Couple trade in California house for Lawrence home with huge yard and loads of childhood ‘magic’

photo by: Mike Yoder

Tobin Parr carries a May basket outside his family's home at 4405 W. 12th St.

Lauren and Zach Parr loved their home in California, but in 2018 they began to consider trading it in for one in Kansas.

One reason for that was that Zach’s mother, of Topeka, was sick, and he wanted to move closer to her. Another reason was that the Parrs had young children, then ages 3 and 1, and the couple were starting to imagine what their childhoods would be like. In California the skies were often smoggy, and the Parrs’ house was next to a busy road.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Parr family, 4405 W. 12th, includes parents Zach and Lauren and their children, from left, Lulu, Wendy and Tobin.

“It wasn’t really safe for (the kids) to go out without me, but projecting forward I wondered when I would feel safe about them going out. Probably never,” Lauren says. “There was all this traffic. Tobin was still a baby — a year and a half — and when you have a baby you’re so worried about things like is the baby going to get asthma because of all this pollution? Kansas doesn’t really have air-quality issues.”

Amid these considerations was the reality that Zach’s mother had been newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and he felt helpless to assist her from so far away. Still, the Parrs were not actively looking for a home in Lawrence on the night someone shared a listing with them on Facebook. That didn’t stop them from becoming instantly enamored with the house.

Living more than 1,500 miles away, the Parrs were unable to look at the house in person, so they sent a relative to scope it out.

“We had Zach’s dad come over and look at the house that night,” Lauren says. “He FaceTimed us around, and it looked like a good house. … it had all of these lush things, and it solved all of those things that had been on my mind, that I had been worried about.”

The Parrs bought the two-story four bedroom home at 4405 W. 12th St. before they were even able to step inside, certain they would love it based on video tours and photos.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Because the Parrs’ house is surrounded by many trees and is high above a nearby creek, the owners can almost imagine that they live in a treehouse.

They purchased the house in the summer of 2018 but couldn’t move until fall; they were waiting until Zach had secured a job as the senior aviation software engineer at Garmin. Zach has since switched jobs and now works as a senior game play engineer for Activision, which he does from his home basement office.

The house sits on a half acre lot, and a creek runs down its property line.

“That was such a big motivator for me to have a huge yard,” Lauren says. “All this overgrowth makes it feel very natural. The neighbors cut all that down, but we like it. It makes it feel so private. I guess I was looking for that magic of childhood — the ability to explore and feel free without really having to go far. The kids are down there (at the creek); they’re in yelling distance, but they feel like they’re alone.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lulu and Tobin Parr have little spots in the woods — not far from their front door — where they like to play.

On the main floor inside the house is an open-area living room and kitchen.

“I love the kitchen, the island, the way you can have a lot of people in there at once,” Zach says.

Socializing is important to the Parrs, and their large kitchen and open areas provide ample space for guests. The kitchen has multiple shelves for dishes and decor, and there’s a spacious pantry too. The refrigerator is integrated and stylishly set in the wood cabinetry.

photo by: Mike Yoder

The spacious and bright kitchen at 4405 W. 12th St. includes a large island.

Because of the multiple windows in the dining room, natural light often bathes the entire area. The Parrs recently had a third child, Wendy, who has started crawl.

“Now that we have Wendy too, and she can crawl around, having the main floor being totally open is wonderful,” Lauren says. “She can’t get trapped somewhere, and she can see us so she feels comfortable moving around.”

The dining room doubles as a classroom for the Parrs’ oldest child, Lulu, 6, who is homeschooled.

“The dining room table is where we do all of our schoolwork because that’s where (Lulu) wants to sit, in that big bright room,” Lauren says. “The kids do a ton of art at the dining table.”

photo by: Mike Yoder

With windows on three sides, the dining area at 4405 W. 12th St. offers many views of the large backyard.

The four bedrooms are all upstairs, and two of the kids’ rooms have window seats.

“That is something I loved about the house when we saw it,” Lauren says. “I just thought, what a sweet way to have a kid’s room.”

Tobin, 5, says he enjoys having his own room, and Lulu says she loves the “secret hideaway” — a very small room downstairs in the finished basement.

photo by: Zach Parr

Lulu Parr climbs the wall of the “secret hideaway” room in the basement at 4405 W 12th St. while a strobe light flashes in the background.

“It’s like my art studio kind of,” Lulu says. “It’s a secret room. It has my desk, my drawers, my Karaoke machine.” She and her friends “tell scary stories and make confetti and stuff like that in there.”

Lulu and Tobin also love to play in the yard by the creek at least a few times a week in warm weather, and it won’t be long before little Wendy is toddling after her brother and sister.

The house was built in 2007 and renovated in 2012; the renovation involved installing a custom wall made of skateboards. A few years after renovating, the former owners sold the house for a bigger home. The Parrs’ home is nearly 3,000 square feet, and Lauren and Zach can’t imagine ever outgrowing it.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A stairwell in the home at 4405 W. 12th St. is decorated with tiles made of pieces of skateboards.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A built-in refrigerator in a wall of wood cabinets anchors the home’s large kitchen at 4405 W. 12th St.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Lulu Parr plays in her family’s living room at 4405 W. 12th St.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A cozy library and TV room is located adjacent to the living room on the first-floor at 4405 W. 12th St.

photo by: Mike Yoder

Because the house at 4405 W. 12th St. is surrounded by many trees and is high above a nearby creek, owners Lauren and Zach can almost imagine they live in a treehouse.

photo by: Mike Yoder

A window seat in Lulu’s room is one of her favorite places in the Parr home at 4405 W. 12th St.


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