photo by: Mike Yoder

Tena Santaularia’s home at 1303 Ranchero Drive features a unique design and the use of a variety of materials and colors. A garage is pictured at upper right, with the main living space running the length of the first floor. On the second floor, at left, is a bedroom. An outdoor deck is visible at center, above the first floor.

Tena Santaularia didn’t need to see the house at 1303 Ranchero Drive before purchasing it around four years ago. She had already fallen in love with it.

Four years prior, the house had been on the market “and I probably drove the Realtor crazy because I think I looked at it three times,” Santaularia said. But at the time, she wasn’t ready to move. When she saw the home was on the market again four years later — she said she couldn’t believe it — she made an offer on the spot.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Tena Santaularia moved into the 1303 Ranchero home over three years ago.

1303 Ranchero Drive was designed and built by Kenton Knowles in collaboration with the home’s first owner, artist and University of Kansas professor emeritus Gerald Lubensky. The home was completed in 2005.

The outside of the home has an industrial look. It is built out of RASTRA, a Styrofoam and cement mixture. The roof and exterior cladding is metal on the second floor and stucco on the first floor. The wooden entrance door that faces the street is surrounded by a wall painted electric blue.

“We even had it repainted and people were like, ‘Are you going to get a neutral color?’ And we were like, ‘No, it’s kind of the signature of this house,’” Santaularia said.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A colorful and contemporary design at the entrance to the home of Tena Santaularia, 1303 Ranchero Drive.

The entryway of the home looks out into the main living area below. As one descends the stairway, Santaularia’s home — with its heated, concrete floor and exposed ceilings — comes into full view. There are few walls to divide her kitchen, corner TV nook, dining room and living room.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The entry to Santaularia’s home opens to a second floor landing area and a spacious space and view to the living quarters downstairs.

When Santaularia toured the home all those times eight years ago, she loved the home’s architecture and the combination of Knowles’ Swedish style with what she considered Lubensky’s Santa Fe, earthy vibe. The daughter of a woman who collects rustic pieces, Santaularia also has an affinity for anything of the earth.

Despite owning a lot of decorations, Santaularia makes an effort not to overcrowd her rooms.

“The architecture is so interesting that I really didn’t want to clutter it with a lot of stuff,” she said.

The dining room features two rakes from the 1800s that were part of her mother’s collection and now serve as wall decorations.

“I’ve had those for years and I wanted something simple, just of the earth, to put up there,” she said. “That’s my little nod to her. She’s 92 years old.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Ceiling beams and the wood flooring of a second-floor bedroom are exposed above the living areas on the first floor of Tena Santaularia’s home at 1303 Ranchero Drive. On the dining room wall, two rakes from the 1800s hang.

Across from the dining room is the kitchen, which Santaularia kept original “because it was really the taste of the architect, from what I’ve heard.”

The kitchen has white tile countertops, white cabinets and a bright blue tile backdrop behind the sink and stove top area. Santaularia has some of her pots hanging on hooks above one of the countertops and brightly colored artwork on the windows. She called the kitchen “funky.”

“This is my bright, fun room,” she said. Most of the others she tries to “keep close to nature.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Tena Santaularia’s well-lit kitchen includes a skylight and south facing wall of windows, as well as a large island and blue tile backsplash behind her sink and stovetop.

That’s certainly the case with the living room, which is a few steps down from the kitchen and dining area. Santaularia’s living room has a lot of plants and more neutral-colored decorations. She had the fireplace redone in the living room. In the winter she begins her days drinking tea beside it. The living room also has large windows which give a view of the neighborhood pond to the southwest.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A few steps below the kitchen and dining room, the living room has a higher ceiling. A 8 foot-tall standing mirror, seen in the background at far right, helps the room appear larger and mimics the similar sized window at left.

“What really sold me on the house was the view,” Santaularia said.

The second floor of the home has a deck that overlooks the pond. In the spring, Santaularia said she puts her plants out there.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A view from the second floor outdoor deck includes Santaularia’s backyard and a neighborhood pond to the southwest.

Santaularia enjoys living in her “quiet and peaceful” neighborhood. She said her visitors are often surprised that her home, which is close to Bob Billings Parkway, almost feels like it’s located in the county.

“It may not feel like that forever but I sure enjoy it now,” she said.

Santaularia has lived in Lawrence ever since she moved here for college in the ’70s. She is known for her business, Balloonarts, which specializes in balloon creations for corporate events and themed parties. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down her business, which was okay with Santaularia. She said she is semi-retired.

Santaularia said she never thought about leaving Lawrence following her college years because it just felt like home.

“It’s kind of like when I walked in this house,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, I could live here.’ And same with Lawrence…this is home.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

There are few walls to divide living spaces on the first floor of Tena Santaularia’s home. Here is the corner TV nook, which is adjacent and open to a dining room and kitchen nearby.

photo by: Mike Yoder

This second floor bedroom used to serve as Gerald Lubensky’s art studio.

photo by: Mike Yoder

An area for plants is tucked into one end of the living room near a ground floor exit to the backyard.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A second floor outdoor deck is located between a second floor bedroom and the garage.

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This Journal-World feature takes readers inside interesting Lawrence homes. Have a suggestion? Please contact us at [email protected].

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