A Fresh Approach: Transforming a Family House into a Home

For Barbara and John Cantrell, a Kansas City couple with four children, a 1930s house in Terrell Hills is continually filled with family and friends in a place that they call home. “It’s a home,” explained Barbara as out-of- town guests strolled into the spacious kitchen back from a sightseeing adventure. “I don’t want it to say ‘house’ outside.”
A San Antonio native, Barbara could not wait to get back home, and her husband John found the community to his liking. “We moved from Kansas City and liked San Antonio, this area specifically,” said John. “The neighborhood has a small-town feel, but offers quick access to downtown and the airport.”
Working with designer Mary Carol Garrity of Nell Hills in Atchison, Kansas, was a given, as she had worked on previous projects for the Cantrells. The nationally recognized decorator selected an array of fabrics for each room and made furniture selections for the family’s gathering spaces, including the main living room, family room and study.
“She decorated it herself, I was just the cheerleader, said Mary Carol. ”Barbara has her look and her style that is cozy and fresh with a new traditional approach.”
Local interior decorator Mary McNelis worked in tandem with Mary Carol, who flew down to see the house and picked a palate of fabrics for the rooms and selected furnishings. Mary McNelis pulled it all together with paint, wallpaper and window treatments.

“We created fresh and functional bathrooms, adding subway tiles, new flooring, paint colors and fixtures,” said Mary McNelis. “Draperies in many of the rooms pulled everything together.”

athome6The dining room features a table and matching chairs that are family pieces with a chandelier that was purchased in New Orleans. Nestled in a corner is a wooden nicho and stand that the couple purchased at Vogt Auction. It holds a carved wooden statue of the Virgin of Gaudalupe from Hanley Wood. “We love going to Vogt auctions,” said Barbara. “We take the kids and make an evening of it.” Over the mantel, which was restored to its original structure, is a photograph of Barbara’s grandmother, Maureen Edgar Monroe, at 19 years old. Hand tinted and embellished by artist Susan Riley, the portrait has significant placement in the ornate dining area. An ardent collector of antiques when the now-treasured pieces were not in vogue, Mrs. Monroe proudly displayed her antiques in her Rosenthal, Texas, home and invited guests to come and view them in her parlor.
A pair of wood and metal five-arm sconces holding wax candles, purchased in New Orleans flank a large wood framed mirror in the formal living room. A Knoll sofa and ottoman that doubles as a tray table when entertaining or additional seating for guests provide seating for comfortable conversation. A baby grand piano holds memories of the children’s first music lessons.

A less formal family room just off the kitchen is awash with light and color. A quadtych painting by artist Waddy Armstrong was commissioned for the room and brings vibrant color to the welcoming space. A pair of large-scale lamps with a silver metal patina and silver shades brings scale to the room. A special memento pays homage to a close friendship and reminds Barbara of the joy that her four children bring her each day. Beth Whalen, a dear friend from Kansas City who succumbed to breast cancer, gave Barbara four jacks from a child’s play set. They were to remind her of her four JACs — Joseph Avery, 17; Jamie Aaron, 14; Juliette Amelia, 13; and Jonathan Aiden, 11. The four little silver jacks, just as her children, are cherished. The kitchen features a massive island with rich wooden surface that is repeated in the vent hood with hand carved-wooden corbels. Barbara selected three etched glass lanterns with bird and flower motif and Edison light bulbs from Anthropologie. A new back splash, subway tiles and crown molding freshened the space.

A mudroom provides built-in cubbies for each child, bench and a built-in dog kennel for the family’s Scottie, Rosie. Hank Williams, a Yorkiepoo, and Willie Clyde, an Aussiepoo, fend for themselves, but are often treated to doggie day camp. Rounding out the family menagerie are a calico cat named Dovie Jane, named for Barbara’s great grandmother, and an Iowa farm cat named Stuart. A small study paneled in faux pickled pine and coffered ceiling is perfect for relaxing in front of the fireplace on a tufted brown leather sofa stacked with plush pillows in the family Monro’s modern plaid and country toile. A large plaid covered ottoman is a perfect perch for lazy living. A pair of updated wingback chairs upholstered in CR Laine’s MooLala Caramel are ready for a curl up with a good book or two.

athome2The children were given the chance to decorate their own rooms. The boys vary from rich red colors to themes in black and white. Daughter Juliette has what can only be described as “every young girl’s dream.” A sitting room with kitchen service for sleepovers leads into a bedroom filled with botanicals in hues of hot pink, chartreuse, lemon yellow and tangerine. A pair of botanical lamps by Stray Dog Designs brightens up her bed, covered in a whimsical crocheted fabric. Outdoors, the family finds retreat in a pool with a rain feature designed by Barbara’s brother, John Monroe, of JDI Designs. He also designed a sunken trampoline area with stone steps leading to the entry at ground level. A tree house, built for Jonathan by noted designer Attie Jonker, features climbing ropes, hatch doors and a lofty perch for untold adventures.

A cottage adjacent to the pool cabana is the habitual hangout for older brother Jamie and his good friend and neighbor Cade. “We call it the Frat House,” said the amused Barbara. With every nook and cranny put to good use, the Cantrells have found a house in 78209 that is every inch a home.


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