A Touch of Exotic
John and Suzanne Baker met during their college years, when Suzanne was a student at Stephens College and John was attending the University of Missouri, both in Columbia, Missouri. After graduation, John joined the United States Air Force as an aircraft maintenance officer and was stationed in Hawaii, where he and Suzanne lived for four years.
After his military service years, he was given a business opportunity in Johannesburg, South Africa, and they resided there for
seven years, and had two daughters, Courtney and Heather. They then came to Mexico, Missouri, where John’s father had a farm. The couple started their own farm and filled it with exotic animals ‒ with an emphasis on ostriches ‒ and they stayed and operated the farm for 11 years.
John and Suzanne built their Lake home and moved here seven years ago to be closer to their daughters and four grandchildren.
When they built their home, there were only three other houses in the subdivision.
The exterior of the home is a rich mix of brick, stone and wood that hints of French Country. The “stone” is actually concrete that
was cast in individual hand-made molds. The driveway and front walk are concrete stamped to also resemble stone. Stained wood doors with custom-designed applied pieces that match the façade on the porch front the three-car garage. A door inside the garage opens into a hallway with beautiful cabinets that leads through to the main living area.
Inset bubble glass embellishes the double front doors, which open into a small foyer. Immediately inside the doors are two of the Bakers’ treasures: an antique wagon is filled with ostrich eggs that have been blown out and cleaned with soap and water; next to it is a chair with beautiful wood carvings and a seat covered in ostrich hide. A striking first impression!
Just beyond the entry are the formal living and dining rooms. Suzanne designed the house with her family and friends in mind. “I wanted a place where everyone can come and be comfortable,” she says. She created the two open-concept areas to make the home feel airy yet personal. Each space is distinguished by individual tray ceilings in varying shapes The formal dining room is in the front part of the home, with large shutters on the window that can be opened or closed. The table is set on a French antique wood base, and Suzanne had a white marble top cut to fit. Surrounding the table are chairs imported from Italy that are made from hand-carved cherry and upholstered in fine paisley fabric.
In the formal living room, the furniture is arranged in such a way that the view can be enjoyed from any seat. The matching seafoam hue sofa and loveseat face each other with two accents chairs at one end ‒ an excellent grouping for conversation.
A large his-and-hers office was created just off the foyer so the couple could work from home. This efficient yet beautiful space has all built-in furniture including two desk openings. A tray ceiling with dark wood planks and working shutters on the windows are two design highlights. Affixed to the walls are several Europeanmounted animal trophies that John hunted while they were living in South Africa.
Hardwood floors throughout the home are hand-scraped, and all of the doors are knotty alder. The beautiful cabinetry was created from cherry wood, and antiques the couple has collected can be seen throughout the home.
Touches of their world travels can be appreciated in every part of their home, as can many remembrances from their ostrich farm.
Suzanne says ostrich hide has been made into boots, belts and purses, and they have several furniture pieces in their home with ostrich hide as covering as well. Also, she says, the red meat of the ostrich is very lean. “We sold ostrich jerky to vendors all across the country.”
One of Suzanne’s priorities was a kitchen that would fit her needs. Because she is short, the room was created with mostly lower cabinets, and she stores her dishes in drawers built into the island. The granite-topped island is two-tiered; the lower side facing the kitchen is where Suzanne does her food preparation, and the unique circular tier with stools on the outside is conducive to chitchat with guests as she’s working.
A rack displaying her collection of copper pots and pans hangs on the back wall over the sink. “I love the look of copper,” she says. The copper and the deep red of the cherry cabinetry are further set off by the black of the five-burner stovetop, refrigerator, oven, microwave and dishwasher. A pantry off the kitchen also features cherry cabinets, two granite shelves and a wine rack with upper cabinets for wine glasses, openers, decanters and more.
The family room and informal dining room adjoin the kitchen in another open concept, with an oversize wood fan in the tray ceiling and a gas fireplace on one wall. Two comfy overstuffed sofas are arranged in an L-shape for comfortable viewing of the large-screen television. A glasstop end table showcases several artifacts from their travels, as well as a pen-and-ink drawing done
by their granddaughter.
Beyond the family room is an informal dining room defined by a circular tray ceiling and flanked by windows and a door leading to the back patio. In the corner is a large basket filled with even more of the large ostrich eggs.
The bedrooms are at opposite sides of the house. The large master suite has been painted in a relaxing buttercream color, and has a tray ceiling and sliding glass doors that open onto the patio and the nearby hot tub. Instead of freestanding furniture, this bedroom was outfitted with built-in cabinets and dresser drawers topped with dark green granite, plus
his-and-hers closets. The master bath is replete with a large soaker tub, a separate shower and a vanity with double sinks, as well as a water closet with a bidet.
On the opposite side of the house are three more bedrooms. The first holds a king-size bed and has floor-to-ceiling windows with a door that opens onto the covered patio. The second bedroom is en suite, also with a king-size bed with uniquely carved and colored headboards. Doors here also lead to the patio. The third bedroom Suzanne designed for her three granddaughters. The elongated room holds three twin beds with patchwork bedspreads. Each bed has a personalized pillow ‒ Sweet Pea, Sarah Bear and Lady Bug ‒ which are their granddaughters’ nicknames. The couple’s only grandson gets to use the first bedroom when he stays for the night. A bathroom in the hallway is shared by the two of the three bedrooms. Suzanne says during the warm months it’s all about outdoor living.
The large patio has a stamped concrete base and a free-form swimming pool, and is surrounded by a railing made of clear tempered glass attached to slender posts that leaves the view virtually unobstructed. On one side of the patio stands a magnificent bronze sculpture of an eagle with wings and talons extended. There is an eagle aerie nearby, and the majestic birds are a frequent sight.
There are two seating areas, one just outside and still under a solid roof, with upholstered furniture for just relaxing, and the
other under a pergola with a table and chairs for snacking and outdoor meals. The area also features an outdoor kitchen and half
bath. A small rock pool with a waterfall catches the eye.
Suzanne and John, who now have been married for 53 years, love to sit on the patio and watch the boats below. John also enjoys playing golf. His golf cart is also used when the family wants to go boating ‒ a path at the end of the street provides access to the Lake and their 27-foot Cobalt cruiser.
The home is at the four corners (where the Osage, Linn Creek and Niangua arms all meet), and you can see about three miles in one direction and five miles in the other. This is one of the most magnificent views at the Lake. “The view is truly breathtaking,” Suzanne says. “This is our very favorite spot!” •