Case Study: Spanish (Modern) Revival
As featured in Design KC Magazine, fall of 2021.
Designer Kristen Ridler and builder Bryan Cecil renew a heavily dated home with a modern aesthetic.
Written by Jessica Bahr | Photos by Nate Sheets
Picture yourself at a waterfront villa in the south of Spain, where soaring ceilings, gracious arches and epic windows look out to the sparkling water. This mental image is a reality in south Overland Park, where a thoughtful, design-minded couple’s dream home backs to water and woods. It’s minutes from the area’s amenities yet hidden from the road. Here, an Old World essence pairs perfectly with a modern mindset. But it wasn’t always this way.
When the homeowners first encountered it in 2019, it was a tired house. It had been built in the early 1980s in a Spanish Gothic style and went unchanged for nearly 40 years. But the couple could see past a fortress-like exterior and heavy interior, knowing they’d found the perfect location. They then partnered with Kristen Ridler of Kristen Ridler Interior Design and custom builder Bryan Cecil of Cecil and Ray Homes, calling them their dream team. Kristen’s trademark modern aesthetic guided the couple’s vision, while Bryan and his experienced crew made it a reality.
And the homeowners couldn’t be happier: “Kristen took the inspiration photos we gave her to a whole other level. And Bryan was always looking at the functional details, wanting everything to be exactly right.”
With a shared attention to detail, they all wanted to honor the home’s integrity while adding modernist touches. For example, in the grand foyer, the gently curving staircase maintains its original shape–but sleek iron balusters and railing replace worn lacquered wood.
To the left of the foyer, a dramatic archway, original to the home, is now emphasized by the contrast of ebony-stained trim against clean white walls. It guides you straight into the stunning formal great room.
“From the classic arch, to the drama of the fireplace and the lush furniture, we really wanted it to look like an inviting hotel lobby,” Kristen says. “We worked hard to get the layout just right.”
Given the perfection of the great room now, it’s hard to imagine just how much work it
once needed. There were leaky skylights, too many wood beams hiding the ceiling, and a windowless expanse of stone on the east wall surrounding the fireplace.
With the stone gone, new windows could be added to let in the light from both sides of the house. Now, the original masonry fireplace stands in its full grandeur without distraction.
Opposite the fireplace, broad windows frame a view of the flagstone patio, tennis court and, of course, the water. All the windows along the back of the house provide that generous view. And the home’s unique L-shaped footprint lets you look out across the secluded courtyard and see into the opposite side of the home.
Beyond the great room, the primary suite is nestled away by itself. A subdued color palette continues here with hints of glamour, too–from the breathtaking crystal ring chandelier to the marble and brushed brass of the spa bathroom.
On the far side of the main floor, there’s now an open and bright gourmet kitchen. This required raising the original seven-foot ceilings and removing the wall that had divided the space into a pinched dining room and dark kitchen. The couple, who love to cook together and to host their friends and family, made space to entertain a priority.
And nowhere is that ideal more evident than in the incredible rec room. Moving from the kitchen, you enter what is affectionately called the “party wing” of the house. It’s separated by a cool corridor of stone and short flight of stairs that spill out into an expansive grown-up playroom.
Where there’s now a polished concrete floor, there was once a 13-foot-deep indoor pool. Bryan’s team expertly filled that in, although the homeowners joke, “whenever you have a skid loader on a ramp leading up to your house, it makes you a little nervous. But really, we trusted them throughout the project.”
Bryan adds, “At the end of the day, the best part of these kinds of renovation projects are the relationships and friendships that you establish. It truly makes what we do every day fun and joyful.”
This joyful revival is truly a masterpiece–a “cozy art piece,” as the homeowners call it. And with the designer, builder and homeowners all contributing, like a mosaic in a Spanish villa, this home is a collective work.