Design & Remodeling

Inside an Inspiring Leawood Home

A massive renovation gave one Leawood family a beautiful new home and the springboard for a creative new business

 Story By Katy Schamberger  |  Photos by Bob Greenspan

It’s no stretch to say that Tamara and Bill Day’s dream home began as a nightmare. After the previous owner foreclosed on the home, he left his teenage son and girlfriend to live in it with their friends. The result? A certified disaster.

“All of the doors were kicked in and all of the light fixtures were ripped from the ceiling,” Tamara says. “The appliances were dented and damaged—it looked like someone tried to tear them from the walls. There was a massive amount of trash—it’s really phenomenal to me that someone could live like that.”

Yet thanks to an appealing floor plan and an idyllic location in a walkable Leawood neighborhood just minutes from Town Center, the couple couldn’t resist the lure of opportunity and the chance to continue their penchant for DIY home projects.

The home’s spacious open-plan kitchen and living room easily accommodates the family of six.

The Transformation Begins

Before Tamara and Bill could begin a dramatic renovation, they needed to start with a clean slate. They enlisted the help of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore to gut the nearly 5,000-square-foot home. They cleared out the old to make room for the new and salvaged as many materials as possible, which not only moved Tamara—it inspired her future career path.

“They took all of the kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors to the store for reselling,” she says. “That was a big selling point for me, that the pieces were reused, and that’s how my passion for reusing furniture came to be.”

Once the home was gutted, the largely DIY renovation began with a vision.

The family’s TV room is filled with art and objects amassed from trips abroad and estate sales. The armoire is one of Tamara’s creative restorations.

“I wanted to make it feel like a Brookside home,” Tamara says. “I knew it was a 1980s house but wanted it to feel custom, not brand-new. I wanted to embrace the beauty of imperfection.”

And that’s exactly what Tamara and Bill did. They carefully sourced pieces and materials down to the smallest detail. The end result is not only a cozily custom aesthetic but a deeply layered story.

Take, for example, the kitchen island. After months of scouring Architectural Salvage in the Crossroads district, Tamara found a counter formerly used to sort nuts and bolts at Broadway Hardware Store. The counter’s wear and tear might not appeal to everyone, but Tamara was instantly drawn to the history.

“It has a lip on it, and that’s where the store owner stood and smoked his cigarettes,” she says. “You can even see the paint splatters. It’s one of my favorite things.”

To help make the kitchen island more functional, Tamara affixed a brass towel bar taken from Ralph Lauren cabinetry that was sold after Dillard’s Ward Parkway location closed.

The dark wooden beams and window casements lend the Day family’s contemporary home a cozy, traditional feel.

In today’s homes, hardwood floors are so prevalent they’ve become a standard feature. In the Day home, however, you won’t find the perfectly polished and sealed floors you might be used to. Instead, they worked with East Coast-based Carlisle Wide Plank Floors to purchase partially reclaimed, partially new wide-plank hickory floors that not only pack a visual punch—they also add to the overall character of the home.

“There are nail holes and lumps and knots and cracks and all the things that come with being 100-year-old boards,” Tamara says.

To make the renovation more economical, Tamara and Bill opted to complete projects themselves whenever possible. After watching the floors undergo a refinishing, Tamara used the impromptu lesson to sand and stain not only the family room’s box beam ceiling, but also the rest of the wood trim throughout the home.

Who says ceilings have to be white? The sky blue in the master bedroom gives an airy atmosphere.

“I love that I got to do that,” she says. “At the time, it didn’t seem fun but now I’m proud of my work. It adds to the labor of love that our home has become.”

After finishing such a large-scale renovation, it might seem impossible to pick a favorite area of the house. Yet for Tamara and Bill, there’s no denying what’s become the heart of their home.

“We love our kitchen,” she says. “One of the biggest things I had to sell my husband on is the open kitchen shelving, and now it’s one of our favorite parts of the home. I can’t imagine ever having a kitchen without open shelving. We love to entertain and it helps make the room so much more accessible for our guests.”

A Business Is Born

Working with so many salvaged and reclaimed materials throughout the renovation not only contributed to the home’s character and history; it also paved the way for Tamara’s new business venture.

Growing Days is one part home staging company and one part furniture reseller. Tamara regularly scours area estate sales and carefully refinishes her discoveries. Once the current inventory is used for various staging needs, Tamara hosts semi-annual open houses in the spring and fall. But she doesn’t just sell her refinished furniture finds from the last six months; she also invites other local vendors to create a two-day in-home shopping experience, including Abby McCaffrey and her vintage jewelry, Shut The Front Door Vintage, Wild Tree Foods and BeSpoke Woodworks, among others.

“It’s a lot of really talented, awesome people that love what they’re doing,” she says.

Of course, not all of Tamara’s refinished projects are sold. Many of them mix and mingle with other salvaged pieces thoughtfully placed throughout the home, all of which unite to weave a rich, storied history. A carefully refinished secretary desk, Tamara’s first furniture transformation, adds warmth and polish to the master bedroom, the location for many of Tamara’s finished works.

And in the midst of creating a thriving business, Tamara might have also inspired a family legacy.

The rustic-looking island in the Day family’s kitchen was an old work table salvaged from the original Broadway Hardware Co. in Westport.

“Our boys are 10, 8 and 6 and they love to help out with painting and moving furniture,” she says. “My middle one in particular is into the arts—he comes home from school and asks to see my latest project.”

What started as the daunting task of bringing their dream home to life resulted in an opportunity for Tamara to make her dream job a reality, too. It’s an experience that speaks to the power of second chances, whether it’s envisioning the potential of a damaged piece of furniture, transforming a home or starting a business. The most important lesson salvaged (no pun intended) from the experience?

“It’s not trash, it’s treasure,” Tamara says. And that’s a motto to live by.