When you drive up the lane to Meredith and Brandon Gutshall’s home in Platte City, you may be wondering if you’re in the right place. A wrought-iron archway sits in the middle of the circle driveway, reading “The Whites,” which may be confusing as the Gutshalls live there with their four children. But the Whites are still very much present on the farm.
The archway is a remnant of Brandon’s grandparents, Herman and Jeanee White. But they weren’t the first Whites on the land. Brandon Gutshall’s great-grandparents, James and Blanche White, came to the 330-acre plot in the 1920s as sharecroppers. They worked the land for years until they saved up enough money in 1947 to buy it, naming it White Farm, which is still honored in the sign welcoming you to the property today. Herman, the son of James and Blanche, was born at White Farm and lived there until his death in 2017 — the wrought-iron “Whites” sign was made for him and his wife.
After Herman and Jeanee passed away, the family was faced with the task of what to do with the family’s incredible legacy and the sizeable home. J.D. White, the son of Herman and Brandon Gutshall’s uncle, was the primary farmer of the land, but, as a bachelor, he had no need for the large 1970s home on the property.
That’s when Brandon and Meredith stepped in. They would live at White Farm — but what would they do with the home?
Brandon and Meredith mulled over the decision for months. They didn’t feel right bulldozing the home and building new, but renovating the house to fit the family of six felt like quite the undertaking.
“There's scripture that talks about God making all things new,” says Meredith Gutshall. “That was kind of the mantra going into this — we're making things new here, not making new things.”
The decision to renovate instead of build anew was very much rooted in the legacy of the property.
“My husband's grandfather was born here, literally, and died here, literally,” says Meredith. “It’s the American dream. This farm is so special. So we were going to do a new construction out here. And then his grandmother passed away, and it just never felt right.”
After interviewing many builders, the Gutshalls landed on working with Owen Homes.
“We came in with a really strong vision for this house and for this whole project,” says Meredith. “Owen Homes was really humble and helped us achieve exactly what we wanted without pushing any sort of agenda. I don't think every builder would have done that.”
While Meredith was anxious about finding a builder that was the right fit for White Farm, she felt that the team at Owen Homes understood the assignment. She especially enjoyed working with Luke Owen, one of the owners of Owen Homes who works with homeowners to create their blueprints and help develop the architectural design for the project.
“I will say working with him was my very favorite part of the whole process because, from the beginning, he was like, ‘This is a generational farm. You're nodding to all the people that came before you,’” says Meredith. “He really listened to me. He wanted us to have what we wanted. There are a lot of quirky things about this house, and he made sure those ideas happened when it would have been easier to build a straightforward plan. I really appreciated that about working with Luke.”
Meredith had a clear vision of what she wanted the home to look like. She wanted to keep what they were able to keep but expand the square footage of the home to fit her family. They actually kept the exact perimeter of the home, only expanding the roofline to increase the ceiling height from 8 feet to 10 feet and then adding an additional half story with three bedrooms, turning the one-story ranch into a 1.5-story home. They even added an additional building, which they call the “gentleman’s quarters,” onto the home to house Brandon’s uncle, J.D. White. J.D. farms the 330 acres and is an invaluable resource to the family, who depend on him regularly for wisdom and advice and just generally love having him nearby.
Meredith’s inspiration for the home was largely influenced by all of the family’s ancestors — both her husband’s family and also her grandmothers who lived in Kentucky. However, she agonized over what her husband’s grandparents would say as she made decisions, wondering what they would say if they were still alive today.
“It was really important to me to maintain something of this house,” says Meredith. “I kept thinking about Herman, Brandon's grandpa, saying, ‘What the hell did you do to my house?’ Like everything I picked, everything I did was trying to pay honor to them.”
Two of the main features the Gutshalls kept as an homage to Herman were the original brick fireplace that sits in Brandon’s office today, and also the brick façade on the exterior of the house. Herman actually bought the brick from the Kansas City Stockyards, bringing truckloads of it back to Platte City. He was so proud of that brick that the entire exterior of the home was made from Stockyard brick.
Though the house is on a farm, Meredith was not trying to emulate farmhouse style, but a more antebellum-inspired home that you might find touches of in Kentucky, where Meredith’s family is from. Meredith’s style throughout the home is quite traditional, especially with the exquisite millwork, but also filled with whimsy, with fun wallpapers and antiques throughout.
The whimsical parts of the home don’t just refer to the decor, but also touches Meredith worked with Owen Homes to add throughout the house, such as a closet under the stairs that is almost hidden by beautiful trimwork, or a secret passageway between two of her children’s rooms. Meredith added details in her home that her children will remember into adulthood, emulating memories she has of her own grandmothers’ homes.
But as much as Meredith loves her home and the memories she is making with her husband and four children there, she especially appreciates feeling the love of the people that came before them represented there. Soon after moving into her home, Meredith decorated the dining room table and felt that.
“I took a picture of it and I sent it to my mom and Brandon's mom,” says Meredith. “And I was like, these are Mom Dot’s plates. These are Mama Lee's candle sticks. These are Grandma B’s glasses and it’s Jeanee’s home. All of our grandmothers are represented at that table.”
Honoring those past generations wasn’t an easy task, but it’s one that made it worth it for the Gutshalls in the end.
“Honestly, it is the sentimentality of it all,” says Meredith. “I am a story person and knowing that this is the house that raised generations — this is important. And so I didn't want to just come bulldoze a house down and start over. I mean, yeah, it would have been 100 times easier. It would have been cheaper. But I love it. I love knowing that I walk through these doors and everybody's here.”