Ask for a home that’s modern and “as durable as humanly possible,” and you could end up with something cold and institutional.
Those were the instructions Travis and Kelly Carpenter gave to their architect and interior designer when they gutted a 1971 home in Old Leawood.
The finished home fulfills those requests to a T, with lots of clean lines and industrial-strength materials that stand up to Cooper and Chloe, the couple’s two rambunctious golden retrievers.
But the home also oozes warmth and charm thanks to its modern rusticity. Or is it rustic modernity? Whatever—it feels like a place you want to be.
The Carpenters were moving from a home with hardwood floors that Chloe and Cooper had “absolutely shredded,” Travis says.
They also cook and entertain a lot, which isn’t a surprise given that Travis is a hospitality expert, of sorts. He worked his way up from a position as fry cook at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue in 1996, to the top of the local barbecue chain, where he now serves as president.
“If it were up to me, we’d have concrete everywhere,” he says. “But we also wanted it to feel warm and welcome and modern, but not too modern. We love the warmth of wood and stone.”
Laura McCroskey helped redesign Jack Stack’s Freight House location two years ago and had worked on the home of the president of the company, so the Carpenters were familiar with her work and liked her aesthetic.
McCroskey says she focused more on durability on their home than any of her previous clients’ homes.
“What’s interesting is that a lot of people want a beautiful space but are afraid to ask for durability, because they think they’ll get something institutional,” she says. “But there are more and more commercial products out there now that go as well in homes as they do in restaurants. Those two worlds have crossed over. You can have a beautiful environment, and it can be kid and pet-friendly.”
The Carpenters’ home had already been partially updated when they bought it a little over two years ago, but none of it was in a style that suited their tastes, so they pretty much gutted it.
“We kept the roof,” Travis says, chuckling. “The previous owners sent us a really nice note saying, ‘We hope you enjoy the newly renovated home.’ We didn’t have the heart to tell them it was all gone.”
They began renovations by replacing all the doors and windows in the home as well as electrical and plumbing systems. The exterior was also overhauled with new siding painted a dark gray, and one oversized wood door replaced a pair of French doors at the entrance to the home.
Initially, the Carpenters talked about moving a set of stairs that descend to the lower level just inside the front door because they were an eyesore, but it was cost-prohibitive. So McCroskey found a way to make the staircase not only beautiful, but a harbinger of the modern rusticity to come in the rest of the home.
She replaced the dated wood railing with sleek black iron railings that Tim Cooper, the general contractor, custom-fabricated. They contrast nicely with a reclaimed wood wall that separates the foyer from the great room. A geometric chandelier serves as the perfect complement.
Attached to the opposite side of that wood wall, facing the large great room, is a custom-built banquette fronted by a long table with a live edge walnut top that can seat more than a dozen people.
“They wanted it high enough so Chloe and Cooper can’t jump up and get food off it,” McCroskey points out.
“I spend most of my time sitting in the booth, and on the back deck,” says Kelly. “I love looking out at the trees.”
Kelly points out that they wanted the home to feel open. So Realm Architecture took out walls to create one large great room with the banquette-dining area and living room open to a sleek commercial-grade kitchen.
A long, high kitchen island divides the space. It’s fronted by reclaimed wood with sleek metal bands running through it and has a waterfall countertop that looks like statuary marble but is Indestructible Neolith porcelain.
Gleaming vintage lights that once hung in a factory in Poland now hang above the island, offering the space an eclectic-industrial vibe.
Beams on the vaulted ceiling in the great room were capped with dark-stained oak and several skylights were eliminated so the Carpenters wouldn’t have to worry about leaks.
New floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the towering fireplace make up for any lost light. The floors throughout the home are covered in a scratch and dent-resistant tile that looks like gray reclaimed wood.
Large black and white architectural photographs of the Kauffman Center, Sprint Center and KCP&L Building, by Chad Jackson, hang together in the living room, serving as a perfect modernist backdrop to a mix of contemporary and modern furniture.
A mudroom stores coats and shoes and contains a shower and feeding area for Chloe and Cooper. Open a deep drawer at the bottom of one of the cabinets, and you’ll hear eight legs scurrying toward you. Their food and water bowls are inset into the top of the drawer.
And they aren’t the only design details for the dogs.
The ceiling in the master bedroom was coffered to add more height and a set of windows facing the backyard were vertically lengthened so Chloe and Cooper can see into the thicket of wild trees behind the home where squirrels and other wildlife entertain them.
“We didn’t originally plan on gutting something,” Travis says. “We thought about building but couldn’t find land. We also didn’t want to back up to neighbors.”
A movie theater in the lower level feels more polished than other home theaters which usually feature a screen, projector, big puffy recliners and that’s about it. The Carpenter’s theater features all that plus a wet bar, furniture and a fireplace all with a crisp modern flair.
It’s Travis’ favorite room and he and Kelly can’t wait to watch KU basketball games on the big screen.
“I love that picture that looks like Kelly but isn’t Kelly,” he says, pointing at a large gauzy portrait of a woman by local artist Tom Corbin, hanging in the sitting area of a nearby guest suite.
It’s as luxurious as the master suite, right down to the heated tile floors in its adjacent bathroom.
The natural light, combined with the durability, texture and naturalness of the materials in the house have made it feel like home for the Carpenters.
“We feel like we can live in the home without messing anything up, especially as OCD as I am,” Travis says. “I can just live and don’t have to worry about breaking something or getting something dirty.
“The home is built to be beat up a bit too,” he adds. “It will wear well over time, and there’s a sense of peace about that. And because it’s durable, made of wood and tile and stone, it feels comfortable.”