House & Home

Symphony Designers’ Showhouse showcases work in 1925 English Tudor

For this year’s Symphony Designers’ Showhouse, By the Blade landscaped the grounds to match the English Tudor style of the home at 444 Westover Road in Kansas City.
For this year’s Symphony Designers’ Showhouse, By the Blade landscaped the grounds to match the English Tudor style of the home at 444 Westover Road in Kansas City.

Even the prettiest homes sometimes have rooms that are blah. You know the kind: four plain walls with no crown molding or other architectural features to dazzle the eye.

That’s not the case with the 47th Symphony Designers’ Showhouse, which opens Saturday at 444 Westover Road in Kansas City.

Local designers have decorated 23 rooms, hallways and landings in the three-story, 6,000-square-foot home in a variety of contemporary and traditional styles that jibe with the home’s provenance. The 1925 English Tudor home has all the old-style characteristics that make a house warm and worthy of showcasing.

But several of the volunteer designers amped things up a bit by adding architectural features or working around awkward ones, as was the case in two of the home’s five bedrooms.

Susan Prestia of Interior Directions was responsible for the parlor to the left of the foyer. It’s a small room with large windows that Prestia outfitted with what she calls “cantonneriers,” an arcane term for floor-to-ceiling boxes built out around a window to create a seamless line and add dimensional interest.

The previous owners had left behind ready-made drapes on cafe rods that were visually lowering the ceiling, she said.

“I put a little spin on it with the cantonneriers, because the house has a period design. There are no solid walls in the room and so it looked smaller. Absence of line makes the space appear larger. A lot of people thought there were low ceilings, but they’re 102-inch ceilings.”

Prestia worked with woodworkers to create the cantonneriers, which required trim that matched the profile of existing ceiling moldings.

She also placed two tall, narrow metal sculptures by local artist Tom Corbin near the windows to draw the eye up. A painting by Corbin of a woman in a yellow dress against a turquoise background adds a splash of color to the otherwise muted colors of the room. It sits atop an ivory-colored contemporary credenza by Prama Mobili Italia.

“A way to freshen any room is to add modern art with traditional furnishings,” she said.

Prestia also played with architectural lines in a children’s room on the second floor that was a plain box with four large windows on two walls.

She had Hunter Douglas, which donates window treatments to the showhouse each year, hang two sheer blinds at the ceiling so each covered two windows. She then surrounded the windows with wide strips of a removable wallpaper by Wall Pops, from Brewster, that matched the room’s gray walls.

She furnished the room with a rocking chair from a flea market painted bright orange to match a teepee from Land of Nod, a glowing stool light and a nylon chair from Ikea. A mobile light fixture from the Kemper Museum gift shop adds a sophisticated yet whimsical touch above the baby crib.

Rick Ingenthron of Woodson Antiques & Interiors made a subtle change to the architecture in the living room by adding gold fabric cording to existing crown molding. He also took advantage of a common feature in older homes — picture railing — by using hooks and wires to hang all the artwork, including a wall-spanning antique tapestry.

The living room has an old European feel and contrasts nicely with the Hollywood Regency glam of the red, black and ivory dining room, which sits like a sparkling starlet on a stage a few stairs up at the back of the house.

The centerpiece and inspiration for the room is an Electra gold leaf pendant light from Wilson Lighting; it hangs above a large mirror-top table.

“We just loved that light,” said Kelly Stripling of Madi Mali Homes, which designed the room. “Every time we went to the shop with clients, we’d stare at it.”

To add more texture to the room, Stripling suspended the brassy gold starburst light through a 6-by-8-foot handmade relief panel that hangs by gold chains a few inches from the plain ceiling. The panel inserts with a leaf design, she said, are pressed paper squares typically used on walls.

The custom-built table belongs to Madi Mali owner Troy Moore, who designed it.

The tabletop is decorated with accessories, many from Z Gallerie, including a topiary of faux red roses, ruby red glassware, and gold and silver textiles. Traditional and contemporary chairs are mixed together around the table, including small ones with gold metal backs and white sheepskin seats.

Stripling brought a touch of whimsy with dramatic, black-and-white Hollywood-style headshots of Madi Mali employees in silver frames on one wall, with bright red mustaches, jewelry and eyeglasses drawn atop the glass with 3-D Puffy Paint.

A bedroom on the third floor illustrates how good designers can use awkward architecture to their advantage.

Kaarin Nelson, Susan Reardon and Amy Krause, students in the interior design department at Johnson County Community College, installed custom drapery using large upholstery tacks around two dormer windows, one of which serves as a backdrop for the bed’s headboard.

Krause says they saw similar ideas on the decorating website Houzz on how to work with dormers, then bought 24 yards of a linen-blend fabric from JoAnn Fabrics to create the trapezoid-shaped panels that fall in folds to the floor.

They also added trim to the lower portion of the walls to create the illusion of wainscoting.

The features add warmth, texture and interest to a room that would otherwise scream “Hey, I’m an attic!”

“It had pale green walls and hot pink curtain panels,” Krause said. “It was a kids’ space. We’re very proud of it.”

Kathy Weiss, owner of Midwest Design & Remodel — a regular at designing showhouse rooms — gutted and redid the master bathroom to include a spa shower covered in carrara marble, a freestanding tub and crystal lights from Wilson.

Kacy Childs Levin of Kacy Design Interiors has pulled in architectural relics from salvage stores, flea markets and Arhaus Furniture in Leawood to create a small yet stunning family study on the second floor.

The Kansas City Symphony Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes interest in classical music, hosts the showhouse each year to help fund the Kansas City Symphony and its programming, including youth concerts and activities, educational projects, social activities and other fundraising projects.

Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian: 816-234-4780, @CindyBGregorian

Symphony Designers’ Showhouse

Where: 444 Westover Road (same as 56th Terrace, between Wornall and Ward Parkway)

When: April 23-May 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday

Tickets: $15 in advance; $20 at the door

For more information:

Other architectural gems in Kansas City:

Rod Parks, owner of the home designed by architect Bruce Goff (and Retro Inferno), talks about preserving the integrity of his home's original design.

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

Carl Markus Jr. and Stephan Zweifler have spent the last 20 years restoring the Queen Anne style home built in 1888 at 425 Gladstone Boulevard in Kansas City. They have converted part of the home into a bed and breakfast called the, “Inn At 425”.

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