Design & Remodeling

Classic Act

A substantial Leawood kitchen remodel subtly shows off its classy design and quality material choices.

Story by Brooke McGrath  |  Photos by James Maidhof

The time had finally come for Brian and Leann to make a decision: Move out of their small Leawood home and community that they loved or begin a whole-home reno. After some deliberation, the home and location won.

Though they appreciated the character of their 1955 ranch home—the first house they bought together and the very place where they brought their children home from the hospital— it was time to update in style, and with a growing family, more space was a necessity. As for housing overnight guests and entertaining friends and family, it offered limited accommodations. The original cramped main level included a small galley kitchen along the exterior wall with a square peninsula that separated the kitchen from the living and dining space. After talking with a friend who had recently completed a remodel by ALH Home Renovations, Leann called owner Allen Harris, who came highly recommended, to take on their massive project, including a lower-level addition to accommodate visitors.

“The homeowners’ mentality was that if they were going to do this, they wanted to do it right and stay consistent all the way through,” Harris says. “They wanted something subtle yet well done and unassuming from the street,” a request that was completed in fall 2014 and included a high-end transitional-style kitchen that more than doubled the size of the original space, and now easily can entertain many.

To accommodate more foot traffic in the kitchen, Harris bumped out the exterior wall by approximately 13 feet and added access to the outdoor patio. “The wow factor has to be the vastness of the space as well as the bank of windows exposing the entire backyard,” he says. The new window wall with built-in bench seating (pretty with plush pillows and dual-purpose with pullout storage), an inspirational concept that Leann pulled from Houzz, is an undeniable focal point in the space that doubles as a natural source of light, creating the bright, open space that Brian and Leann were seeking.

“We immediately took that piece and worked with it,” says designer Lauren Balestrieri, owner of L. Marie Interior Design, of the window wall design. “Wherever [Leann] is in the kitchen, she can see the kids in the yard, which is what a lot of this space was centered around, as well as it being functional. They also didn’t want the main sink in the island, so we positioned it along the exterior wall.”

Surrounding the kitchen on all four sides is white furniture-style cabinetry with a light gray glaze (some with decorative glass fronts for display and all with the soft-close feature); classic subway tile; and, after going through 12 different shades, Benjamin Moore’s blue Solitude on the walls.

Mirroring the windows is the appliance wall, with access through to the revamped sitting room and entry staircase beyond. Housing double Thermador ovens, a Bosch fridge and a coffee bar, it’s flanked by a wine bar on one side and the range wall on the other. The wine bar includes a prep sink, beverage fridge, wine rack, custom platter storage and open shelving, with a large pantry close by, while the Thermador range flawlessly prepares favorite family meals like pancakes and omelettes, tacos and pasta.

And then there’s that undeniable island.

At roughly 8 feet by 6 feet, the Caesarstone-topped island is where the whole family comes together: to eat, talk and do homework. “Everything happens here,” Leann says, including her baking endeavors, something she envisions doing even more of with the kids as they get older. That’s precisely why the island is equipped with a custom mixer stand lift, as well as a microwave drawer, custom utility drawers and additional prep sink.

“We wanted the space to be able to last the family forever, so much detail was considered in the layout of the space and cabinetry. We are all very pleased with the specific details that give this room its true appeal.” ~ Designer Lauren Balestrieri

Though large in stature, the island doesn’t impede the flow throughout the space, as the kitchen’s reconfigured footprint easily can withstand traffic during the cooking frenzy. “We wanted aisleways big enough for easy traffic flow [even] when using appliances as well as [plenty of] space between the island chairs and open oven doors,” Leann explains. “It’s the main traffic pattern from the sitting room through the kitchen to the great room.”


Whether it’s a school function, couple’s dinner club or meals with extended family—which Brian and Leann are happy to host these days—everyone fits comfortably in the kitchen. The newly added great room, with access to the new mudroom, powder room and garage entry, draws in meandering dinner guests with its two-tier iron chandelier and rustic cedar tumbled ashlar fireplace, but they never stay for long, as they always return to the kitchen. As for the family, it’s their go-to place for watching movies, the Royals and lounging on weekends.

Thanks to a thoughtful design layout that transformed their close quarters into a house filled with classic, cozy, convenient spaces—most notably, a first-class kitchen remodel—Brian and Leann have even more reason to love where they live.

Looking to remodel your own culinary space? Here are a few quick tips from Lauren Balestrieri to help ensure you get your very own fabulous, functional dream kitchen.

  • Have a plan; it’ll keep you on track.
  • Understanding how you use your space is important in every aspect of the design, from planning to finish selections. It’s all about function, function, function—and then aesthetics.
  • Find the one image, object or art piece that speaks to you, and focus on that. It’ll help keep your original priorities and ideas straight throughout the remodel process. But, at some point in your design process, stop looking at images, as it can create problems when it’s too late to change your mind.
  • Most important design element? Cabinetry. It makes a big difference when all is said and done. Custom pieces like the pull-out commonly used for pantries or spice racks are functional space-savers.


Project Resources:

Lead Remodeling Designer/Contractor: ALH Home Renovations

Space Planning/Interior Design: L. Marie Interior Design

Appliances: Factory Direct Appliance

Cabinets: Profile  |  Electrician: Parker Electric

Plumbing: Diamond Plumbing

Plumbing Fixtures: Kitchens & Baths by Briggs  |  Countertops: Hallmark Stone

Painting: Heritage Painting  |  Hardwood Flooring: SVB Wood Floors

Heating/Cooking: Air Care Heating & Cooling  |  Insulation: Henges Insulation

Windows: Pella Products of KC  |  Millwork/Interior Doors: KC Millwork

Tile Backsplash: ProSource

Tile Install: McLoughlin Tile & Stone  |  Light Fixtures: Restoration Hardware