Ranch house renovation keeps it real.

photos by Kayla Wolf

When Debbie Davis and David Means set about updating their 1960 ranch style home that sits just off Highway F outside Fulton, they knew exactly what they didn’t want. Neither is the “frou-frou, fancy-dance-y” type, Davis says, and they wanted their home to reflect that no-frills style.

With Means’ and Davis’ children — three from each side — grown and starting their own families, it was time to make the home uniquely theirs. They focused on three areas: Means’ home office when he’s away from the Callaway Livestock Center in Kingdom City that he co-owns; a new master bedroom and bathroom, and a new patio, deck and hot tub overlooking the pool and some of the cattle Means runs on roughly 2,200 acres.

“We were very conscious in our design to have everything simple to upkeep and maintain,” such as integrating accessibility features like a ramp on the outdoor patio, Davis said. They plan to age gracefully into the home over many years, “and we’re only doing this [makeover] once!”

A stay in a home in Breckinridge, Colo., with its vaulted ceiling provided some of the inspiration. The rest was improvisation around their mutual interests of cattle and antiques, with assistance from Fulton contractor, Don Limper, and Columbia designer, Joyce Smith, who “got” the couple’s unfussy vibe. As a third generation farmer and rancher, Means wanted elements throughout the home to reflect that history and connection to his Callaway County roots. The couple also wanted the renovations to complement the high quality antiques they’ve acquired while combing estate sales for the Rock Garden Antique Barn store they own.

Mostly, the couple wants the home to be warm and welcoming, as they work hard to nurture and sustain “the Central community” for the next generation of farmers and ranchers who live and work in the area around the nearby Central Christian Church.

The highest compliment they’ve received is when friends and family came over after the renovation and exclaimed, “This house looks like you!”

Wide-plank hickory flooring; weathered oak doors and trim, and hand-forged iron hardware used in the office and master bedroom suite continue into the hallway that connects to the rest of the house. Oil rubbed bronze fixtures in the hallway complement office and master suite bathroom fixtures.

“The consistency of finish needs to be there. You want the same sheen and feel in those overhead fixtures that integrates with the black hardware on the doors,” Smith says.

Trim and doors — including barn doors on rollers — were fashioned from wood from livery stables built in the late 1800s in Portland.

“At every turn, they used many local, hand-crafted elements, as well as natural elements everywhere,” Smith says. All the flooring and trim were hand-stained. Many elements were hand-honed, as well.

Master Bedroom Suite

The first order of business was to transform two small bedrooms and a cramped bathroom into a spacious master bedroom retreat, requiring the removal of several interior walls and re-engineering load-bearing supports. The dramatic result is a sweeping, airy expanse soaring to a vaulted, wooden-planked ceiling with hand-hewn supports and decorative beams.  “We wanted it rustic; we wanted it country,” Davis says. They could not find hand-hewn logs in good enough condition for the supports, so Limper purchased new beams and “beat ‘em up,” Davis says.

Oak barn wood doors and trim were custom made from lumber reclaimed from a livery stable in Portland built in the early 1800s, hand-stained, and finished with hand-forged hardware. Custom-stained wide-plank hickory flooring unifies all the wood elements.

A sparkling crystal chandelier in the suite’s entrance foyer sets off antique crystal sconces that flank the antique bed. The crystal adds softness, warmth and scale, as does a pair of windows high above the bed and a set with deep-set sills on both sides, Smith says. 

Antiques add coziness, contrast and interest — each with a history its own, including favorites such as a primitive blue cabinet and a bench that came from a Rebekah Lodge upstairs from the historic Pear Tree restaurant in Bevier that has since burned down.

A privacy wall of stacked natural stone and hand-hewn beams separates the bathroom and ample walk-in shower from the bedroom area. The wall also unites the bedroom space with the large stone tiles in the bathroom flooring and the shower’s unique pebble flooring. “The stone and slate elements are warm, comfortable and harmonious in their coloring,” Smith says.

The centerpiece of the bathroom is the handmade vanity topped with a sheet of agate, lit underneath to show off the warm hues and structure of the semi-precious stone. A set of semi-recessed basins of hammered copper enhances the glow. Hardware, including custom-welded towel bars and wrought-iron gate hinges as towel hooks, adds rustic touches.

Outside 

French doors lead out to the patio, hot tub and pool that overlook a cattle pasture and woods. A white privacy fence separates the home from the working farm and ranch part of the land. “It’s our own little oasis. It’s so peaceful, and we can just come out here in the morning, sip our cappuccino and see the cattle feeding beyond,” Davis says.

Home Office 

Down the hall toward the living room is Means’ home office. An imposing roll-top secretary is the centerpiece of this “conversion” from a child’s bedroom. The 72-inch antique desk from a lawyer’s office in Tennessee opens to reveal a dozen plus drawers.

The contractor, Limper, took on the challenge of designing and building the rustic table: the first piece of furniture he had ever made. He topped it with a sheet of agate, remaining from the bathroom countertop project, and added built-in under-lighting.

Above it hangs a vintage auction counter marquee that Means brought home from the Callaway Livestock Center after the switch to computers and big screen TVs.

Rock Garden Antiques

An old cattle barn becomes a community hub.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to run an antique store!” Davis and Means thought when they contemplated what they might do when they retire some day. They have always liked collecting antiques and were looking for a way to bring family together around a shared project. Why not sell the pieces they collect from estate sales throughout the Midwest and South in an old working cattle barn on property they own that wasn’t getting much use?

“We scraped. We power-washed. We put so much work into getting it ready” while keeping true to its rustic roots, Davis says. Three years ago, this past July, they opened the Rock Garden Antique Barn on Highway F. One-of-a-kind antiques fill the barn’s first level and immense loft, once home to more than 5,000 bales of hay. Antiques are artfully grouped, evoking their original settings: formal parlors, a dry goods store, an old-time tavern, a hunting lodge and more.

Locals know the property as the old Reed Farm where they swam when they were kids. In 1949, Jake Reed, the original owner, built a quirkily amazing rock garden on the front of the property as a wedding gift for his bride. Davis and Means’ sister, Loretta Huber, have restored the long-neglected flower, vegetable and rock gardens.

“We’re trying to get a new community spot going here,” Davis explains, pointing out the old drugstore “Sandy” horse and a carousal they’ve rewired to make the place kid friendly, too.

There’s the Fall Festival in October when they cook up batches of the family apple butter recipes in copper kettles in the rock garden and host hayrides for the kids.

Come December, the couple makes a circuit of their properties, cutting down about 20 cedar trees that they bring to the store for the children to decorate. Mr. and Mrs. Claus, of course, stop by to visit.

Throughout the year, there are barbecues and bake sales, fireworks and fundraisers — “really, anything to do with community, family and fellowship,” Davis says.

Summertime Weiner Wednesdays consistently draw 25-30 children and families who drop by after the barn closes at 6 p.m. for hotdogs, drinks and veggies fresh picked from the garden. “It’s a place for the older folks to sit and talk, and for the kids to play or fish” in one of the two ponds on either side of the barn, Means says.

“We’re really fortunate here,” Means reflects. “We have a new generation that has moved into the Central community that is going to carry on.”

Davis agrees: “In this day and age, to have the little communities that come together like this, well, it’s just something special we’re glad to be part of.”