A young Kansas City family spends every possible weekend at their nautically inspired, contemporary cottage with shiplap-planked walls on the shores of Lake Lotawana
Once upon a time—2007 to be exact—there was a busy bachelor with a law degree and an interest in financial planning and portfolio management. He also loved everything about boats and the water. One day, he went out on Lake Lotawana and fell in love with it, as so many Kansas Citians do.
“I contacted a real estate agent and said I was maybe interested in buying place in 5 to 10 years, if she had time to show me around a little bit,” he recalls.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The real estate agent, understandably, put him off a few times when more motivated buyers commanded her attention. One day when her time freed up, she showed the bachelor a tiny fisherman’s cabin, dark with aged knotty pine.
He bought it in 20 minutes.
Flash forward to 2011. This same financial planning guy, now with UBS Financial Services, is married to a girl he has known most of his life. They have two young daughters. And the poky cabin with no view and no washer and dryer doesn’t fit a weekend with kids.
“I sat my wife down with a glass of wine and I asked her to list what she would want in a house on the lake so she would want to go there,” the financial planner says.
She drank her wine and wrote her list.
The new house on the old site was finished in May of 2015. Calling on the design/build talents of Greg Smetanka, the resulting cottage makes the most of the lake view while making family life comfortable and enjoyable.
“We wanted a sense of arrival as soon as anyone walked in the door,” the owner says. “You have a water view first thing.”
The family also wanted a complete change in style from their more formal home with antiques in Mission Hills to a simpler, more open style with vintage touches in their weekend home.
“We wanted it nautical but not beach-y,” he says.
Dark wood floors and big windows are counterpointed by walls of finger-joint pine, painted a soft creamy white, in a style reminiscent of shiplap. Five-panel doors and contemporary lighting that harks back to the past give the open space clean lines.
“We wanted the main floor space to be a ‘family trap,’” he says with a laugh. “One open space where you can cook, dine, read, or just hang out together.”
In the kitchen, Kansas limestone counters softly glow under pendant lights that recall the covers on vintage glass cake stands. A small pantry hides the kitchen clutter of the microwave, toaster, coffee maker and wine refrigerator.
In the living area, overstuffed furniture pieces from Lee Industries in neutral fabrics keep the focus on the view. Seagrass rugs keep it stylishly simple. A stone-topped coffee table means no drink rings to worry about.
In the dining area, a farm-style table and chairs offer simple seating, right by the archway to what the owner calls “the transition room” to the screened-in porch and the patio. Framing the archway are two Seth Smith seascape oil paintings lacquered with a mirror-like acrylic finish.
Both the homeowner and his wife grew up in families that went to the lake—Lake Miltona in Minnesota and Lake Okoboji in Iowa. Mementos from those vacations help make the transition not only from indoors to outdoors, but from past to present. Needlepoint from the wife—coasters, door hangers, framed art—offers colorful reminders of family history.
Off the foyer, the master bedroom features a Woodard & Greenstein woven area rug underfoot. A long, horizontal Seth Smith painting and Serena & Lily bed linens add to the comfortable, weekend-away vibe.
On the top floor, the girls reign. The pink bedroom evokes Sea Island, Georgia, where the family spends every March. The yellow bedroom features a grandfather’s twin beds from his childhood room, now painted white. In the playroom, framed kids’ art, a loft, and a teepee suggest lots of fun to be had, even on rainy days.
With a financial planner’s sense of humor, the homeowner also designed what he calls a “Bear Market Retreat,” a room where he can clear his head from the stress of a down market. With a wine cellar and a beer refrigerator nearby, this room is lined with framed burgees (colorful flags from yacht clubs around the country) and features a dry-stacked stone fireplace. There is no television (thus, no reminders of the stock exchange) but there is a sound system where he can relax to Ben Folds or Jam Band.
“When we come here, it’s a complete departure from our everyday lives, in style and in activity,” says the homeowner. “We wanted it to seem timeless, to make it feel like this is a family place where our daughters might bring their families some day.”
Greg Smetanka Construction
All About Landscaping Service