After years of planning and design, Brad and Iris Hardin have built a custom home for their family near downtown Overland Park.
Brad, from Oak Grove, Missouri, who graduated from Kansas State University in architecture, met his 13-year-old wife, Iris, during spring break in Santa Monica, California. Iris, originally from the Philippines who grew up in Los Angeles, has a big heart for family and children. That’s why she worked in early childhood education before stepping back to care for their three children at home.
Together, they started designing their dream home when they started dating 15 years ago. Brad did some interior work himself. They moved into their new home in early May.
A former Columbia University student, Iris enjoys cooking and photography. The president of Diode companies, a subsidiary of Black & Veatch (where he was previously CTO), he enjoys carpentry and other design projects. Together, they love to travel with their children.
They live in Overland Park with their three children, Lucia, Wesley and Hugo, and their dog Lhasa Apso, Misu, and a turtle named Tuck.
We started about 15 years ago with the idea that we wanted to build a house.
I was a struggling junior architect at the time and had these big dreams of someday building a house for our family. And then, of course, life began. But we’ve been really lucky and blessed, career wise, to be able to be at a point really over the last five years, maybe where it’s started to become more of a reality.
And we had moved so much because of the quarry, everyone was so patient with me as we bounced around and moved forward and did what you need to do, especially in the build space. Often this requires movement. So we all stayed together and hung on.
When we finally got back to Kansas City, we bought a house in 2014 above 95th and Roe in mid-November. It was cold. There were only five houses that we were looking for for our size because we knew we might have a third baby. We were looking for bigger houses and there was simply no inventory.
So we started looking for land, but there was nothing in Overland Park that we could afford. We originally looked at Shawnee near Mize Elementary and bought an old farm there that was about three and a half acres.
The original idea was that we were just going to subdivide the farm and then build a house next to the farm. But then, talking to the city, there were a lot of improvements to be made, like the sewers and the street and other things that really made the costs prohibitive.
So we were a little disappointed, because we did not want to demolish the old farm to have to build a new house. It was three years ago. As that didn’t work, we started looking again, and Iris found this empty lot.
We checked it out after work one day, and fell in love with it. It was perfect. There were big trees, a nice big lot, there was no house to demolish on the site. It’s close to South Lake Park, within walking distance, the kids can fish and run around so we were like, that’s it.
We ended up buying the bundle, then I had to change the design, move things around to fit the site a bit better. And in fact, that’s when we started meeting our neighbors because we bounced the different design concepts on our neighbors to see what they were thinking.
I had a little model that I had built and I showed it to the neighbors and I showed them what it would look like on the site, how high it would be.
They were just super excited. We have awesome neighbors. Josh and Mindy in the south were awesome, and Marty and Leslie next door, really cool. We have had a lot of good feedback. They didn’t necessarily have a design contribution, it was just more, yeah, we’re just excited to have a new family moving in and to see something new happen here.
We didn’t want to scare the neighbors away with the design. I know a lot of people are like, oh no, too modern, because this is a modern house for the neighborhood. We wanted to keep the elements warm and thoughtful for the region.
We showed the neighboring children and a few others. Everyone was so curious about the whole process. When you’re in construction, you take that for granted, don’t you? But when people don’t see it all the time and it’s in their own neighborhood, we just have families passing by, like you do what? It was really cool, everyone got to see it all come together, come together.
With COVID, it was crazy and we learned a lot of patience along the way.
One year is an acceptable time, that’s about the average, to build a custom house. But I was trying at one point to show myself and try to do it early, to understand the context of the build. It did not work.
And luckily when we started the lumber company called us back in February 2020 and told us we are hearing lumber prices going up, do you want to lock in your lumber order ? What is one of the biggest expenses of a house, that and the concrete.
And so we had this massive order that just went through and then two weeks later I can’t make up for that, the wood prices have doubled which would have blew our budget totally. We couldn’t have built. We were blown away by this one. This one was really lucky for us.
And as we started talking to the builders about its construction, all of a sudden it all stalled. And the prices we saw were crazy because everyone was trying to ramp up and build two at once. We were just getting some really high bids, so we sat down and discussed that, and we figured if we could talk to some subcontractors, we could build it ourselves without having to hire a builder. And I could handle the day job and everything and build a house because we could work from home.
What COVID has allowed us to do is all the things we used to do that took a long time to do, things like commuting to work, commuting to work, all the activities for the kids, all of them. these things have completely changed and become super localized.
I know it sounds weird, it’s kind of what we did for fun. The children would come, they would play on the dirt hills. They were all part of it. It was our jam for a while. It was the fun thing to do.
These are small blessings. And we kept them away for school. I just feel like it brought us closer together, and at the same time, they are able to appreciate it all. It was a lot of love and work.
I was just happy with the trust Iris gave me to do it and build it, because it’s not a cheap business. It was a big investment for our family to build it. I told my friend the other day he lives in thailand he is like a guy how did it go? You succeeded.
It’s like it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, hands down, but it’s the most rewarding. My favorite part was last weekend, we had a day where I didn’t have anything to fix or whatever, and we were all hanging out in various spaces, and I was just thinking it was totally worth it. It is totally worth it.