You’re invited into the homes of those who design homes

With the Performing Arts Center beginning to take shape downtown, and the Sprint Center and the Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art still garnering praise, architecture has a high profile in Kansas City now. But what’s going on in residential architecture these days?

A tour next Sunday sponsored by the local chapter of American Institute of Architects might go a long way toward answering that question. The four homes on the tour were all designed by the architects who live in them (see box on E4 for tour details).

Two of the homes are new and two are complete rehabs of houses built in the late 1800s. “It’s interesting to see the very different approaches these four architects took,” said Greg Sheldon, an architect at BNIM and a member of AIAKC.

“In most cases the architects were working with very limited or fixed budgets, so it’s interesting to see the innovative design ideas they came up with to make it work with the dollars available,” Sheldon said.

All four of the architects said they viewed their homes as a kind of laboratory in which to experiment with new ideas.

“Architects have a higher tolerance for risk than most clients,” said Doug Stockman, an architect at El Dorado Inc. in Kansas City and owner of one of the tour homes.

Architect Randy Kietzman, owner of RJ Kietzman Architect in Kansas City, put cork tile floors in his home after years of not being able to talk residential clients into using them. Ditto for the charcoal brick on the exterior of his new home, which is on the tour: “I had a sample of that sitting around for 20 years and nobody wanted it,” Kietzman said.

Kietzman’s wife, Jane, says the couple settled on a design in less than a week. One thing she likes about the home’s design is the unity of all the elements. “Most people want to use every idea they’ve ever had when they build a house. Architects are less likely to make that mistake.”

Even though designing and building their own home from scratch is a dream for many architects, Laura Lesniewski of BNIM chose to rehab an old home in an old neighborhood instead.

“I think reusing an existing building is very cool,” Lesniewski said. “I also did a lot of salvaging of original materials, and I made the house very energy smart and water smart.”

Lesniewski’s home, on the tour, features a dramatic rain screen on the back of the house that minimizes the amount of water hitting the house.

Some of the architects say that although designing and building their own home is a dream, actually doing it doesn’t necessarily bring a sense of completion.

“You’re constantly seeing what you want to tweak,” said Jamie Darnell, an architect at El Dorado Inc. In addition to being a stop on the tour, Darnell’s new copper-clad home is on the cover of the current issue of



“I think all the time about how the next house would be different,” Darnell said. “It would have floor drains every 6 feet and hose spigots all over. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to hose down your floors?”



: Four homes owned by architects will be open to the public. Two are new construction and two are gut-rehabs of old homes.


: All four homes are within a few blocks of one another on the city’s West Side. They may be viewed in any order.

•Darnell residence,

1507 Belleview

•Kietzman residence,

1845 Summit

•Lesniewski residence,

1736 Summit

•Stockman residence,

1628 Jefferson


: 1-4 p.m. Sept. 14

How much

: $5 per house, payable at the door. If you visit three homes the fourth is free. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.

More information:



: Architect Jamie Darnell, shown with wife Michele and daughters Judith, 5, and Maple, 3, raised the main level of his home so windows in each room frame views of leafy branches and sky.

Notable features

: A built-in desk that creates a home office in a corner of the master bedroom (pictured); built-in sideboards at either end of the open living area; clerestory (above eye level) windows that bathe the main level in natural light while preserving privacy.


: Architect Randy Kietzman and wife Jane often entertain on the roof of their three-story home, which offers a sweeping view of downtown.

Notable features

: An acrylic-covered stud cavity filled with old bottles unearthed during excavation (pictured); cork tile floors; interesting paint effects in bedrooms; honed marble kitchen counters; vintage mid-century light fixtures.


: Architect Doug Stockman, pictured with wife Amanda, daughter Sarah, 18 months, and dog Blue, gutted and rehabbed an 1890 brick two-story home to give it a contemporary open floor plan

Notable features

: Built-in under-stair storage (pictured); sections of exposed original brick juxtaposed with drywall; huge shower in master bath with clerestory windows that capture light and heat; loft play space in child’s bedroom; built-in “baby gate” at top of stairs; sliding screens on the lower level that block access to the front door when the toddler is in the living area.


: Architect Laura Lesniewski tried to maximize energy and water efficiency in her environmentally friendly renovation of her hundred-year-old home.

Notable features

: Radiant heat floors; use of salvaged wood throughout the home; dual-flush toilets; rain screen on the back of the house.

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