Tamara Day, design superstar and host of the DIY Network series “Bargain Mansions,” is a fairy godmother, of sorts, to overlooked and under-loved homes. She has a knack for turning ugly, aging ducklings into showstoppers. Day says when she saw the house on Belinder Road in Leawood, it was a mess of “weird angled bricks with an unfortunate design aesthetic.” But what would have turned most people off (or scared them away) intrigued Day.
When she went inside the house, things got worse. It was a series of closed-off rooms featuring the same odd brick detail on the exterior of the house. But Day says she could immediately see the potential. “I don’t have a degree in design or formal education in construction, but I can walk into a home and envision what the flow should be and how it should function in a way that it makes sense for a modern family,” she says.
Calling spatial planning was one of her favorite parts of the renovation. Day knew the house needed a second floor to take it from three bedrooms to five, and she also knew the kitchen and outdoor living areas were in desperate need of a redo. She says one of her biggest challenges was ensuring the addition complemented the older home.
“Making sure when we added a second story that it matched the original part of the house was a big challenge,” Day says. “We also had to be careful that the roof lines tied together. It’s important to me that a house looks like it has always been there. My goal is to keep the integrity and history of a house while giving it a modern feel.”
The kitchen tested Day’s design ingenuity. She says the space was cramped and closed-off with a looming fireplace. To turn it into an area that felt open required a total reconfiguration. “I changed the entire layout to the main body of the house to make the kitchen open concept, and it completely transformed how you live in this home,” she says.
She also tackled the kitchen fireplace which Day called “extra wide, overly high, and awkward.” By covering all of the fireplace brick with the same limestone that was used in updating the front of the house Day says it gave the fireplace a feeling of being modern and elevated the overall kitchen design.
The dated bathrooms in the house were also recipients of an extreme makeover. The master bathroom is a gorgeous testament to how savvy tile selection can transform a room and save you money. “Believe it or not, I used a porcelain tile in the master bathroom that looks almost exactly like marble,” Day says. Massive strides have been made in the quality of porcelain tile, she says, and it’s both more durable than a lot of natural stone and more reasonably priced.
All through the house, from the master suite to the sitting room upstairs, you can see Day’s design signature that includes pops of color in furniture pieces and art work. “For me, color makes a house a home, and I love using original artwork,” she says. “It has life and feeling to it. I tell people art shouldn’t just fill a space. It should make a space.”
But as beautiful as the inside of the house is, Day says her favorite part is the backyard. “It used to be just a slab of concrete,” she says. “We added a stone fireplace, a retaining wall with lanterns and a water feature. With all the remarkable trees, the running water and the fire, it feels like a little piece of Colorado and just makes me so happy.”
Happy is the key word for Day’s design philosophy. “That’s the feeling I want people to have when they walk into this home,” she says. “Happiness.”
Day’s Design Dos
❖ Go-to paint colors: Sherwin Williams’ Natural Choice, Snowbound and Revere Pewter
❖ Fastest way to glam up a space: Light fixtures. “Don’t be afraid to go big,” Day says. “The number one mistake people make when buying light fixtures is getting one that’s not large enough for the room.
❖ Tips for half baths: Use wallpaper. It really warms up a space, Day says. Although it’s counterintuitive, she recommends using a big print in a small space for maximum impact.
❖ Day says she gets her local art inspiration from Blue Gallery and the Leopold Gallery + Art Consulting.