“It all started with a walk at the Arboretum,” says Nancy Beaver, who simply wanted to enjoy nature and get some exercise on a beautiful spring day back in 2005. “On a whim, I took a detour on the drive home,” says Beaver, “and that’s when I found it.”
The “it” to which Beaver refers is the 80-acre stretch of land just south of Overland Park that Nancy and husband Bryan Beaver now call home. Known as Flat Tail Ranch, in honor of the animal whose name its owners share, the bucolic setting, rustic elegance, and artist-in-residence charm make this home and its environs a place where guests love to linger a little longer.
Which is precisely the point, says Nancy, who admits it’s no accident that her third Jim Lambie-built home was designed with plenty of visitors in mind.
“Bryan and I wanted a house where anyone can walk in, plop down, and put their drink on the table,” she says, referring to the two-word mantra she chanted over and over again throughout her home’s design process: understated elegance.
Indeed it’s a rustic refinement—or perhaps redefinement—that makes the Beaver home one-of-a-kind. Flanked by an antique red barn and gently rolling ridges where cattle graze and wade into sky-reflecting waters, the main house’s exterior reflects the warmth of nature with its hewn-stone and timbers.
“I was one of the first people to go back to using real wood,” says Beaver, who favors the timelessness of natural materials over the trendiness of glazes and facades.
Inside the home, down-to-earth materials soar to new heights of sophistication through awe-inspiring design; nowhere is this more evident than in the great room, where giant natural wood trusses held together by old-fashioned wooden pegs flank the room floor-to-ceiling. Framing the two-story natural stone fireplace, the wooden beams exert a cathedral-like effect, but the emphasis is on warmth rather than weight.
“As nice of a house as this is, people still say it’s welcoming,” says the extroverted Beaver, who takes pleasure in a home that’s meant to entertain instead of intimidate its guests.
Part of the home’s magic lies in an inviting floor plan that’s as practical in function as it is impressive in form. “The way it’s laid out just makes sense,” says Cheri Beaver, who’s not related to the Beavers but served as their architect and now is a Director at NSPJ Architects. “Every room leads logically to another and there’s no wasted space.”
One case in point is the loft above the entry. Originally a second story landing with an ambiguous function, the space was transformed by the Beavers into a favorite family gathering place. Accessible from a wood spiral staircase in Bryan’s office, Nancy converted the loft into a bookshelf-lined lounge, replete with overstuffed chairs, her father’s old law books and treasures collected from the Beaver’s travels.
“My daughter spent hours up there studying for her CPA exam,” says Nancy, who’s proud of how the loft (and her daughter’s exam results) turned out.
But while the Beaver kids have recently flown the coop—daughter Amanda is a married career woman and son Blake attends Brown University—there’s no lack of activity at Flat Tail Ranch. What with Bryan’s roles as CEO of CarterEnergy Corporation and former chairman of the American Royal, the home has seen hundreds of company employees and Royal VIPs stomping its grounds. Nancy, who chairs Heartland Therapeutic Riding, has played hostess to more than 600 charitable partygoers on the property. In addition, the couple entertains and feeds scads of friends and out-of-town guests.
That means it’s no surprise that the Beavers’ main kitchen is made to handle a crowd. Industrial in its capacity yet homey in appearance, the kitchen sports two six-foot-long granite islands that are “perfect for buffets,” says Nancy. Custom wood cabinetry featuring a barley-twist pattern repeated throughout the house—“it’s reminiscent of a cowboy’s rope,” says Beaver—hides two side-by-side refrigerators and an ice chest. An outsize deep-red range hood and a custom-designed wagon wheel dining table add more rustic flair to a room that’s fit to feed a posse.
And although Nancy Beaver demonstrates a nearly tireless capacity for entertaining (she hosted her daughter’s BOTAR party for 150 guests within just two weeks of moving to Flat Tail), the hostess admits to an occasional need for downtime. “That’s when I head to the nano-porch,” she says.
Just off the kitchen, the ‘nano-porch’ is Nancy’s oasis of calm during her otherwise event-filled days. Made cozy by a fireplace and a deep-red painted tongue-in-groove wood ceiling, the porch features a “nano-wall” from which it derives its nickname. Just like the kind that fronts a sidewalk restaurant, the glass nano-wall opens up accordion-style to let the outside in. Affording a view of their house-length patio, saltwater swimming pool, and two ear-soothing waterfalls, the nano-wall makes the porch one of the Beavers’ favorite places to reflect.
For Nancy, time to reflect also means an opportunity to let creative juices flow. With a background in commercial art and a talent for spatial relationships—she acts as sole interior designer for the ranch—Nancy has recently discovered a new love: drawing and painting.
“Starting out was scary, “ she admits about her newfound hobby, “but now, I don’t know what I’d do without it.” As a result, the Beavers designed an artist’s studio for Nancy on the front of the house that’s light, bright, and airy. With lots of sunny windows, a sink over a washable black and white tile floor, and skylights that open to allow acrylic paint fumes to dissipate, it’s an ideal spot for Nancy to create her boldly colored canvasses.
Yet Nancy isn’t the only Beaver who’s passionate about a hobby. One need only look just west of the main house to see Bryan Beaver’s piece of cowboy heaven, a horse-riding, cattle-roping-ready arena that he jokingly calls his “sandbox.” Bryan’s sandbox is bigger than most; nearly the size of the Chiefs indoor training facility, the fully electrified structure houses 10 horse stalls, two offices, one and a half baths, a bedroom, and a kitchen-equipped party room overlooking the dirt arena itself.
“It’s a lot of fun to have big parties out here,” says Nancy, who admits that some of her happiest times at Flat Tail find her entertaining “a sea of people.”
But back at the main house, Nancy’s thoughts turn to simpler, more solitary pursuits. Standing in her second-floor master-suite, she points to a wall-model Miele coffeemaker, then a stone balcony just outside the bedroom. “Bryan and I love to start our day together with coffee on this terrace,” she says before training her eyes on the rural horizon that’s beautifully uninterrupted from her second-story view. With the sun rising higher in the airy expanse of sky before her, Nancy talks of gratitude for the good things in life—a 30-year marriage, engaging careers and hobbies, family, friends, and time to enjoy it all from the couple’s beloved Flat Tail Ranch.
“Bryan and I don’t live with a lot of regrets,” she says.
Flat Tail Ranch Artist-in-Residence
Not until she was nearly an empty nester did Flat Tail ranch owner and artist Nancy Beaver listen to her mid-life calling to paint.
“God gave me a talent to paint,” says Beaver, “but I do it simply for the painting process itself, not for the recognition.”
Regardless of her intent, recognition seems to follow Beaver, who’s already sold several dozen graphite and acrylic works to friends and collectors. Here’s a peek at some Beaver Tail Ranch originals.
For more information, contact Nancy Beaver at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clockwise from top left: A sturdy steer votive-holder adds rough-and-ready whimsy while a gun-barrel armchair dares arena guests to take a (tractor) seat. Custom blacksmithing forges wagon wheels and horseshoes into a kitchen chandelier just steps away from a natural stone island bar. Cowboy-roped cabinetry and Native American collectibles evoke a frontier feel, while turquoise inlaid into a mesquite dining table bring echoed hues in an original watercolor alive.