House & Home

Ed Tanner’s international style Bixby House was perfect setting for Paul Newman film

The sleek, modern home with its low profile and contoured lines stands out from its more traditional neighbors on State Line Road.
The sleek, modern home with its low profile and contoured lines stands out from its more traditional neighbors on State Line Road. Special to The Star

Location: Country Club District, Kansas City

Details: More than 9,000 square feet, including a living room, library, dining room, kitchen, breakfast nook, 4 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, a chauffeur’s quarters and a maid’s quarters; an in-ground pool and nearby cabana equipped with a full kitchen and bar; the finished basement is an additional 5,000 square feet and includes a movie theater, billiard room and bar.

Current owner: Maggie Jacobs, widow of Leon Jacobs

Architectural notes: Walter E. Bixby Sr., a successful insurance executive who helped establish Kansas City Life as one of the nation’s leading insurance firms, commissioned Ed Tanner to design and build a modern home distinct from its traditional neighbors on State Line Road, even though Tanner had almost no experience in modern design.

To rectify this, says Sherry Webster, a Realtor with ReeceNichols Real Estate who is selling the home for Jacobs, Tanner collaborated with Kem Weber, a designer and leading proponent of modernism in Los Angeles. The German-born Weber had been practicing in California for more than two decades and had developed an American modern style that was casual and relaxed, precisely what Bixby and Tanner were looking for.

The home, completed in 1935, is sometimes mistaken for art deco style because it shares a lot of the same anti-traditional elements. But it’s more pared down than art deco and therefore known as international style.

The first thing you notice upon entering are the frosted glass panes made by Lalique in the doors between the vestibule and foyer. Glass balls on the staircase balusters leading to the second floor are hand-blown Steuben glass (though there have been reports that they’re Baccarat).

Real-estate agent Sherry Webster gives a tour of the International-style Bixby House designed by architect Ed Tanner.

The exterior of the home has a low profile and contoured lines. Several portions of exterior wall are made of glass block to allow for natural light while providing privacy.

Scenes from the 1990 film “Mr. & Mrs. Bridge” were shot in the home. Maggie Jacobs was an extra in the film, and when she came to the set one day found its stars, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, sitting in the chauffeur’s quarters just off the foyer. After she and Leon bought the home in 1999, she named the chauffeur’s quarters the “Hollywood room.”

Jacobs is downsizing, so the home is on the market for just under $3 million.