English Expressions

For some people, building a new home offers the chance to explore an entirely new life.

Such was the case for the homeowners of the Stone Bridge Estate, a fascinating 10,000-square-foot residence situated south of Louisburg, Kan., in Miami County at the scenic end of a quiet country road.

Life-long city dwellers, these homeowners staked claim to a blissfully serene 54 acres in 2000 and constructed their happily-ever-after in 2002.

Working with builder Keith Eymann of Ambassador Construction and visionary architect Bruce Wendlandt of Wendlandt & Stallbaumer Architects, the homeowners–along with their five children–made an ambitious leap from the contemporary Leawood home they once resided in to an altogether new kind of home, design palette and lifestyle. 

Leaving city lights behind, the family took up residence roughly eight years ago in this one-of-a-kind gem that recalls the rustic elegance, quiet charisma and rich history of an authentic English Country manor.

Rising from an elevated point on the land with striking splendor and architectural magnificence, this castle-like estate offers eloquent environs and an enchanting allure not often found.

Inspiration perfected

When drawing up plans with Wendlandt, the homeowners had specific ideas in mind that meticulously shaped the house they envisioned.

It would need plenty of space for this family of seven, their pets and their outdoor animals, as well.

A craft room for her, a handsome library for him, a romantic master bedroom suite on the main floor, and upstairs bedroom suites that reflected the interests and personalities of the couple’s children.

But above all, it was the exquisitely private nature of this land dotted with fir trees and blackberry bushes that the homeowners cherished most.

“What we loved about this property when we first found it was that it was so private,” say the homeowners. “It almost has a Colorado feel with all the fir trees, evergreens and heavily wooded land. We love that this home offers a retreat from the pressures of day-to-day living. It feels as if you are on vacation.”

Given that he is a semi-retired mechanical contractor and she once spent time knitting and spinning yarn from the sheared coats of livestock animals, a quiet country escape was the perfect answer for their active life.

From the property’s initial entrance–where stately motorized mahogany gates and stone columns lit by oversized amber glass lanterns beckon– to the sprawling acreage that features a bucolic red barn, everything about this property encourages taking time to smell the proverbial roses.

Even the path up to the home’s motor court was purposefully designed to meander up a grassy lane, across a stone bridge overlooking a shimmering pond and past a bronzed cowboy and bronco tucked away in native grasses.

Nature embraced

Once inside the home’s brick paved motor court, the attention to detail afforded this home is breathtakingly apparent.

The steeply pitched reclaimed slate roof, copper gutters and strong, powerful gables complement the exterior Arkansas moss rock and buff-tinted stucco.

The porte cochere is flanked on either side by a two-car garage while a glance through the carriage entrance offers a picturesque peek at gardens and land garnished with cast urns, sculptures, antiques and statuary.

Even a bona fide chicken house appointed with a leaded glass front door and a porch railing made of artfully twisted branches hints that this sprawling estate and all it encompasses is anything but ordinary.

To the west of the home through dense trees and across the rolling terrain, a red barn with three horse stalls and a tack room sits as though it has been there forever. With its crimson shade, white trim and green metal roof, it evokes a sense of pastoral tradition.

While this barn and its adjacent arena may give the outward appearance of a timeworn structure, it is outfitted with utilities including water, electricity and heat as well as satellite television, telephones and a built-in speaker system. 

Considering that the interior also boasts a full indoor basketball court, this barn is far beyond just a barn.

Also on the premises is a greenhouse custom-ordered from England. A roughly 40-by-16-foot structure, the greenhouse is equipped with a stainless steel sink table, running water, a commercial heating device, ornate ceiling fans and a gleaming crystal chandelier.

Outside the west end of the glass-paned greenhouse is an outdoor stone shower for quick clean-up.

A stone’s throw from the greenhouse and alongside the main house, a sturdy freestanding pergola and vast brick paver terrace provide a breezy spot for outdoor gatherings.

“We’ve had a wedding and so many parties here,” say the homeowners.

Antique carriage lamps framed in colored chunk rock glass add an intriguing element to this generous yet intimate space where abundant seating commands a momentary intermission from business at hand.

On the east side of the home, not far from the pergola, a heated infinity pool, cascading waterfall and miniature moat provide the soothing rush of water as well as a visually engaging centerpiece. 

The flagstone-framed oasis appears to seamlessly blend with the stocked pond that lies just beyond.

At one time the gently rolling terrain and outbuildings of this estate were home to llamas, alpacas, goats, chickens, horses and angora bunnies.

While the chickens provided an endless supply of eggs for the family, their friends and many others, the fleece and wool of the llamas, alpacas, sheep and angoras were handspun into spools of silky yarns that were sold.

Magnificence defined

In a variety of ways this expansive home incorporates the best of both the modern and traditional worlds, while also recalling a time of genteel comfort and coziness, true hallmarks of English country style.

Rich colors and interesting textures play an important role in the intrinsic appeal of this home.

From the unique array of fabric, paper and faux wall coverings to rugged materials like reclaimed wood, granite, tile, stone and wrought iron, this home boasts an authentic style reminiscent of Old World grandeur.

Interior designer Lisa Schmidt and architect Tracy Stearns of 360 Architecture worked closely in conjunction with the design-savvy homeowners to achieve an arresting combination of interior and architectural design elements. “This home’s style really captures the feeling of an Old English manor,” say the homeowners, who have incorporated a wealth of nostalgic English-inspired artwork collected during European travels into their home decor. “We feel that perhaps this is what it would have been like to live in London long ago.”

Inside the home’s east-oriented front entrance, attention is instantly drawn to the magnificent spiral staircase that connects the main floor with the lower level and second floor.

