After living in a wide-open River Market loft for several years, Tad and Jessica Carpenter wanted to capture that open-concept feel in a new house they designed themselves on an empty lot near the Country Club Plaza.
As designers and co-owners of Carpenter Collective, a design and brand identity studio with clients ranging from Boulevard Brewing Co. to Coca-Cola, they should have found the process easy. But it took 2 1/2 years.
“We both like to design space, and it comes naturally to us,” Tad says. “It was hard for us to design our own house because we agonized over more things.”
If the couple made tradeoffs, they don’t show in the finished three-story house, which is warm and welcoming, clean and uncluttered — and impeccably styled.
“We lean toward modern, clean lines,” Tad says, “but we like a mix of unique, even vintage, artifacts mixed in.”
Old movie posters and prints from the couple’s artist friends bring pops of color to the otherwise neutral space. It’s so flexible that Hallmark rents out the house for photo shoots.
“It’s because of the light,” Jessica says, “and it’s a blank canvas.”
The floor plan is designed as a true live/work space, with bedrooms upstairs, living space on the main floor and a studio in the walk-out basement. At first, Jessica hesitated about officing at home.
“I thought I would need to go somewhere every day, but once I got into a routine, I quickly loved it,” she says.
The Carpenters treat the studio as a completely separate space. Two part-time interns help manage the couple’s growing workload. They often take lunch breaks together on the back deck and meet with clients around the upstairs dining table.
Clients and interns often “become part of our family,” Tad says. “It’s common in husband/wife teams to be like, ‘Guess what? You’re part of our marriage now.’ ”
The convenience of running a business out of their home has a flip side: The Carpenters are the definition of workaholics.
“Anyone who runs freelance knows there are no hours,” Tad says with a shrug. He also teaches courses on design at the University of Kansas two days a week and makes up those hours in the evening or on weekends. Sundays are reserved workdays.
“It’s my most productive day by far,” Tad says. “There are no clients calling. I’m just taking care of business.”
He likes to park in his regular office chair, but Jessica prefers to take her work to other rooms in the house because the change of scenery “helps me feel like it’s a weekend,” she says.
Although Jessica joined Tad only last year — and left a job she loved for 10 years — the arrangement has worked out smoothly.
The designers share a similar whimsical style but excel in different areas. Jessica is a whiz with typography, while Tad is known for illustrations.
“What we love most is designing and making things,” Tad says.
The Carpenters have dreamed of working together for a long time, “but it wasn’t until I was working around the clock that we knew it was time to move forward,” Tad says.
“Working together has been great,” he says, because he and Jessica have created a stress-free environment where they can be completely honest with each other.
“In other environments, you spend more time working with people you don’t want to,” Tad says, “and not with your best friend and wife.”
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