A 1990s contemporary gets a reboot for the 21st century
As the Westside evolves, its original—and often renovated—Victorian houses happily become neighbors with the sleek contemporaries popping up alongside. In one corner of the tight-knit neighborhood is an envy-inspiring block that sits on a bluff just above the old stockyards and the West Bottoms, where the trains run just along the river. It’s here that Laura Robinson recently purchased a relatively new addition to the neighborhood and made it her own.
“I had a house in Merriam and a house that I had built in the country. I was ready to simplify my life,” Robinson says. In the course of putting her house on the market her agent suggested she come see what turned out to be her new home.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
“I fell in love with the view,” says Robinson of the knockout panorama that draws visitors in as soon as the front door opens. It was this connection to the soul of Kansas City just beyond the terrace that led Robinson to make some changes to a house that she immediately adored.
“I had designed the layout of the house in the country and did the decorating there. But with this house I knew I needed someone to help me take the design a step further. That’s when I decided to call Alejandro,” she says of Kansas City designer Alejandro Lopez.
“There was a fireplace in the center of the living-room windows and a sash that cut across the other windows. I just didn’t want anything interrupting the view,” she says. With this as a starting point, Lopez began to make her vision a reality.
The original design had been completed in the 1990s. The woodwork was dark and there was dark tile on the entry floors. “Alejandro suggested changing the tile in the entry,” Robinson says of the new pale stone.
“I suggested taking out all the natural wood tones that were everywhere,” Lopez says. “I wanted to go with white. It’s fresh, new, clean. The art pops beautifully.”
If the home has something of a gallery feel, that’s not a coincidence.
“I’ve loved art my whole life,” says Robinson, who is a collector, photographer and paper artist herself. The house is filled with paintings, prints and sculpture that she has collected here at home and on her travels.
The clean structure of the house and the crisp backgrounds create the perfect setting for art that is often colorful, lively and engaging.
The same could be said of her cheerful orange sofa and sleek chairs covered in a multi-hued Pierre Frey fabric in the living room. “I sit and watch the sunset in here every night,” she says.
Robinson enjoys entertaining and has friends over often. An enthusiastic and adventurous cook, she wanted the kitchen to be both functional and inviting. Sleek, white cabinets and open shelves are punctuated with colorful glassware and dishes. “I’m a naturalist,” Robinson notes. “I just love sunlight and color.”
The dining room table just beyond is home to an Extremis Arthur dining table. “It fits together like a puzzle,” says Robinson of the table that seats ten and can be used indoor or out. “It’s amazing. It’s basically held together with about five screws.” A Rex Ray lithograph graces the far wall, but Robinson is not interested in only collecting art by well-known artists. “I buy what I like,” she says. “It might be in an art studio or a coffee shop in Lawrence.”
The main floor is also home to the library and the media room. The Calligaris bookcases in the library hold her books without making the room either heavy or staid. “I like to include surprises,” she says of the clear acrylic stag’s head in the library. “Some people don’t even notice it until they get a little closer.”
The colors of the media room are more complex than the rest of the house. “We really wanted to complement the colors in the photographs,” she says of some of the pictures that she took during a trip to Bhutan.
Upstairs in Robinson’s master bedroom one wall is covered in Timorous Beasties Butterfly wallpaper, a floral that is anything but granny or twee. The highlight of the master is, again, the view, though its corner windows on the front of the house offer a different perspective. “When I’m lying in bed I can see downtown all lit up at night. It’s fantastic.”
The rest of the upstairs, too, including the bathroom and a cozy second floor lounge, received Lopez’s careful attention. “I wanted a happy house,” says Robinson. By all accounts, it appears she got her wish.
Studio Dan Meiners
Alejandro Home Design