Every spring, going back some 30 years, my mom and I have toured the Kansas City Symphony Alliance’s annual Symphony Designers’ Showhouse. It has usually been on Mother’s Day, and we have made it special by doing something we both loved: looking at houses.
I was impacted in many ways by those memories, both of my mom and of the impressive design features. When I was a preteen, it was always the nooks and small spaces that lit up my curiosity; now that I’m older, I never miss the kitchens or the sunrooms. And as a gardener, I pay close attention to the outdoor spaces and plant selections.
This year, the Showhouse will be taking its own trip down memory lane. The 50th anniversary house will be open to the public April 20 through May 12.
The 1922 Georgian-style home is located at 606 West 52nd Street in Kansas City, overlooking Loose Park’s rose garden. In an interesting twist, it is next door to the 25th anniversary Showhouse.
There are no hard and fast rules for selecting each year’s Showhouse, but the Kansas City Symphony Alliance generally picks a floor plan upward of 5,000 square feet with three stories and a large staircase. Sometimes the house is occupied by its owner, and sometimes it’s for sale (this one is).
The home must always have an interesting past: previous Showhouses were occupied by lumber baron R.A. Long, political boss Tom Pendergast and fashion designer Nell Donnelly Reed. This year’s home has been owned by Kauffmans and members of the Russell Stover family.
The Kansas City Symphony Alliance has found their Showhouses in 14 different zip codes around Kansas City, including the Valentine neighborhood, Hyde Park and even Longview Farm in Lee’s Summit, but South Plaza is a favorite.
Some past Showhouses have needed major reconstruction work, but this year’s home has been updated in recent years and has all new woodwork, windows and doors.
The kitchen was renovated by Kitchens by Kleweno in 2003 and 2013 and features a custom backsplash of swirling ginkgo leaves and a large copper ventilation hood. Louise Myers of Pryde’s Kitchen & Necessities will brighten the room with a fresh coat of soft green paint.
“The house is in fabulous shape; it’s more of a redecorating operation this year,” says Showhouse tour president Kate Hodel.
There will be 28 design spaces on three floors.
“The designers are a nice mix of old favorites and a couple new faces,” Hodel says.
The designers are tasked with pulling off a cohesive look without consulting one another.
“They all independently come up with their own palettes,” Hodel says. “I’ve seen a lot of blue with pops of color, like coral, on their design boards.”
Johnson County Community College interior design students have participated in the Showhouse for 35 years. This year, they are designing a masculine library on the first floor.
The top floor is a place for dreamers, its charm inherent in the spiral stair, angled ceiling, and dormer windows overlooking the treetops. KSS Design for KC is dedicating the space to women writers.
“It’s going to be the space you always wish you had,” says Hodel, who is herself a writer.
The back hall to the garage and carriage house features a wall of built-in bookshelves that will be set up to display all the tour guides from the last 50 years. Though the houses are always timeless, it can be a hoot to flip back 20 years and recall the interior design trends of years past.
The Kansas City Symphony Alliance has the longest-running Showhouse in the country and has contributed more than $5 million to the Kansas City Symphony. If you’d like to support their mission, tickets are $20 in advance at showhouse.org or $25 at the door.