We heard from Andy Newcom, photo stylist in Hallmark’s Union Hill Studio, earlier this week when he shared several tips for bringing your garden to life indoors. He’s known for his generous spirit and ability to make any space he enters instantly more beautiful. Today, we’re lucky to have a tour of his (latest) amazing home in a small suburb of Kansas City. It’s full of family, fun stories and French décor. Read on!
Friends are quick to ask what my current address is because I have a history of moving around a great deal. I’ve lived in a 750 sq. ft house in the woods that I built with my parents when I was a school teacher. I lived in a warehouse loft in the early ’80s when downtown Kansas City was a ghost town. I’ve lived in a grandma house in a small town in Missouri, an old two-bedroom home in Roeland Park, a ranch in KCMO and now finally a little fixer upper in Fairway, Kansas. I really like moving and fixing up houses. I can’t be blamed for this trait because I grew up in a family where my parents did they same thing. They have lived in about 15 different homes.
Today we are taking a tour of my latest project and one that is very special to me. This is the last project that my mom was able to work on. My mother had Alzheimer’s during this home renovation, and yet she still found a way to help with the work that had to be done. My father is 86 years old, and he has also been actively involved. So this last home renovation project has been a true labor of love. It’s like the great cathedrals of Europe: It will never be done! There are always more projects in the future. Hope you enjoy the tour.
I’m holding a photo of the house when I purchased it. It was built in 1945. Seems like a grandma should live there, and you know there is going to be a tuna casserole in the oven. After taking the roof off and making the upstairs attic a livable space, the house took on a very French look and feel. I’ve never been to France, but this is what I would imagine a small house there to look like.
The screened-in porch was made into a three-season sitting room with casement windows that open up. I extended the fireplace chimney, and added the copper dormer and the columns. My dad made all of the exterior shutters and gates by hand. He is truly amazing!
There was virtually no landscaping in the yard, so I have added all of that as well. I add and I add and I add until I have to move because I have added so many plants.
The first thing that I did to the living room was add some character. Dad and I created crown molding and installed old, heavier baseboards. We then added the trim panels to the walls. The columns and old fireplace mantel were then added. My dad made all of the interior shutters by hand. Have I mentioned already that he is freakishly talented?
My dad is also very “old school” and doesn’t want to see me spend any money or waste anything. He’s definitely a product of the depression. A typical trip to the lumberyard will consist of me picking up a piece of trim and dad asking, “How much is that?” I may say, “$4.50,” and then dad will say, “Oh, that’s too much,” and I will say, “DAD, I can afford to get this board for $4.50!!!” Dad will come back with, “Well, it just seems like the other day that I was buying that same piece of trim for 15 cents!” At this point I do a major eye roll and walk off with the board in my hand while dad is figuring out how we can piece together scraps in the trash to make do. If you think I’m exaggerating, follow us sometime in the lumberyard.
The dining room received a very fancy and formal dose of plaster crown molding and a plaster medallion on the ceiling. The plasterwork was made in the Back Bay of Boston and then driven to Kansas City in the back of an old van fitted with foam shelves. There were still hairline cracks in the plasterwork upon arrival.
I love old and new, contemporary and antique, and pretty much any kind of contrast when it comes to interior design. The coffee-cup rack is from an old garage and was used to display industrial gauges. I found it in an antique mall outside of Columbia, Missouri. The metal cabinet it sits on holds little antique collections.
My interior design partner-in-crime is another Hallmark photo stylist, Zoe Karro. Zoe found my dining-room table online from an antique warehouse in Philadelphia.
The kitchen was a total gut job. It is very small, and you know what? I’m fine with that. I know, I know, I know. Kitchens are supposed to be big, flow into a big family room, have stainless steel appliances, and the list goes on. I’m obstinate enough that if I hear some rule about what I’m supposed to have, then I will do anything to break that rule. The main point I would make here is not that I am obstinate or pugnacious, but that you need to do what is right for you and what feels like the best home for your style and your quality of life.
I had the old farmhouse sink in storage because I knew that I would have a home for it one day. If you can visualize it, it will happen. It took a hydraulic lift to get the sink in place, but it was well worth it. I love that sink. Zoe found the kitchen table at the Brass Armadillo in Grain Valley, Missouri, when we went there after work one day. When I told my contractor that I wanted small beams on the kitchen ceiling, he came up with the idea to use the horizontal rails from a split-rail fence. Genius!
Shelley Knapp, an Art Director at Union Hill Studio, is a good friend who has taught me a great deal about antiques. She is responsible for my love of the white English Ironstone from the 1800s that I both display and use. Damn you, Shelley Knapp!
The boudoir. (That’s French, you know.)
This is a very white room. You will notice gray walls in my house also, which is a big change. Usually all of my walls are white. I’m not into trendy stuff; I’m a basic kind of guy. I like vanilla ice cream.
