The first goal of any showhouse is to raise money for a nonprofit. The second is to give designers a chance to play with trends and showcase their design chops.
And many of this year’s trends have been skillfully applied by 15 local designers to put a fresh modern twist on a stately and traditional home to produce the 2014 Symphony Designers’ Showhouse.
They did so by mixing trendy furnishings such as cowhide rugs and neo-expressionist paintings with Italian provincial furniture and luxury fabrics inside a Jacobethan mansion in the Country Club District that dates to 1921.
Doors to the 45th annual showhouse, at 1256 West 59th St., will be open to the public for four weeks starting Saturday. Each of the home’s rooms, halls, gardens and even some of the closets have been decorated by a juried designer.
Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Kansas City Symphony Alliance.
Ann Hager, showhouse vice president, points out that this year is different than previous years because the homeowners, A.L. and Susan Summerlin, recently bought the house and are moving in afterward. Typically, the homes are in the process of being sold, so designers had more freedom to decorate.Designed for the dogs
Hager gave me a tour of the 8,000-square-
foot home recently. Several rooms were finished; some still unfinished; some, like the kitchen and bathroom, had been done by the Summerlins.
“This year’s owners wanted a cohesive flow between the rooms and the designers did their best to accommodate that request,” Hager said. “The owners also chose the paint colors and had already done a lot of work on the house including refinishing the floors.”
Stunning antique brass and crystal chandeliers were already in place in the foyer, dining room and an upstairs hallway, adding to the home’s traditional feel. Knapstein Design has covered the walls of the foyer, grand entry hall and staircase in ivory Eijffinger grass cloth wallpaper that looks like raw silk. The ceilings are painted a dark, dusty blue that matches the various pale shades of blue that the Summerlins chose for the rest of the house.
The west sunroom, which has been converted into an office by Picture Perfect Interiors, illustrates perfectly how to mix traditional with modern.
An Italian provincial desk and antique chairs are offset by a cowhide rug, a pillow encrusted with Swarovski crystals and a contemporary brass-rimmed ceiling light.
“Cowhide was everywhere at the furniture shows this year,” explained Brenda Freeburn, of Picture Perfect Interiors.
The same goes for brass, but this time it’s brushed and antiqued rather than polished, she added. Ten years ago brass comprised 20 percent of metal furnishings and 80 percent was something else, like pewter and chrome.
“Now it’s flipping in high-end finishes so that 80 percent of the metals are brass,” Freeburn said.
I felt like I was entering heaven when I walked into the living room.
The room, which John Rufenacht decorated, is enveloped by an ethereal blue ceiling and walls as well as white wainscoting and trim. A contemporary sofa, antique footstool and modern paintings containing pops of royal blue add a regal air.
The magic in this room comes from the way a metal sculpture on the coffee table and the neo-expressionist paintings of bunnies and parrots by Hunt Slonem play off a chest of drawers from 1765 and Scalamandre luxury fabrics that cover the furniture and the ceiling.
Lamps with shiny white bases and blue drum shades add a contemporary touch to the room’s four corners, as do the antique mirror pieces fronting the framing (lamberkins) around the large windows at either end of the room.
Nothing feels fussy.
“The lines of the pieces are cleaner and simpler, and there’s not a lot of pattern,” Rufenacht points out. “There was an effort to be restrained. There aren’t too many accessories, but what we do have counts.”
Ursula Terrasi of Terrasi European Collections Scandia Home used a similar philosophy in a second-floor guest suite.
The bed, swathed in crisp Nancy Koltes linens, is flanked by mirrored Oscar de la Renta night stands. Above them are panels with pieces of antiqued mirror angled to create a three-dimensional effect. The room is finished with a silky shag rug and a chair made of clear Lucite by Pedrali.
Susan Prestia of Interior Directions turned an oddly shaped third-floor room and bathroom into a combination office and guest room.
Prestia, who is known for her eco-friendly designs, used vintage and refurbished furniture. Accessories include a horse sculpture by Tom Corbin and a glass coffee table with a metal base crafted by local artist Asheer Akram.
Prestia’s clever use of mirrors in the bathroom and bedroom opens the spaces and adds glitz.
Students from the interior design program at Johnson County Community College have made a large third-floor room into a game room using vintage furniture, including midcentury modern chairs and a bar cart.
A closet in the room has been converted by Joan Melvin, a recent graduate of the program, into a doggie den that’s a complete hoot.
Melvin split the room into three zones to fit the personalities of the homeowners’ three dogs — Fiona, Beau and Jackson. Highlights include a tiny leather-and-steel sofa that looks like a Le Corbusier Grand Modele sofa; drapes made of dog leashes hung on tie-out stakes; and a vanity mirror with a small stuffed dog wearing a tutu and looking at herself. Her paw-dicure kit sits nearby.
Designer Karen Linville turned a tiny room beneath the stairs into a wine cellar that holds several dozen bottles of wine.
“Cellar Rat donated the visible wines and my husband drank everything else,” Linville joked. One bottle is propped in the antlers of a silver moose that Linville found at Wilson Lighting. A sign painted on the slanted ceiling states: “If you have to ask if it’s too early to drink wine, you’re an amateur and we can’t be friends.”Designer owners
The homeowner’s daughter, Caitlin Summerlin, is an interior designer, and Caitlin’s husband, Eric Oligschlaeger, sells real estate in Lawrence and restores historic homes. So the two took on the kitchen and master bathroom.
They worked with Kitchen Studio KC to redo the kitchen with Rutt Handcrafted Cabinetry, quartzite countertops and Wolf and Subzero appliances. A fireplace in the kitchen has been refaced from floor to ceiling with white stone tile mosaic. A small balcony overlooks an attached all-glass room that will be a breakfast nook.
The master bathroom also has Rutt cabinets. Summerlin and Oligschlaeger went through 78 slabs of Carrara marble until they found one with gray veining that would run down one wall, across the shower floor and back up and over a half wall on the other side.
The results at the showhouse are a testament to how skilled interior designers can gently coax a nearly century-old home into the 21st century.