Laurie Ingram has lived in her Stratford Gardens house for 18 years, but there is still something special about arriving home.
“I never thought I’d live in a house like this. I still drive up and go, ‘This is cool. I like it,’” says Ingram.
She and her husband, Chip, bought the house when they had two small children and only enough furniture to fill one room. They had lived in a smaller, more modern Prairie Village home and were looking for a place to raise their family.
They found a remodeled 1928 Tudor-style home and could not pass it up. With more than 25 leaded glass windows on the front, a sweeping wood and iron staircase in the entry, arched doorways and textured walls, the five-bedroom house was perfect for their growing family.
Recent owners had renovated the back side of the house, creating a family room, breakfast room, laundry space and more conveniently located kitchen. The front of the house had its original Tudor-style features intact. Little things like the recessed radiators, solid wood doors and travertine marble around the fireplace attracted their attention.
The Tudor provided something decidedly different for Laurie.
“I really love it. I grew up in a ranch, which I hated,” says Ingram. “I found them boring. I just found this house interesting.”
The Ingrams’ experience is a common one. Owners of Tudors use words like “comfortable” and “cozy” to describe their houses, which include a lot more ornamental features than many homes built today.
The area between the Country Club Plaza and 79th Street is filled with Tudors featuring brick and stone fronts, sweeping roof lines and steep gables. Many feature decorative half-timber and stucco cladding, impossibly high and intricately embellished chimneys, heavy wood front doors and diamond-shaped, leaded-glass windows.
According to architectural historian Cydney Millstein, even the Brookside shopping area at 63rd Street and Wornall Road features the characteristic half-timbers, brickwork and fancy rooftop embellishments, providing consistency and a “sense of permanence” for the area.
“They are very hard to modify. You have so much going on on the exterior, and they have held up so well over the years,” Millstein says. “We have (Napoleon) Dible and the more prominent architects and builders of the time to thank for that. They are charming houses.”
According to Millstein, all the prominent architects from the turn of the century through the 1930s were designing Tudors. The style revives the look of a grand English manor from the medieval period and refers to a cottage-style house as well as the homes that resemble castles.
Ally and Brad Cunningham were newlyweds when they moved into their Tudor-style home in Rockhill Gardens in 2012. Both had grown up in newer homes and wanted to live in an older part of Kansas City. What they found was a Dible-built home.
Dible built about 5,000 homes in the area in the early 20th century. He filled entire neighborhoods with his signature Tudor-style dwellings, which Millstein says gave people the opportunity to own nice homes that were affordable.
The Cunninghams’ home, which sits on a corner lot, may have been a model home for the neighborhood. It has many of the extra features Dible offered in his homes, including molding on the ceilings, textured walls and a small breakfast room with built-in china cabinets.
“We weren’t married to any one style house, but we really loved this house when we found it,” says Ally. “It has a lot of the old character still, but it has been updated and modernized in a way that makes it work for us.”
The house does not have the “open concept” she grew up with, but Cunningham says the more divided feel of the home provides a different benefit. The home creates its own magic during family gatherings.
“You can’t have everyone in the same space, but I think you feel a lot more approachable in a small space,” says Ally. “It’s such a cozy house just generally. I feel very relaxed here. The age of the house just makes it feel really warm.”
Like all style, the highly decorative features of the Tudor were destined to fall out of vogue. By the late 1930s, interiors began to take on a more practical feel — a precursor to the coming popularity of the ranch style.
Maggie Shine’s 1938 Tudor is more characteristic of what Millstein calls a “Minimal Traditional” home. It has Tudor features on the exterior but is pared down inside. People wanted simpler lines in the late 1930s and early ’40s, Millstein says.
Shine was not sure about the Tudor style when she first looked at the house in 1998. She had always lived in homes built with more of an elaborate Victorian feel, but she liked that the Tudor had a first-floor half-bath, laundry and front hall closet. It also had its original six-paneled doors, glass doorknobs and a stone terrazzo floor at the entry.
Shine was also drawn to the unique backyard, which is fit for an English cottage and was developed by a series of homeowners who were avid gardeners. Among the winding paths, little walls and unusual plantings, the house has a large pavilion. It sits at the back of the yard and is original to the home. Shine attributes its construction to Gus Rau of Rau Construction, the original owner and builder of the home. The pavilion has a roaster in it large enough to hold a whole hog.
“It is my understanding that when it was built there were no fences anywhere and he invited the neighbors over to square dance,” says Shine.
Shine describes life in her house as easy and relaxing.
“I just feel comfortable here,” says Shine. “It just feels like home.”