Knock on Wood

Bill Mathews
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Ramona Sheely has quite a collection of toys. Among her favorites, a cement mixer, miter saw and the indispensable, pneumatic nail gun. She smiles and admits, “How else would I have been able to tackle remodeling my 80-year-old Brookside home?”

She’s no stranger to working with her hands, considering she refinished her first piece of furniture when she was just 10 years old. “As one of nine children, I had to distinguish myself somehow,” she explains.

 It’s readily apparent just how well she’s honed her skills when touring her classic Arts and Crafts bungalow. “It had such curb appeal; it landed on Kansas City Bungalow Club’s website before I was even a member.”

The l912 home, complete with a low-pitched gabled roof and stone columns, worked its magic the moment she saw it in the late 1980s.

“I was totally defenseless,” she says. “This was the first house I fell for, and it just felt right, so I bought it. Luckily, it wasn’t in bad shape structurally, but it was in dire need of an update. Heck, if I was pushing 90, I’d be in need of a facelift too!”

Her inspiration during the entire restoration was to keep the integrity of the Arts and Crafts period, plus fashion a home that characterized her personality. 
“I found out through a neighbor that the house had been built by Kansas City Architect Phillip Drott for a local physician who moonlighted as a minister.”

Because Phillip was as intent on interpreting the style as much as Ramona was interested in learning about it, her goals, like those of the style, were clear. “During the entire process, I made sure that the house had integrity of material, reverence for nature and lack of fussy embellishment,” she notes. 

Like many of the Craftsman bungalows built between l905 and l930, this one had a center hall plan configured with an ample entryway flanked by the living room and the dining room.
Ramona began in earnest, first refinishing the quarter-sawn oak floors throughout the house. “This was a big deal — I had plastic sheeting up for six months.”

Then the walls were stripped of the pink and silver wallpaper and painted a rich butter color in the living room and a soft tan in the dining room.

The living room, detailed with 4-inch alder wood trim and a 9-pane glass bookcase, was in good shape, requiring only a couple of coats of tongue oil to bring back the original luster.

“Luckily, the ceramic fireplace still worked; however, the ceiling light fixture had to be replaced with a Cameo glass beauty I found on a trip to San Francisco,” Ramona says. “It does an admirable
job of illuminating the tapestry accenting the fireplace.”

Admittedly, the dining room was a source of fascination and novelty not only from its unusual octagonal shape but the Inglenook built for the parishioners’ baptisms routinely held in the house.
Though this is a unique space that always gets its share of conversation, Ramona had other plans for the Inglenook. She kept the cement floor but faux painted it and tiled the wall, making it a conservatory for her indoor plants.

Then she turned her attention to the dining room proper. “The previous owner had painted over all of the oak woodwork in the dining room obscuring the grain,” she says. “You just don’t do that with a period bungalow prized for the extent of natural wood finish. The ebony paint had to come off.”

Over the course of a year, there was a lot of sanding and stripping mixed with a lot of tears. “I went through five sanders and buckets of emotion bringing this room back,” she sighs.  
Now the room, highlighted with seven original ‘Kokomo’ opalescent stained glass windows, decorative burgundy and blue border crests and a built-in beveled mirror buffet, is a stellar example of the Arts and Crafts period.

Equally notable is the kitchen. “My Harvest Gold oven died right in the middle of baking a cake. Call it kismet, but it was time to get new appliances which, of course, led to the entire kitchen remodel.”

Not only did she do all of the drywall, electrical and painting, but she also removed a wall to enlarge the room then added French doors, creating access to the backyard. 
The Mission-style cabinets were found locally then Ramona designed and had installed the tumbled sage-green and grey stone backsplash. Because everything in the kitchen, including the Corian countertops and oak flooring, is streamlined and functional, she decided to introduce some originality into the scheme.

Given her creative inclination, she used brown paper grocery bags, torn into large pieces then pasted, stained and sealed to the wall. The effect is a textural collage emblematic of the natural wood surfaces throughout the house.

As Ramona steps onto the front porch, the vintage home with its charming rock work has been newly tuck-pointed, flanked with a deck and topped with a new roof.

“Though I had help with the deck and roof, I did build the stone wall lining the driveway and learned how to do the tuck-pointing myself,” she says, gesturing proudly.
It took four years of determination and elbow grease for the restoration, and some work has yet to be finished — there’s still the upstairs bedroom to complete. 

“I’ve already killed off a lot of good brain cells,” Ramona says amusingly. “But the house has turned out pretty true to style, both mine and the Arts and Crafts period.”

Ramona’s Resources:
Kitchen Cabinets: Expo Design Center
Kitchen Faucet: Lowe’s
Corian Countertops: Top Master
Appliances: Expo Design Center, GE Monogram series
Roofing: Elite Roofing
Insulation: The Insulation Professionals
HVAC: Neal Harris Heating & Cooling
Living Room Tapestry Restoration: Leila Harritt
Floor Inlay: Quality Hardwood Floors
Brass Polishing: Hiles Plating
Stain and Polyurethane: Woodcraft

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