A few years back, Krista and Kurt Scholla began thinking about building a new master suite away from their children’s bedrooms in their midcentury ranch home in Fairway.
It would be vital, they thought, to maintaining family harmony as Finn, 9, and Violet, 7, neared their teenage years.
The idea, at that time, was to convert a guest room in the attic, and that would be that. But then things “snowballed,” as Krista puts it.
Their basement flooded, they came to realize that the steep stairs to their attic were dangerous and the Kansas City Royals went to the World Series two years in a row. (More on that later.)
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Today, the Schollas, owners of The Bunker in Westport, live in an architectural gem with a central staircase that’s a piece of art.
The floating steel flights of stairs are built around a 25-foot tall metal screen that rises from the basement through the first floor living room to a loft space on the second floor. Diamond-shaped cutouts are configured to look like cubes giving the metal wall a look of geometric lace.
According to Kurt, it creates a spectacular light show at night when cars drive by. Their headlights shine through the home’s front windows, through the diamond cutouts and cast moving shadows on the walls.
“It’s basically the showpiece of the entire house,” Krista adds.
But back to the “snowballing” of the remodeling plans, and the Royals going to the World Series in particular.
“We had lines out the door (at The Bunker),” says Kurt, referring to the retail rush for anything and everything bearing the Royals logo during the postseasons of 2014 and 2015.
The significant bump in revenue combined with the insurance settlement for the flooded basement suddenly left the Schollas with more money for a renovation a bit flusher with money than expected. So they began googling architects and loved what they saw on the website for Studio Build.
That’s when redoing the flood-damaged — and outdated — basement bar area began morphing into something more extensive.
“It wasn’t an immediate shift in plans,” says Jerad Foster, co-owner of Studio Build. “We first asked them to list what they didn’t like about the house, and through that process we realized that the ceilings were low in the back of the house — they were about 8 feet high.”
The ceilings at the front of the house were 9 feet high, which made redesigning the first floor as an open living space difficult, if not impossible, Foster adds.
“As soon as we decided to raise the ceiling, we realized we wouldn’t save a ton of cost, so it made sense to take it down to (the studs on) the first floor in this area,” says Kurt.
Or as Krista says: “We figured if we were going to do the basement, we needed to move stairs from the far end of the house, and if we moved the stairs we needed to redo the kitchen, and if we redid the kitchen we needed to shear the roof off because the ceilings were all different levels.”
The result is that the middle of the house is now a modern box separating two pieces of the original ranch, one containing the home’s three original bedrooms, the other the garage.
And where there was once a wall separating the living room and family room, there is now a double-sided fireplace covered with three-dimensional gray tiles. It’s abutted by custom-built, floor-to-ceiling walnut cabinetry with open shelving on top.
The kitchen, which is open to the family room, has cabinetry spanning an entire wall from floor to ceiling as well as upper cabinets and a large island all made of the same walnut as the case shelving near the fireplace. In fact, walnut build-outs surround the passageway between the combination living and dining room space and the kitchen and family room space, making for a seamless transition between all four spaces.
The lower cabinets have royal blue Formica doors and the backsplash comprises diamond-shaped tiles configured to create the same illusion of cubes as the metal wall near the stairs.
The crisp lines and geometric shapes play nicely with the Scholla’s collections of new and midcentury modern furniture and lowbrow artwork by Camille Rose Garcia, Tim Biskup, Mark Ryden and Beejoir.
The three bedrooms in the original section of the ranch got fresh paint jobs. The former master suite is now Violet’s room, while the other two bedrooms serve as Finn’s room and a workshop/playroom.
On a sidenote: There was a 300-gallon saltwater fish tank in the home that required eight people to carry out during renovations. Also, Nick Lowery, the famous kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, once owned the home and likes to drop in and tell stories about happenings in the basement bar.
At the top of the new staircase, a loft area has been turned into an office space for Krista and Kurt. Krista spends a lot of time there designing graphics for merchandise at The Bunker. Next to the office is the large master bedroom at the front of the house. It has a large expanse of floor-to-window glass offering access to a narrow balcony with wire and steel railings and views of the Kansas City Country Club off in the distance.
“One of the things we said we definitely wanted was a wood ceiling,” says Krista, looking up at the vaulted ceiling in the loft space covered in dark, heat-treated poplar boards called Cambia. It continues throughout the master suite and onto the home’s exterior overhang. The wood also serves as exterior siding, tying the inside to the outside.
It helps create a zen-like feel in the master bathroom which has geometrically textured white tile walls and dark gray tile floors. A long skinny trapezoid window near the ceiling allows a bit of natural light into the room, which features a large glassed paneled shower, stand-alone tub and a dual vanity made of the same walnut as the cabinets on the first floor. A toilet closet hides a surprise behind its door: a urinal that Kurt begged to have.
The suite is rounded out with a large walk-in closet.
The basement turned out to be a surprise for the Schollas, who decided more than halfway about 2/3 of the way through construction that they were tired of picking out finishes and turned the decision-making over to Jerad and his team.
“Unlike with a lot of our clients, we have very similar tastes,” Jerad says. “But it was the first time a client had done that so it was a lot of pressure. They could’ve said, ‘We don’t like that. Take it out.’ They didn’t know exactly what we picked but they ended up liking it.”
The new custom-built bar in the basement continues the geometric theme with a backsplash and bar-front comprising diamond-shaped walnut tiles that create a three-dimensional3-dimensional look. The footprint in the basement changed almost as much as the main floor, thanks to the relocation of the staircase and elimination of supports for a previous fireplace on the main floor.
The 12-foot-long bar has custom walnut cabinets similar to those in the kitchen and a limestone waterfall countertop lit from beneath. Six Eames molded plastic bar stools in different colors add a splash of color.
A shuffleboard table with a lit scoreboard sits nearby along a wall, with a lighted scoreboard above it and a lounging area with comprising a fireplace and sofa and chairs faces a pull-down screen and video projector. The basement ceilings have been painted dark gray to make them recede.
A hallway heading to the other end of the basement features a six-foot tall sculpture of Paul Frank’s Julias, a cartoonish monkey, and several large framed posters hand-painted for The Bunker by Shepard Fairey, the graffiti artist who created the iconic Obama Hope poster.
A large bathroom at the other end of the basement contains a steam shower tiled in multiple colors and a cedar-lined dry sauna.
“Our big part of our lives is traveling the world. It’s our passion. But with all the changes in this house, it’s always nice to come home,” says Krista.