Location: Rosedale, in Kansas City, Kan.
Details: 1,800 square feet with basement; common area that includes kitchen, dining room and living room; 3 bedrooms; 2.5 bathrooms
The owners: John Iiams and Jenilee Borth-Iiams
Builder: Studio 804
Architectural details: The Iiamses are the first owners of their striking, barn-like house, but they weren’t involved in the design process.
They wouldn’t discover the house until 2011, two years after it was completed by Studio 804, a nonprofit program that gives University of Kansas architecture students real-world experience.
“I couldn’t believe it was still on the market,” says Borth-Iiams. “They just hadn’t found the right buyer. And it was a mix of the year and location.”
Also, she calls the contemporary home the black sheep of the neighborhood.
“Some people like it; some think it’s odd. We get a lot of lookies — people stopping and asking if it’s a house,” she says.
The Iiamses were living in a condo at the time they began looking for a place. They knew of Studio 804 and its projects because Iiams, an architect at Pendulum, had worked on a similar project while studying at Kansas State University.
“We kept bugging Dan Rockhill (director of Studio 804), then stumbled onto this house,” he says. “It was modern and clean. The floors were a glossy, black epoxy. From a practical standpoint, that probably turned off some people.”
The Iiamses fell in love with it at first sight, though Borth-Iiams was nervous about it being student-built. So they rented it for a year before buying it in 2012.
The home is certified LEED Platinum and is net-zero when it comes to energy efficiency. It has argon-filled, leak-proof windows throughout, solar panels on the roof, a wind turbine in the backyard, geothermal heating and cooling.
“So they get credited for that, because they’re pushing extra energy out on the energy grid. That was a new concept in the Kansas City area at the time,” Rockhill says.
Skylights on the north side of the roof work in tandem with windows on the first floor to create a stack effect — cool breezes in the summer — and the home’s huge south-facing windows collect passive heat in the winter.
“You let the sun warm the floor, so the concrete absorbs the heat and gives it off at night,” Rockhill says. (The Iiamses have since added gray carpet.) Conversely, louvers on a screen outside the windows have been angled to keep the sun from shining into the house when it is higher in the sky during the summer.
The Iiameses have made changes to the home, including covering the black floors with carpeting and tile. They weren’t so shiny after a couple of years of being tromped on by the Iiamses’ Great Danes, Oliver and Abner.
Plus, it didn’t quite feel like a home, they say.
They extended the kitchen island by adding a 14-foot counter top made of oiled walnut that matches the front of what appears to be a fireplace in the living room. It’s actually a hollow structure that Iiams built to add interest to a tall, plain white wall and to hide electrical cords for the flat-screen TV and stereo system.
“We loved the house, but there were opportunities to make it our own,” he says. “It was very museum-like when we first moved in.”
“It was hard to live in, kind of,” adds Borth-Iiams. “It was beautiful, but very pristine.”
“So your article will probably surprise (Rockhill) a little bit,” Iiams says, chuckling.