Bottoms Up Antique Market


Beco Flowers

Lighting Rewiring

Dave Smith the Lamp Maker


Urban Mining Homewares