Art deco blends seamlessly with modern chic in Robert and Becky Hughes’ auto dealership cum loft
Sometimes, it’s a few great finds that set the tone for a home’s design vibe. (A tableful of Eames chairs, for example, has inspired many a mid-century makeover.) In other instances, a bustling family’s need for streamlined function drives planning and decor. But every so often you come across a special space, one that settles into an aesthetic all on its own.
Ten-foot ceilings, walls of windows and stunning downtown views were built into the bones of Robert and Becky Hughes’ Union Hill condo, evoking a pre-war New York townhouse. Sprinkle in octagonal columns and the fact that the 2,500 square foot unit sits toward the top of the Greenlease Cadillac Building (a 1918-erected structure that housed K.C.’s first crop of Caddies), and it’s obvious why Jan Kyle and Doug Wells, of the firm Kyle Wells Design, chose to top everything off with art deco and modestly modern touches.
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“This place,” says Kyle, “was just calling for that look.”
Although it’s easy to get caught up in its coolly graphic, 1920s New York feel, the Hughes’ home is in no way a strict period piece. And museum rules—no touching, no laughing, no living—certainly do not apply. The serene and familiar ebb and flow of rooms, along with a tailored choice of dynamic yet livable pieces (the Hughes’ granddaughter’s favorite perch is a Kyle Wells-designed reproduction art deco arm- chair) translate the home’s iconic style into comfortable, easy living designed for today.
“Doug is a phenomenal big thinker, and he never allows a detail to go by,” says homeowner Becky Hughes. “Jan is uncanny when it comes to working in pops of color, and they’re both very smart about era.”
The designing duo doesn’t disappoint, igniting the impression of sleek, understated elegance from your first step into the condo’s circular foyer. It’s anchored by one of the building’s iconic octagonal columns faced with antiqued mirror to reflect the hand- made wallcovering and flanked with deco consoles topped with Asian fretwork mirrors and a pair of Barbara Cosgrove lamps.
This subtle Asian influence, which underscores Kyle and Wells’ design concept, continues in a nearby powder room where a painted Oriental motif by local artist Robin Case fills the walls, lit by a vintage hurricane that’s been redesigned as a suspended lamp.
Case’s handiwork pops up again in the dining area. A painted panel—a stylized interpretation of Diana the Huntress— hangs inside a rectangle of applied molding, giving the illusion of an original mural.
“That was our concept for the whole space,” says Kyle, “to look as though all the moldings, columns and cabinetry we added were original—as if they had been there for years.”
On the opposite wall the art is reflected by a grid of antiqued mirrors that do double duty, acting as a deco-era design element and expanding the room by reflecting the flood of natural light.
An intense, rich orange lacquer enlivens the office cabinetry and moldings, creating a jewel box of a room set in among the softer colors that anchor the rest of the home. The sleek shape of a vintage, glass- topped Pace Collection desk provides a substantial workstation without blocking views of the commanding wall.
Above, a contemporary crystal chandelier sheds a warm glow that tops off the room’s bold color palette. Hideaway doors lead from the office to a guest suite loaded with natural light. Kyle and Wells designed the custom headboard in this room to mirror the exotic pattern printed on the window shades made from Jim Thompson Thai silk.
In the living area, the view is the room’s true star.
“One of the challenges with something with this great of a view is to respect it and not overwhelm it with furnishings,” says Wells.
The team found perfect complements in the clean-lined wall of custom cabinetry (fronted with Kyle Wells Design’s signature “X” motif), the gold-leafed 1950s light fixture, sunburst mirror and fantastic punches of color via two mouth-blown Venetian glass turquoise lamps.
Turquoise accents also show up in the kitchen, in the chenille fabric covering the six barstools that frame the perimeter of a U-shaped “island.” The sleek kitchen cabine- try is coated in a custom metallic finish and repeats the Kyle Wells “X” motif.
Although Hughes has made it her personal aim to keep the local restaurant biz alive (“That’s always been my goal in life,” she laughs.), the kitchen still cooks. It unifies a number of the home’s design themes—deco motifs are reflected in the hood vent and the tiered, fabric-covered light pendant, while mirrors, innovative wood detailing (The wet bar cabinetry is constructed of cerused oak.) and skyline views also are prominent.
For her final task, artist Case created a branch mural for the master bedroom, a perfectly placed effect that sets the tone for the suite’s stylishly serene quality. Matching Barbara Barry end tables flank a custom– designed bed and are topped with soft blue vintage Murano glass lamps.
The subtle color palette continues in the master bath, now bathed in Carrara marble. It was redesigned to uncover one of the original columns and to make room for a soaking tub and separate vanity area—not to mention a powder blue ottoman perfect for sipping coffee on slow mornings together at home.
Thoughtful innovation like this and the foursome’s palpable affection for one another (plus an imaginative inventory of pieces, skilful technique and built-in charm) make the very most of a space that’s a little bit deco-era New York, a little laissez-faire European, and a whole lot of fun.
Kyle Wells Design
Interior Architecture and Design
Jan Kyle and Doug Wells