Inspired by her love of fashion, homeowner Carol Taylor transformed a Brookside bungalow into a black-and-white abode pared down to the most elegant essentials
“Simplicity,” said the late fashion icon Coco Chanel, “is the keynote of all true elegance.”
Simplicity is certainly the lifelong motivation for Brookside resident Carol Taylor, who effortlessly lives and breathes her own brand of elegance in both her work and private existence. The longtime Saks Fifth Avenue employee, now the Gallery Leader of the new Restoration Hardware store in Leawood, bought her current home—sight unseen—while living in Houston.
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The Tudor-style airplane bungalow was move-in ready, yet still had all kinds of potential. “I’m tearing out the ceiling in the living room next, to give it height,” Taylor says. “The rooms are very liveable, but compact.”
“I had family members check out the property before I put an offer on it,” she says, “but I fell in love with it just looking at the photographs online.
“The walk-in closet was really a selling point for someone like me, who has spent my life in fashion and retail. It’s bigger than the kitchen, which was fine with me. I don’t cook.”
Taylor says that she had never lived in a classic Kansas City Tudor bungalow before. “I like older homes and the unique characteristics of different periods of architecture. I like choosing a different style each time I move.”
Her current home is not the first Kansas City domicile for the peripatetic Taylor, who has also lived, over the last two decades, in Tulsa, New York City, Laguna Niguel and Houston. But her three bedroom and two bath Brookside bungalow may be one of her smallest residences (if you don’t count the 850 square-foot condo she owned in Laguna Niguel or her 575 square-foot apartment in a New York brownstone) and certainly more compact than the home she had in another Kansas City neighborhood. That house—a traditional colonial—she says, was simply too big for her and her beloved 14-year-old black pug, Miles.
Miles has his own room, by the way, one of the few in this house that departs from Taylor’s black-and-white theme; this room is painted in a creamy gray. “It’s actually a guest room,” Taylor says, “but Miles believes it is his.”
Taylor signature black-and-white combination is established almost immediately. Once passing through a tiny entrance—which still boasts the original basket-weave tile floor in black, white and turquoise—the living room is dominated by monochromatic photographs by Los Angeles artist Barbara Higgins and vintage pictures of 1940s Union Station taken by her late uncle Lloyd Thompson.
This room is in keeping with the original style of the 1931 house with a stylish Art Deco fireplace, Lucite tables, and a massive plaster bust of a strikingly handsome male—a dead ringer for French film star Jean Marais (a longtime of friend of the legendary Chanel)—a treasured find from a shop inside an offbeat café in Laguna Beach; Taylor calls the chiseled bust “Blake.”
“I’ve learned that every time I move, I need to edit. I don’t keep things. I take things that I love and can’t live without, but I can be a tough editor with myself. If there’s no place for certain things, I don’t take them with me.”
Still, Taylor is passionately attached to her books, her collection of photographs, and certain keepsakes, like the throw pillows created out of vintage Chanel sweaters.
Like most Depression-era bungalows, the first floor of Taylor’s home leads visitors from one room into another, railroad flat style: the living room flows into what had once been a tiny dining room. After stripping all the original honey-colored oak floors on the first floor, Taylor had them all stained ebony. The striking contrast inspired her to turn the dining room into a comfortable TV room with walls painted a saturated black.
“I still entertain,” she says, “but not with a formal dinner party. I prefer cocktail parties where my guests can move from room to room or to the outdoor patio.”
After so many years of moving from city to city, Carol Taylor thinks her latest house may be the place where she nests for a long time.
“I was ready for something small and manageable and close to my friends and family,” she says. “I think this is it.”
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