The staircase is spectacular with its custom-ordered sturdy mahogany railing and reclaimed backlit transoms in the ceiling marking a striking focal point over the stair tower.

A wall fountain adds flair to the entryway from which only hints of other rooms in the house can be seen.

The southeasterly-facing formal dining room is situated left of the entry and offers diners the impression of taking a solid step back in time. Heavy beams, moss rock walls and a sturdy oak dining table enhance this room’s ambiance. Additionally sweeping views of the motor court gardens and soft Heartland sunsets of the western skies provide a serene backdrop.

To the right of the home’s entrance, the master bedroom suite occupies a full wing. 

The romantic bedroom suite and sitting area are outfitted in pale sea foam hues and ornate antique furnishings; the Ralph Lauren Polo-themed bath for him and the feminine retreat for her are connected by an oversized stone shower.

Cleverly outfitted closet spaces promise ample room for storage while radiant heated flooring in both baths and heated towel racks in hers add some welcome warmth to the frigid winter mornings of Kansas.

Secrets discovered

The heart of the residence is home to the stately living room, piano alcove and the handsome library that features a secret passageway–a storybook door through a bookcase–that opens into the master suite.

The north wing of the main floor encompasses a tremendous craft room and practical mudroom as well as the spacious kitchen, butler’s pantry, hearth and breakfast area fashioned with custom hand-hewn mahogany cabinetry, and rugged stone walls glazed and painted in shades of deep terra cotta.

One-of-a-kind antique light fixtures, soaring archways and a massive stone fireplace in the hearth room lend rustic charm to this gathering space. Panoramic views over the pool and pond through the expansive windows of the breakfast area are tranquil everyday gifts.

The adjacent back staircase winds up to an indoor balcony – enclosed by heavy wrought iron railing – that overlooks the kitchen area.

So many components of this home were acquired through Rick Bettinger at Kansas City’s Architectural Salvage where a variety of stained glass, light fixtures, mantels and architectural treasures from yesteryear can be found.

Take, for example, the stained glass in the library ceiling that was recovered from an old Atlanta restaurant. Or the vintage 1800s antique English doors on the wine storage cabinets in the kitchen.

Additionally, his master bath features cabinetry hardware retrieved from downtown Kansas City’s original Muehlebach Hotel prior to its renovations.

The living room’s light fixture was reclaimed from a church in southern Missouri while the doors to the library were once showcased in a Masonic lodge.

The brick used in the home, inside and out, holds tales of the Kansas City Stockyards.

This home is full of surprises at every turn and everything seems to have a story. Whether it’s an antique piece of furniture, artwork collected during travels or design accents with an intriguing history, this home presents so much more than meets the eye.

Downtime pursued

While much of this home suggests quiet splendor, there is a whimsical side, as well. This is especially evident in the upstairs bedroom suites.

One son’s room speaks volumes of the family’s love for KU basketball.

A long rectangular space with dormer windows, this room is half bedroom and half basketball court.

A basketball goal and a variety of KU basketball memorabilia are testament to the family’s affinity for Jayhawks hoop action.

Down the hall, two girls’ bedrooms, joined by a luxurious bath, are outfitted in décor happily effeminate.

The youngest daughter’s room, for example, is adorned in a lavish princess theme and features a quaint sitting and dressing area while the other is a little more sophisticated in taste.

For the guys, the daylight lower level of the home also presents that sense of fun, but in a decidedly masculine way.

A massive two-way custom stone fireplace, diamond brick paver flooring and gorgeous knotty alder paneling anchor the spacious lower level.

The granite-topped corner bar features a full kitchenette while cowhide bar stools, comfy seating, a pool table, flat screen and wildlife accents make this lower level a recreational sanctuary.

“When the kids were younger, their friends were always here, and we’ve always had lots of extended family around, as well,” say the homeowners who both were born and raised in the Kansas City area.

Expanding horizons

The list is virtually endless regarding the admirable qualities of this home, and the beauty of this residential masterpiece truly lies in the smallest of details. 

“What’s amazing about this home is that it offers a series of changing outdoor views from a variety of angles,” says architect Wendlandt. “Sometimes you get snippet views through the woods, other times it’s reflections on the pond.”

Created with superb craftsmanship and innovative artistry, this home is a multi-functional space fit for the needs, wants and desires of a large family…and then some.

“We practically fill up the whole place when all our kids and their kids and dogs are here,” say the homeowners. 

For these homeowners, life has evolved such that time is now centered far more on grandkids scattered throughout the U.S.–rather than animals and day-to-day activities at their Stone Bridge Estate.

“Now all our kids are grown, and that is why we are selling the house,” say the homeowners. “Our kids are adults and it’s time for us to slow down and down-size.”

The couple admits that leaving the home will be bittersweet.

“We have very mixed feelings, but we also would love to be closer to our kids and grandkids and live in a warmer climate. It will be difficult to leave, as this really is a special place. It’s really a lifestyle. But now our life is wrapped up in our kids.”

Additionally, advancements in technology have made it possible for the homeowners’ mechanical contracting business to be operated from virtually anywhere.

After enjoying this estate on so many levels through the years, this family hopes that the impressive home and the surrounding pastures, trails and outdoor amenities will one day be enjoyed by another vibrant family who also will delight in exploring this untamed terrain, raising livestock or pets and utilizing the home’s extraordinary amenities.

But above all, it is their hope that the next family will seize the priceless rewards that stem from simply spending quality time together.

Just as this couple and their children have done.

words: Rachael Hedgcoth

photos: Jill and William DiMartino