How interior designers from Nell Hill’s showcase a Prairie Village couple’s collected pieces

Photography by Matt Kocourek

The Cantrells have only been living in their Prairie Village home for four years, but it’s full of treasured items they have collected over a lifetime.

“We’re always finding little pieces here and there,” says Barbara Cantrell, who, along with her husband John Cantrell, enjoys antiquing when traveling. “We collect items that we love.”

The Cantrells lived in the Kansas City area some fifteen years ago before moving to San Antonio, Texas, and then back again about five years ago. Just as they brought much of their furniture with them when they moved to Texas, they used many of the pieces again in their Prairie Village home, this time with a twist such as new upholstery, big plush pillows and luxurious drapes.

With the help of designer Anne Epstein at Nell Hill’s in the Northland’s Briarcliff Village, the Cantrells turned their 1929 brick manor house into a colorful yet traditional home. 

“When we do a house, we want it to be a home, not feel like you can’t sit on our furniture,” Barbara says. “We want it warm and welcoming.”

Barbara has worked with designers at Nell Hill’s on several projects over the years. In fact, when the Cantrells moved to Texas, it was Nell Hill’s original owner Mary Carol Garrity who flew to Texas and helped them decorate their home. 

When the Cantrells purchased their almost century-old house in Prairie Village, they knew it needed an update. The couple embarked on a fairly massive renovation with architect John Wind of Kansas City’s Piper-Wind Architects. There were lots of big and little things to be done. Ultimately, they combined five little rooms into one large kitchen, replaced all the windows, revamped the bathrooms and turned a sleeping porch into a closet, just to name a few. 

But despite many of the updates, much of the original design details of the approximately six thousand-square-foot house remain intact, including original hardwood floors, wainscoting and intricate moldings throughout the house. These elements became the perfect backdrop for the Cantrells’ curated furniture collection and decorative objects, much of which they’ve had for years. 

“Sometimes getting all new furniture just doesn’t feel right,” Epstein says. Many of the pieces the Cantrells chose to keep from previous homes and simply reupholster were originally from Nell Hill’s. When Epstein works with clients, she wants to create a space that’s stylish but also homey and comfortable. A sense of history and the homeowners’ personalities is always a good thing, she said.

“I like to layer with décor items, rugs, pillows, window panels,” Epstein says. “It can take time to get it just right.”

The Cantrells’ home style is confident, says Nell Hill’s owner Katie Laughridge, who took over the business in 2019 and describes the brand’s style as “new traditional.”

“It’s beautiful, the layered textiles and color,” Laughridge says.  

Living room
Photography by Matt Kocourek

The Cantrells installed a French fireplace mantel they purchased from one of the most well-known shops in the world of antiques, Keil’s Antiques in New Orleans. The mantel replaced “just an old plain wood one,” Barbara says.

The living room is painted in a delicate blue and punctuated with lavish original rope molding and white trim all around.

A painting of flowers and foliage by one of Barbara’s favorite San Antonio artists, Waddy Armstrong, hangs above a light green sofa that’s been covered with lush, plump pillows in an array of textiles.

Photography by Matt Kocourek

The original kitchen was made of several different tiny rooms, including a butler’s pantry, mudroom and sitting area. It was sort of a mess, Barbara says, and not very functional. She likes things pretty, but she also likes them to work.

Although very traditional elements are prominent throughout most of the kitchen, the countertops and island are made of a sleek modern slab of white and gray quartzite with a no-frills edge. “It needs to be easy to clean,” Barbara says. 

The Cantrells also opted for an old-world-looking and Italian-made Bertazzoni range, a designer appliance that Barbara, who loves to bake, says is as functional as it is beautiful.

Most of the kitchen has been done in shades of white, punctuated with pops of blue and dark wood accents, such as the massive range hood.

Eat-in kitchen
Photography by Matt Kocourek

Framing the kitchen at one end is a wall of built-in cabinets and a buffet made of the same quartzite and blue and white tiles used in the main part of the kitchen. The cabinets are painted in dark navy blue.

The Cantrells opted for a large farmhouse table that seats eight. Tucked in the corner is an antique children’s highchair that’s been in the family for several generations.

Photography by Matt Kocourek.

Adding a bit of drama to the home’s already impressive stairwell, the Cantrells hung an ornate gilt and crystal French chandelier, another treasure-hunting find. Its arms are decorated with female mermaids similar to those decorating the bows of early ocean-faring ships. 

Sun Room
Photography by Matt Kocourek

Barbara, who also lived in Florida for some years, brought a little bit of the beach feel to her PV home when she covered the sunroom floor with blue-painted cement tiles from Villa Lagoon in the Gulf Shores. The central chandelier that hangs in the sunroom used to hover above the Cantrells’ large bathtub in Texas.

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