Brad and Iris Hardin, dream home design team and Overland Park family of five

After years of planning and designing, Brad and Iris Hardin have built a custom home for their family near downtown Overland Park.

Brad, a native of Oak Grove, Missouri, who earned his architecture degree from Kansas State University, met his wife of 13 years, Iris, over spring break in Santa Monica, California. Iris, a Filipino native who grew up in Los Angeles, has a big heart for family and children. That’s why she worked in early childhood education before taking a step back to care for their three children at home.

Together, the two of them began designing their dream home when they started dating 15 years ago. Brad did some of the interior work himself. They moved into their new home in early May.

A former student of Columbia University, Iris enjoys cooking and photography. The president of Diode Ventures, a subsidiary of Black & Veatch (where he was previously chief technology officer), he enjoys carpentry and other design projects. Together, they love traveling with their children.

They live in Overland Park with their three children, Lucia, Wesley and Hugo, and their Lhasa Apso dog, Misu, and a turtle named Tuck.

We started about 15 years ago with the idea that we wanted to build a home.

I was a struggling junior architect at the time and had these big dreams to someday build a house for our family. And then, of course, life commenced. But we were really fortunate and blessed, career-wise, to be able to be at a point really over the last five years maybe where it started to become more of a reality.

And we had moved around so much because of the career, everybody was so patient with me as we bounced around and advanced and did kind of what you need to do, especially in the construction space. A lot of times, that requires moves. So we all stuck together and hung on.

When we finally came back to Kansas City, we bought a home in 2014 over off 95th and Roe in the middle of November. It was freezing. There was only five houses we could look at for our size that we were looking for, ‘cause we knew we were possibly going to have a third baby. We were looking at bigger homes and there was just no inventory.

So then we started to look for land, but there wasn’t anything in Overland Park that we could afford. We originally looked out in Shawnee, over by Mize Elementary, and we bought an old farmhouse out there that sat on about three and a half acres.

The original idea was we were going to just subdivide the farmhouse and then build a home next to the farmhouse. But then in talking with the city, there were a lot of improvements that needed to be done, like sewer and street and other things that really made it cost-prohibitive.

So we were a little bit bummed, because we didn’t want to rip down the old farmhouse to have to build a new house. That was three years ago. As that didn’t work out, we started looking again, and Iris found this empty lot.

We checked it out after work one day, and we just fell in love with it. It was perfect. It had big trees, a nice big lot, there was no house to demolish on the site. It’s close to South Lake Park, walking distance, the kiddos can fish in and run around, so we were like, this is it.

We ended up purchasing the lot, then I had to change the design, move things around to fit the site a little bit better. And actually, this is when we started to meet our neighbors because we bounced the different design concepts off our neighbors to see what they thought.

I had a little model that I’d built and showed it to the neighbors and showed them what it would look like on the site, how high it would be.

They were just super excited. We’ve got awesome neighbors. Josh and Mindy to the south have been awesome, and Marty and Leslie next door, really cool. We got a lot of good feedback. They didn’t necessarily have any design input, it was just more of, yeah we’re just excited to have a new family move in and see something new come in here.

Brad and Iris Hardin with their children (from left), Wesley, Iris and Hugo.

We didn’t want to scare the neighbors with the design. I know a lot of people are like, oh no, too modern, ‘cause this is a modern house for the neighborhood. We wanted to keep the elements warm and thoughtful for the area.

We did give tours to the neighbor kids and some others. Everybody was just so curious about the whole process. When you’re in construction, you just take that for granted, right? But when people don’t see that all the time and it’s in their own neighborhood, we just have families walking by, like what are you doing? It was really neat, everybody got to see the whole thing get built, come together.

With COVID, it was crazy and we’ve learned a lot of patience through the process.

A year is an OK amount of time, it’s about average, to build a custom home. But I was trying at some point to show off and try to get it done early, understand the construction background. That did not pan out.

And thankfully, when we started, we had the lumber company call us back in February 2020 and said hey we’re hearing that lumber prices are going up, do you want to lock in your lumber order? Which is one of the biggest expenses of a house, that and the concrete.

And so we had this massive order that just went in, then two weeks later, I can’t make that up, lumber prices doubled, which would have blown our budget totally. We wouldn’t have been able to build. We were just blown away on that one. That one was really fortunate for us.

And as we started to talk to builders about building it, then all of a sudden everything went into lockdown. And the prices we saw were crazy because everybody was trying to ramp up and build two at a time. We were just getting really high bids, so we sat down and talked about it, and thought, if we could talk with sub-contractors, we could build it on our own without having to hire a builder. And I could manage the day job and all as well as building a house because we could work from home.

What COVID has allowed us to do is all the things that we were doing before that took a lot of time to do, things like the commute, traveling for work, all the kids activities, all those things completely changed and became super localized.

I know it sounds weird, this is kind of what we did for fun. The kids would come over, they’d play on the dirt hills. They were all part of it. That was our jam for a while. This was the fun thing to do.

It’s tiny blessings. And we kept them remote for school. I just felt like that made us closer, and at the same time, they are able to appreciate this whole thing. This was a lot of love and labor.

I was just glad that the trust that Iris put in me to do it and to build it, ‘cause it’s not a cheap endeavor. That was a big investment for our family to build it. I told my friend this the other day, he lives in Thailand, he’s like dude, how did it go? You pulled it off.

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 when I didn’t have to fix anything or whatever, and we were all just hanging out in various spaces, and I was just like, this is totally worth it. It’s totally worth it.