North Kansas City Vintage Cottage
Words: Kim Antisdel
Photos: William and Jill DiMartino
Becoming an empty nester has its benefits. Fewer mouths to feed, less stuff to keep in the house—a simpler life. But for Jackie and Darren Foster, becoming empty nesters doesn’t necessarily mean less stuff. Instead, it simply means more opportunity to fill that nest with amazing things. Two years ago, when their children moved out and onto college, the couple saw an opportunity to search for a smaller home—and fill it to the brim with character, memories and amazing finds.
The 1920s four-bedroom, two-bathroom two-story home is nestled on a quiet and unique street in the Northland, avoiding the dreaded cookie-cutter fate of many other neighborhoods. But it took some looking to find it.
“We easily looked at 10 different houses before we found this one,” Jackie remembers. “And we found it in a gigantic snow storm with over two feet of snow on the ground.”
While that house hunting experience may sound like a nightmare, for Jackie, the weather only illuminated the little home’s possibilities. The beautiful stone exterior provided the perfect backdrop to the freshly fallen snow, framing the entire residence like a fairy tale. The Fosters were officially in love. They bought the house and immediately began to make it their own.
Both Jackie and her husband Darren are entrepreneurs with a similar taste in design and careers. While Jackie owns the booth “Le Roost” at Restoration Emporium (RE) in the West Bottoms, Darren is a self-employed remodeler, furniture repairman and furniture builder, and assists Jackie with her booth. So, it’s easy to see why every nook and cranny of the home is infused with cozy, cottage charm.
The home is typical for a 1920s residence, with warm wooden floors and a tightly knit floor plan of several small rooms throughout the two levels and basement. Jackie and Darren wanted to avoid the open and airy floor plan associated with many of today’s homes, opting instead for a more compact feel. Though the more compressed floor plan was a must-have for the couple, Jackie admits there are days when she wonders what they were thinking.
“We call this ‘the hobbit house’ in a good way and a bad way,” she laughs. “When we’re bumping into each other or something goes wrong that pertains to the home’s size, we say, ‘ugh, this is such a hobbit house!’ But by the same token, it’s so cozy and warm, and forces us to be together. That’s the good version of the hobbit house.”
Before she went out on her own with a booth at RE, Jackie made her livelihood as a residential interior designer. That time in her career forced her to keep her previous homes in “model” condition, leaving her the time to decorate her home as she really wanted. But for this French country cottage chic home, every stick of furniture, painting and finish are exactly what she wants.
“I feel like this house is more ‘me’ and ‘us’ than any other home we’ve owned,” she says. “It’s a reflection of our true selves. A chip on the old dining table adds character rather than an ‘oh no, we have to fix that!’ moment.”
It may be hard to imagine now, but when first moving in, Jackie started with an almost entirely blank slate. Now, each and every corner of space has been decorated and filled with great thought and precision. A few family heirlooms, however, will always take center stage in the home.
“My mom and dad bought the vanity in my master closet when they were married. When they got into a bit of a financial bind, they sold it to my aunt, and she used it for years. Then, when she passed away, the vanity was willed back to my dad, and he gave it to me. I use it to hold my jewelry, and I love that it’s made its way throughout our family and will stay there.”
It’s stories like this that keep Jackie feeling connected to her family and her home. She intentionally chooses pieces that speak to her design aesthetic and sensibility, even if those pieces may not be used the way they were originally intended. For example, Jackie’s favorite room in the house—a bedroom converted to a walk-in-closet—wouldn’t be possible without a little creativity and repurposing.
“Someone once brought this shelving into RE, and we had it sitting in the warehouse for a long time,” Jackie says. “I knew immediately that it would work perfectly in our closet, so when RE moved into a new building, we snatched up the shelving and got to work putting it in the house.”
As it turns out, those shelves weren’t just from some random space, but rather, they were remnants from the North Kansas City Library. Jackie is thrilled that she could extend the life of the shelves, while in turn making her closet functional and historical.
“The greatest thing about this closet is that the shelves fit perfectly,” she says. “In fact, I have a little bench in there that fits so tightly between the shelving units, we didn’t even have to screw or nail it in place. It’s literally in there like a glove. Like it was supposed to happen.”
The color palette for the Foster’s hobbit home is uncharacteristic compared to Jackie’s previous track record. In her past homes, color took center stage, revolving around rich greens, golds and reds. Now, she is content with a neutral palette of grays with an occasional pop of a bluish-green, found in the curtains of her dining room. The neutral background allows her to swap out pieces and try new things without having to paint every single surface each time she makes a change.
“I love shopping in my own booth,” Jackie says. “If I buy something to put in my booth, and I realize I just love it, I can always keep that piece and swap it out with something I have in the house. It’s a fun way to keep the house updated and current.”
As for where she gets ideas for her décor, no source is off limits. Magazines, television, movies, Pinterest—they’re all fair game. In addition, the places to find her unique pieces is no secret either.
“I love auctions, antique malls, flea markets, thrift stores—you name it, I’ll go to it,” she says. “In fact, sometimes my husband and I plan little vacations around it. It’s a way for us to have a great time together since we share the same love for all of this.”
Don’t make the mistake of thinking Jackie’s husband Darren is just one of those “go with whatever the wife wants” types. His passion for the home is apparent in every room, especially the master bedroom. Since the couple’s closet resides in one of the renovated extra bedrooms, the existing closet in the master bedroom was open to interpretation. Darren single handedly created and installed a large barn-style door across the closet opening, allowing for Jackie to have an in-home office. The door is an amazing architectural addition that is as unique as it is beautiful.
The second level of the home is one large open space, with several beds. For the moment, it serves as place for the kids to sleep when they visit, but Jackie hopes (someday) it will be a place for her grandchildren to play.
“I love the idea of grandkids coming and playing in this home,” Jackie says, motioning to a large wooden table in the center of the room. “I can see us doing crafts or playing hide and seek up here.”
As Jackie continues to make over her home, she admits it will never be completely finished, and she’s always looking for ways to make it better. In fact, one of the newer additions to the home is actually in the backyard—a pair of chickens the couple lovingly call “the girls.”
No matter what Jackie and Darren add to their home, one thing is clear. It is truly a reflection of their love and passion for design. And that’s what fairy tale homes are made of.