All in the Family

A family home gets a new lease on life for the next generation

You know you’ve found the right property when you walk in the front door and can envision yourself living there. Emily Eckles had no problem imagining a happy family life in the expansive Prairie Village colonial-style abode where she and her husband, Matt, are now raising their three young children. After all, it’s the house she grew up in.

When Eckles’ parents were ready to downsize after 36 years in the house, Emily and Matt stepped up to buy it.

“We viewed other houses to make sure that we didn’t just want it out of sentimentality or because we didn’t want someone else to have it,” Eckles says. “But after looking around, we still loved it.”

The Eckles certainly didn’t let sentimentality get in the way when they decided to remodel their new home. They worked with John Wind of Kansas City-based Piper-Wind Architects on a plan to update the house, bumping out the front exterior, installing more windows and putting an addition on the side of the house.

“Since I grew up in this house, I definitely wanted to change it to reflect our family,” Eckles says. “We loved the privacy, the big yard and the overall feel of the house, but we wanted to give it a more modern look that was reflective of our tastes.”

When it came to choosing a designer to help transform the interior of Eckles’ childhood home, it seemed only natural to keep it in the family, so to speak. She called on Atlanta-based Oliver Carter, who had previously worked with her parents.

“Oliver has been a family friend for years, and I’ve always wanted to work with him,” Eckles explains. “We seem to speak the same language as it relates to design, and our aesthetics lined up well. He helped me make thoughtful design decisions, and above anything else, it was important that our home be casual and inviting. It’s how we live.”

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Eckles and Carter opted for a neutral palette throughout the home. Soothing creams, beiges and camel tones on the walls give an air of serenity and order in the bustling family home. They also steered clear of patterns—aside from a sexy yet subtle snakeskin patterned wall covering in the small home office—choosing instead to add interest with textures, including grass-cloth wallpaper and chic blonde wood paneling.

“The house has a natural flow in terms of colors and styles. Looking back, it’s also reflective of my personal style. I don’t wear a lot of color or patterns and tend to be drawn to basic pieces,” says Eckles, adding that she lives in jeans and comfy T-shirts that she can dress up with a few standout accessories.

Likewise, the family’s growing art collection, which includes paintings by local artists Lisa Lala and William Rainey as well as handsomely framed drawings by the Eckles children, adds interest and personality and makes the easy, casual style of the Eckles home anything but bland.

As with most houses, the kitchen area is the heart of this home. The spacious, open-plan design flows naturally into a cozy seating area that features French doors that open out to the backyard patio and swimming pool, making it the perfect spot for entertaining. But it was also created to meet the demands of a growing family. The kitchen itself is a study in symmetry, providing the order Eckles says she craves to balance their chaotic home life. Stunning wooden doors that flank the cabinets on one side of the kitchen conceal storage space and a butler’s pantry, where Eckles can duck out of the morning traffic to pack lunches for the kids. On the opposite wall, the doors open up to reveal more storage and the refrigerator.

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“Oliver really allowed me to collaborate with him on the design,” Eckles says. “In my mind, I knew what I wanted but I didn’t always know how to get there. I’m sure he was gently guiding me toward certain things, but I always felt like I was part of the process. When people say that our house really reflects our family, that’s the biggest compliment.”

It’s also an indicator of how well Carter and Eckles work together, which is something they are planning to do more of in the future: “I’m going to assist him on a few projects going forward,” she says.

The collaboration should be a win-win scenario for Carter, who would like to add more Kansas City homes to his portfolio, and for Eckles, who is excited to have the opportunity to be creative and feed her longtime “obsession with design.” It’s also a win for Eckles’ husband: “I think Matt will be happy that we’re finally working on someone else’s house rather than our own,” she jokes.

But the greatest outcome is undeniably the transformation of the home that already held so much significance for Eckles into a fresh, new space where her family will make their own memories. “It still feels familiar, but it definitely doesn’t feel like I moved into the house I grew up in,” she says. “It feels like a family home to me. It just makes me happy.”

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