There’s a philosophical thought experiment called the Ship of Theseus. In Greek legend, King Theseus rescued the children of Athens from Minos and the minotaur, escaping by boat. To commemorate the victory, the Athenians would sail the ship every year on a sort of pilgrimage. The celebration went on for centuries, and the ship, of course, required repairs throughout the years. This led philosophers to ask the question — if every part of the old ship was replaced with new parts, was it still the same ship?
I couldn’t help but think about the Ship of Theseus analogy while I was touring the Weston home of Jo Marie Scaglia. Jo Marie is the restauranteur behind the The Mixx, with two locations — one near the Plaza and one in Overland Park — and Caffetteria Modern Cafe, located in Prairie Village. Her home in Weston is a second home, and she purchased it as a way to escape the hustle and bustle of restaurant life without having to go too far.
Jo Marie’s Weston home was built in 1922 and was given to Minnie Gwinne and John Henry Biesenger as a wedding gift when they were married in 1947. The two owned the home until Jo Marie bought it in 2020 and began a 10-month-long renovation, which involved all new plumbing, electricity, flooring, a new floor plan and drywall. Jo Marie even had the roofline of the home raised, increasing the ceilings to a height of 12 feet, which really adds an airiness to the small 1100-square-foot house. She also added a screened-in porch onto the back of the property that is half the size of the home, complete with a fireplace and heaters.
Like the Ship of Theseus, almost everything that made up Jo Marie’s Weston house has been replaced. Though it may have been cheaper to bulldoze the home and build a new house, Jo Marie opted for a renovation instead, thrilling the family members of Minnie and John Henry who have memories of the home, even if it is virtually unrecognizable inside. But this is unsurprising, given how much Jo Marie loves old things and repurposing them.
“Some people like new things,” says Jo Marie. “I prefer to buy old things and redo them. I love anything vintage or antique. Everything has a story. Everything has meaning. A lot of it is nostalgic to me. That’s kind of the inspiration for when I do a home.”
Though the inside feels like a new home, almost nothing decorating the home is new except for the beds, dining table, and couch. Jo Marie’s specialty is collecting secondhand pieces, and she trolls garage sales, antique markets, and estate sales for them.
“It’s pretty characteristic of me and the way I design things,” says Jo Marie. “It’s buying used things and repurposing them, even if it’s not the purpose that it’s used for. Everyone’s trash is someone else’s treasure.”
Jo Marie loved repurposing pieces from the original house into new objects. The tables on her back porch are actually doors original to the home, and atop them sit candlesticks made from the column that held up the original front porch. She made another side table from the porch pillars, too, using them for the table’s legs, and also repurposed brick from the original chimney to lay floors in the shed.
Another thing that’s hard not to notice from Jo Marie’s decorating is her impressive art collection.
“When I moved from San Francisco when I was 22 to Kansas City, I made a promise to myself that I was only going to buy original artwork,” says Jo Marie.
This is a promise she has clearly kept to herself, and the small home’s walls are filled with art, from beautiful fine art paintings to torn-up maps to eclectic garage sale finds of semi-trucks.
“I buy everything I love,” she says. “If you buy what you love then you’ll love what you have. When you put it together, most likely, it is going to work well.”
There’s no questioning Jo Marie’s exquisite taste when touring her home. Your head will be swiveling as you take in all the art on the walls, the impressive glassware on the shelves, and the perfectly-mixed vintage furniture. Jo Marie uses the Weston home as a place to host and relax, and that’s clear by how peaceful it feels there — especially on the back porch with the fireplace going. She starts her weekends in Weston with coffee on the porch at sunrise and loves putting together creative breakfast boards for herself and her teen daughter, Star.
“I call it my escape sanctuary — the padded room so I don't have to go the insane asylum because my work is so busy,” jokes Jo Marie. “I needed a place where I could come and retreat and rest and calm down.” The place also serves as a creative refresh for her, allowing her to enjoy the slow art of cooking food, enjoying drinks, and gardening.
When considering a home in relation to the Ship of Theseus, it is clear to me that it is not what an object is made of that makes it meaningful to us. A home is not made up of the studs and sheetrock that allow it to stand, after all. A home is made up of the memories we make inside the walls — the meals we make, the games we play with our friends and family, and the relationships forged there. Does it matter if the walls are made of the same materials that have been there all along? It is not the walls that hold our memories and the meaningfulness they have to us — it is us.
"If you buy what you love then you’ll love what you have. When you put it together, most likely, it is going to work well.”