A 1986 Briarcliff contemporary, once the home of New Theatre owners Dennis Hennessy and Richard Carrothers, has new owners and a new look.
“We are always looking for house projects,” says Ryan Hiser, a counselor for adolescents, couples and families. Just a few years ago, he and partner David Tran, a pharmacist, retooled a 1919 Colonial near the art museum.
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“That house was very traditional, so we’re doing a 180 with this one,” says Tran. “The Briarcliff house reminded us of one of our favorite getaways—Palm Springs. And we wondered how we could create our own paradise in Kansas City. You know how you just get a feeling that a house is right? Well, we did with this one as soon as we walked in the door.”
The gated community of houses is on a bluff overlooking the city. Each house is situated so that you get a feeling of seclusion, surrounded by greenery.
To maximize the view of the trees and the city skyline, Hiser and Tran decided to go minimalist indoors—deep black tile and Right White paint from Restoration Hardware, with texture from natural fibers and white oak flooring, plus green from indoor plants. Your gaze flits over the interior and then goes outside, and that’s just how they want it. “The outdoors is the art,” says Hiser.
The space is high on finishes and low on furnishings that might not be suitable in another house. “Another house?” asks Tran, pretending to be alarmed. “You never know,” counters Hiser.
“We keep the foundation pieces,” says Hiser, “and get rid of what we aren’t using. We put things on Facebook Marketplace, give or sell them to friends and family, or just rent a dumpster for a while. It’s very therapeutic.”
The living room shows their new aesthetic off to great effect. Black ceramic tile around the see-through fireplace and the vintage still life over it put a contemporary spin on traditional. But next week, there could be something else there. “If you move art to different places around the house, it seems new,” says Hiser.
Matching slipcovered sofas in Belgian linen from Nebraska Furniture Mart and jute area rugs from World Market add texture and are easy to keep clean. “People are always spilling red wine,” says Hiser. “I keep a can of white paint handy to do touchups.” A midcentury-style floor lamp that looks like it came directly from Palm Springs is actually from Target.
Between the living and kitchen is the sunroom, with a view of the secluded soaking pool and the growing green walls of the garden. “We can both have a crazy day at work, come home, grab a glass of wine and go out to the soaking pool and it’s like paradise,” says Tran. “It took a while to find this pool, but we love it,” says Hiser.
In the L-shaped kitchen, black lower cabinets from IKEA mix with contemporary still life paintings above, a Sub-Zero refrigerator, a wine cooler and the Bertazzoni range that is Hiser’s favorite. With that can of white paint handy, it’s a no-backsplash zone, just the white walls.
“It’s a long and skinny kitchen,” says Tran. “And we looked everywhere for akitchen island that would fit. We wanted to be able to look through it to keep the kitchen from feeling closed off.” They found that having a custom metal one fabricated and powder-coated black by Machine Head was cost-effective “and we got exactly what we wanted,” adds Hiser.
The dining room in their former house was a dark navy. This dining room goes dark charcoal. “Dark walls make a dining room feel more intimate,” says Hiser. They used theater-style drop lighting to highlight the metal dollar sign from Le Fou Flea in the West Bottoms and the 1966 Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup-printed shopping bag they found in California. The raw oak table and chairs are from Crate and Barrel.
In the media room, the original honey oak cabinetry took on the minimalist mode when they painted it black. A gray sectional is the perfect spot to watch television.
In the guest bath, a neon musical note, original to the house, soars to the second floor. “It was one of the things that sold us on this house,” says Tran. Black cabinetry and a bowl sink refresh the look.
Upstairs in the master bedroom, a graphic yellow, black, and white painting by Tran hangs above the black fireplace, picking up the black and white pattern on the bedding.
When evening comes and the view out of the windows fades, Hiser and Tran rely on good lighting to keep that “getaway” effect. “We both work in fluorescent lighting all day,” says Tran. “And you don’t realize how that makes you feel sort of on edge. Good lighting, enough lighting, makes you feel calm again.”
Every getaway needs a spa bathroom, and in their master bath, Hiser and Tran did something simple yet remarkable. They put green plants like philodendron that can take low light and high humidity in the black-tiled shower that has a small window. “It’s like you’re in the rainforest,” says Tran.
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