Once Kirk Gastinger, a partner at GastingerWalker&, figured out how Judy Joss lives and what she wanted in her new home, he appointed Melissa Brown, a young architect at the firm, to be the home’s project manager.
Brown did the 3-D modeling of the home and detail drawings for Joss so she could get a clear vision of the final product. Brown also worked with Joss to pick materials, many of which were inspired by the cheerful yellow, handmade Moroccan tiles that Joss wanted on the kitchen backsplash.
“It was something she really loved, and it helped us build around the rest of the design,” Brown says.
Brown also designed one of the home’s most unique features: a two-story bookshelf that looks like it’s part of the home’s staircase, even though it doesn’t structurally support it. It was one of the more challenging aspects of building the home.
“Everything about it was custom in that it’s two-sided, has holes going through it, and a fireplace built into it,” Brown says. “In an initial conversation, Judy talked about her collection of art, artifacts and books and how at her previous place, she had a book wagon that was sort of like those Little Libraries. So this was something that was open, functional and a backdrop for her space, and it was inspired by that.”
When it came to designing the exterior, one of the things Brown kept in mind was the home’s surroundings.
“I wanted to make sure we got the scale right for the neighborhood and were sensitive to the historic nature of the neighborhood while capturing what Judy wanted and her personality,” she says. “I worked in Boston for eight years so I was used to working in very specific contexts. And context is everything.
“Sometimes with unlimited space, it keeps going and going and it’s hard to compose yourself,” she adds.
Brown says she’s inspired by the works of the Danish architecture and design firm Bjarke Ingels Group, which is known for ultramodern commercial, multifamily residential and public projects.
Brown designed Joss’ home with Gastinger, who is married to one of Joss’ good friends.
Brown, who graduated in 2004 from the architecture program at the University of Kansas, says her background is mainly in multifamily, mixed-use, commercial and higher-education architecture. She doesn’t get a chance to design a lot of single-family homes, so she calls it “a treat.”
“It’s always interesting to hear how people live and interpret what they want,” she says. “It’s hard sometimes. But when you have a good working relationship with the client, it’s also a lot of fun.”