I had the ceiling vaulted when the construction crew took the roof off the house. It looks great, but it’s very unpractical. In the winter the bedroom is cold, and in the summer it’s hot. Oh well. I believe in sacrificing for drama!
I’m a sucker for a good story, and people feed me good stories all of the time. The mirror in my bedroom is supposedly from France. And, Lord have mercy, if anyone says that something is French, then I am all over it. French = Fancy! The problem with this mirror is that whenever I pull it away from the wall to clean behind it, the top piece falls on my head. Fortunately, I don’t clean very often.
My dad and mom and I made my bed out of 4x4s. I still smile when I think of my sweet little mom, in the midst of Alzheimer’s disease, holding eight-foot-long 4x4s while my dad and I bolted them together. Even if you don’t have home-project skills, do projects with your family and loved ones. Laugh a lot and hang on to those memories. That’s what is really important.
The library. (Nose in the air and a look of superiority when you say this.)
I know. Who has a library anymore? For that matter, who buys books? I can’t help it: My mother was a librarian, editor, proofreader and copywriter, and my brother was a librarian, also. Everyone in my family has a profound fondness for books and reading. Ask any of my friends (both of them), and they will tell you that whenever they start to talk about something, I will respond with, “Well, I was just reading about that…” I’m annoying.
Mom and Dad found the little armoir (that’s French, too, you know), and then Dad built the library shelves around it. I had the columns in storage because I knew I would use them someday. Say it with me, “If you can create a vision for something, you can bring it to life!”
Beams and the old chandelier were installed, and the library spotlights are old biscuit cutters that I had made into lights. This was originally the second and only other bedroom in the house. Where there are now French doors (oops sorry to mention that word again), there was a window that looked out onto the rotting screened-in porch.
First just let me say, because it shows up in the photo, that I ran out of room for books in the library, and Dad had to make more bookshelves for me in the sun room. He asked me the other day if I knew what a library card was. I can’t help it; I love books, and I want to own every last one ever created. There. The dirty truth is out, and it has set me free.
Zoe found the coffee table at an antique shop in Platte City, Missouri, home of the orange water tower. The table is very strong. It’s a good thing because sitting on top of it is a 500-pound urn. The elephant in the room is literally everything in the room is the weight of an elephant.
Ask anyone that has helped me move, (Kevin Sisemore or Katie Fencyk, who both work at Union Hill, too) and they will just roll their eyes and say, “If you get a call or text from Andy Newcom, and he wants to know what you are doing…RUN! Run like the wind!” Everything I own weighs 500 pounds or more. Remember the sink that had to be placed with a hydrolic lift.
Even though I am in my fancy-pants pretend-French décor phase, I can never take myself too seriously. I have concrete rabbits that hold up an old dresser that I purchased in Lexington, Missouri, for $50. The concrete rabbits are whimsical; I like bringing the outside in. I have tons of rabbits that live in my yard, and I smile when I see them.
Upstairs is the new bedroom/studio and bathroom that I added when I moved into this 1940s house. Dad and I installed the old plank floor, and then, true to form, I painted everything white. Shocker.
This room is filled with artwork that I haven’t hung yet, an old cubby-hole desk and a work table that came out of an old church-school classroom. The painting of the man’s head is a self-portrait of Lou Marak, father of Hallmarker John Marak.
The stairwell railing is from one of my favorite antique stores in Stanely, Kansas. It sat outside for years and years, and I always looked at it but had no idea how I would use it. When I started this renovation project, I about jumped out of my skin when I realized that it would work as my stairwell railing. Originally, it would have been on the exterior of a building as a balcony railing.
The garden shed is probably my favorite part of my home. This is the very fancy little shed that my dad and I built in honor of my mom after she died. (We made a Hallmark video to share our experience building the shed, if you’d like to see more.) My dad and my shed became a neighborhood project, too. My amazing next-door neighbor Aaron Heldt and his daughter, Anna, would come over and work with Dad and I. My neighbors on the other side had me over for dinner because they couldn’t do construction, but they could sure cook. Another neighbor across the street would let us borrow tools, and it didn’t hurt that he’s an architect, too.
This is a little 8-foot by 20-inch structure that is built purely out of love. Whenever people come to visit, I want them to feel that. Dad and I continue to work on it; we are installing more brick patio out in front of it right now, and a fountain will be featured. I know it looks like Liberace should be raised from the dead and come strolling out of the shed wearing a 500-pound cape—now that would make me smile. The room on the right houses the lawn mower and tools that can’t fit in my one-car garage. The room on the left is the potting shed with shelves for various containers. And the middle room is a place to sit with friends and family.
I love to make jokes about my life and my family escapades, but I also am so grateful for how fortunate I have been to have had a creative family who always had a vision and asked, “What if…”
Photography by Jane Kortright.