A couple redesigns a Country Club Plaza condo in shades of gray
Gray is more than the sum of its parts, a blending of opposites, black and white. For Larry and Denise White, gray is the color of harmony, of a home of sophistication and comfort. It’s the color of blended lives and merging tastes, all adding up to a new beginning.
Although both of them grew up in Salina, Kansas, Larry was a bit older, so they didn’t know each other in school. A few years ago, however, Larry was an architect getting ready to retire. Denise was a design consultant working with her family on the renovation at the Raphael. A mutual friend in Salina set them up on a blind date. They fell in love, strolling along the Plaza.
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Four years ago they married and sold their suburban houses to buy a condo on the Plaza, inspired by its wraparound balconies and sunlight. “We were ready for an urban environment,” Larry says.
They lived in it for a year “to get the feel of it,” Larry says. And then they turned to Connie Fey of Madden-McFarland Interiors, who had also worked on the Raphael renovation.
“I was very privileged to watch their courtship unfold and then help them merge their lives as a married couple,” Fey says.
Although Larry understood the possibilities of space planning and Denise had years’ worth of clippings from design magazines, “I felt like I stretched them as much as I could,” Fey adds, blending Larry’s love for cleaner lines with Denise’s love of traditional.
They gutted the original space, changing the flow and making rooms dynamic rather than static. Larry’s office does double duty as a guest room. The dining area shrinks when Denise wants to sit with a mug of coffee and her laptop, or expands when they put two more leaves in the table for family dinners that include their five grown children and four grandchildren.
“We wanted to live as large as we could” in the condo space, Larry says.
The shades-of-gray color palette came from fabric that Denise and Fey found in Chicago, a fabric that now graces the pillows in the master bedroom. The walls, painted in charcoal-gray “Iron Mountain” from Benjamin Moore actually helps the space feel bigger by making the walls recede, Fey says. They also raised the height of the doors and had concave crown molding specially milled to create an upward feeling.
The gray palette also helps the art pop— especially the colorful piece in the dining area. They love the work of Toronto artist Marjolyn van der Hart, who specializes in art that celebrates “memory, imagination, and suspended moments of daily living.”
The large mixed-media work, which they commissioned, “tells our story,” says Denise.
Other pieces, including a portrait on a paper towel, come from their talented doorman Lewis Caskey, a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute.
The warm gray draws you in to the long living area, with a custom fireplace surround based on a French design. A curvy chaise in a striated fabric nestles up to the wide and deep Chesterfield sofa in a greige- colored leather. Two tweed armchairs and a padded ottoman/coffee table that stands up to rambunctious grandchildren define the sitting area. A recessed 60-inch TV with a silvery edge disappears into the opposite wall and hangs above a floating cabinet of Macassar ebony wood.
Dark charcoal paint backs the white upper cabinets in the kitchen, to better show off the couple’s wedding china. Marble countertops and a marble-tile backsplash make a classic statement. Denise found a charcoal-gray range hood online to go above their Wolf gas range. Bar stools around the counter have pale yellow and gray suzani fabric backs with very practical yet silken-textured vinyl seats. Tiny glass pendants lights become the jewelry in the room.
Narrow French doors with antique-mirrored glass inserts lead from the living room into the study and the guest room. Against the far wall, a dark gray wall hides a Murphy bed, but the framed “You Can Do It Better with a Henry” red shirt from Larry’s family farm- machinery company adds a bright spot.
The master bedroom also soothes in many shades of gray, from the shimmery pewter and mist in the inspiration pillows to the dark gray upholstered headboard on the custom four-poster bed by Hickory Chair. An asymmetrical chest of drawers features hobnailed trim accents on the drawer fronts.
The master bath also blends traditional and contemporary with crotch mahogany cabinetry, lustrous quartz countertops, a sleek soaking tub and classic marble tile. The silvery hardware on the cabinetry sports tiny crystals for “a little bling,” says Denise.
In the powder room, the mosaic countertop and curved wooden edge, specially finished by decorative paitner Devon Himes, adds more luxe.
A mixed-media art piece by James Verbicky that hangs in the foyer, which the couple found in La Jolla, California, on an anniversary trip, tells their story. In bands of colorful paper on panel with resin, the couple finds messages of “new beginnings,” “memoires du futur,” and “looking forward.”
That’s the story that gray can tell.
Gahagan-Eddy Building Company
Madden-McFarland Interior Design
Studio Dan Meiners
2500 West Pennway St.
Metal Fireplace Surround
Austin Iron Works
Plumbing Fixtures and Appliances
International Materials of Design
4691 Indian Creek Pkwy.