Travel through history without leaving your living room. A discussion with local craftsman Scott Kaiser
It’s not surprising that Scott Kaiser’s designs masterfully blend function and artistry. An attorney by day and creative mastermind behind his company, Karte, by night, Kaiser himself beautifully blends creativity and analytical thought. We recently sat down with Kaiser to talk about his love of Kansas City history and the origins and philosophy behind Karte (German for “map”).
Kansas City Spaces: How would you describe Karte’s creations?
Scott Kaiser: Karte makes cartographic interior elements, including coffee tables and wall-mounted art installations. Each piece we create allows our customers to showcase a beautiful map in their living space, while making a statement about their own identity and connection to a physical place. Our coffee tables feature a detailed historical map image, etched in a tempered glass top and showcased on a solid-hardwood or stainless-steel base.
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KCS: Your tables blend function and whimsy in such a unique way; how did the idea come about?
SK: After reading J.C. Nichols’ biography, I started collecting Kansas City maps from the early 1900s and discovered that these maps helped me to share a piece of the city’s history with others. These old maps, with their period-specific fonts and features, are more than utilitarian lines on paper. They are art and they tell a story.
When I bought a house built in 1925 in Brookside a few years ago, I wanted a way to showcase these Kansas City maps and do them justice. Mounting a glass map in an elegant hardwood coffee table seemed to be the perfect solution.
KCS: And thus, Karte was born.
SK: Yes! I love the effect these map-tables have on people when they study them for the first time. I think people are drawn to maps because they invoke a sense of place—streets, neighborhoods, places you’ve lived or visited. And while things change, the layout always remains the same. An historical map—of a city, wine region or battleground—allows you to travel into the past and see early landowners, buildings, horse trails, springs, city limits, hidden tunnels, plats in proposed developments. I wanted to share this experience with others, so I started Karte.
Kansas City leader and developer J.C. Nichols believed in “planning for permanence.” He advocated for streets that followed the natural contours of the land instead of gridiron networks, and above all, he wanted to develop neighborhoods for those “who desired a better way of life.” Kaiser reveres these principles and finds inspiration in city maps that reflect Nichols’ ideologies.
Kaiser looks for city maps that have playful negative space and artistic fonts, borders and legends. Many of Karte’s maps come from private collections, the Library of Congress, public libraries and university archives. Karte can create custom maps as well and was recently commissioned to create an original map of the current Kansas City Country Club golf course drawn in a 1920’s style.
Dusk till Dawn
In the daylight, the delicate wood grain and intricately etched glass in each Karte creation is worthy of admiration. But wait until sundown. With a simple single-point light source, these tables instantly transform from functional furniture to works of art. With the flip of a switch, the finely etched historical map projects dramatically onto the ceiling, filling the entire room with neighborhood nostalgia.Photo by Ron Berg
Karte offers limited editions as well as built-to-order pieces in a range of beautiful hardwoods and metals. Customers can select a map from the Karte collection, provide their own or have a custom map commissioned. Find Karte furniture this spring at Coveted Home’s new location on the Country Club Plaza or visit kartecollection.com