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A midcentury-inspired Leawood home gets a modern update

A sectional from Lee Industries anchors the sitting space opposite the kitchen. The home’s original door, which leads to the garage, was painted gray to match the trim. Custom built-in storage was added to keep the room clutter-free.
A sectional from Lee Industries anchors the sitting space opposite the kitchen. The home’s original door, which leads to the garage, was painted gray to match the trim. Custom built-in storage was added to keep the room clutter-free.

Cindy and Vince Johnston are just on the brink of being empty nesters. With a vision of how their lives are going to change, they decided to reimagine their home as well.

“We love this house and we love the neighborhood, but we wanted to make it work better for us,” says Cindy.

The house, which she said had the feel of a 1970’s Michigan lake house, fit all of their needs but needed opening up.

“I’d been following Nest on Instagram—I didn’t even know they were in Kansas City—and I thought they’d be great,” she says.

Katy Cassaw and Kat Benson, the principle designers at Nest Interiors in Overland Park, understood Cindy’s vision. They began to reimagine the Johnstons’ home with a modern, yet traditional, aesthetic. In addition, they took on the challenge of completing the project within the Johnstons’ brief timeline.

“I really wanted the HGTV experience,” remembers Cindy. “We started in March and were finished by Easter. These women and their craftsmen are amazing.”

The team agreed that eliminating a wall between the living room and the entry was key to the process. The existing entry hall was dark did not add to the form or function of the house. Without it, the living room became a bright, open and welcoming space.

“I really wanted this room to be relaxing,” says Cindy. “And now when people walk in here, the one thing they always say is that it’s so peaceful.”

She also needed the living room to fulfill several needs. This tranquil spot is where she has her morning devotional, but the family also entertains there. In addition, while they wanted the room to be beautiful, they wanted the dog to be as welcome on the sofa as a guest.

Responding to Cindy’s request for natural light, an open feel and a preference for dark colors, Benson and Cassaw went to work. A traditional rolled arm sofa grounds the room with its durable, yet chic navy upholstery. The curves of its arms soften the straight lines of the pair of unfinished wood coffee tables and the linear metal chairs.

With the basics in place, the designers began to bring the room to life. The oversized floral prints from Spruce Home and ethnic rug recall the earthiness of Cindy’s home state of New Mexico. Pillows with a graphic and organic feel are scattered across the sofa and on the chairs to encourage lounging.

“One of the things I love the most is the picture wall,” says Cindy of the ledges that hold pictures of her family. “It’s perfect. It’s filled with graduation pictures now, but we can change it out so easily.”

While the transformation of the living room was important, the kitchen renovation was the most significant part of the project. The room reflects the elements that the family values: gathering together and with friends, easy, no-fuss materials and a bright and interesting aesthetic. Ironically, a lot of Cindy’s inspiration came from Westworld, the futuristic Western/sci-fi show on HBO.

“I’m obsessed. And the color scheme of the church was a major influence on what I wanted,” she says.

Fortunately, the elements of design that she was drawn to—high-pitched ceilings, shiplap paneling, white walls against dark trim— were a great fit for the new kitchen. Taking these kinds of cues works well for Benson and Cassaw.

“We don’t focus on one particular style,” says Cassaw. “We really focus on what the client is trying to achieve. We’re not interested in forcing our style on them. We have very traditional clients and very modern clients. We prefer it that way.”

This philosophy made the design of the double-height kitchen a perfect fit for the designers and client. While the original room could easily accommodate cooking, eating and hanging out, it was very dark. Part of the upgrade included creating better storage space and room to relax.

“We didn’t want the room to feel brand new and disconnected from the old space,” says Benson. To this end, they ensured that it retained elements used throughout the house.

The designers wrapped much of the kitchen in crisp, white shiplap paneling. They continued the gray trim from the living room, providing a graphic outline to both the room and windows while anchoring the kitchen island.

The designers are comfortable mixing metals and deftly used both brass and stainless steel.

“We think it makes the rooms feel more collected,” says Cassaw.

While the Johnstons are enjoying their new space, they are missing their designing duo.

“It’s a relationship,” says Cindy. “These women have been amazing. We are so attached. I cried when it was over.”

Would she take on a project like this again?

“Absolutely. It changes the way you see yourself. It changes the way you live.”


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