After a successful career in L.A., a Kansas City native returns to town and an art- and light-filled condo in the Sophian Plaza
Stephen Rose left Kansas City the day after he graduated from law school to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. He spent the next 25 years working as a writer and director’s agent and feeding an addiction for restoring landmark houses. Two years ago, the pull of family and a revitalized Kansas City lured him back. Fortunately, he didn’t have to give up his passion for design.
“I live for art and architecture,” says Rose, so it’s no surprise that he settled into the Sophian Plaza nestled just west of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and a stone’s throw from the Country Club Plaza and Crossroads. “I bought the apartment about a year ago,” he says. “It’s probably one of the best residential buildings in the country.”
The space is polished but not overdone. Just above the tree line with large windows on three sides, the apartment is flooded with light. Rose has approached the space with an educated and exacting eye.
The entry is small, but Rose has played with scale here. Two larger-than-life vintage drawings of boys engaged in the joyful pursuits of baseball and hula hooping stretch from baseboard to crown. They offer a warm welcome reflecting Rose’s own fond memories of growing up here. “I bought them from Christopher Filley. They’re likely the work of a Kansas City Art Institute student,” he says. A dramatic chrome-and-zebra mirror reflecting a large Chinese urn completes the space. “I like a mix of vintage and modern,” says Rose.
While Rose brought some of his favorite things from his former homes in Ojai and L.A., he’s become acquainted with many of the local antique and art dealers. His living room features a sophisticated mix. “Rod Parks at Retro Inferno has an amazing inventory. We operate the same way. He buys what he loves. I do what I love. You hope when it comes time to sell it someone will want it, but it doesn’t matter.” Seemingly, both their philosophies and tastes align. Rose purchased a Paul McCobb sofa from Parks that defines the living room. The graphic Chuck Arnoldi painting above the sofa came with Rose from California. Perhaps surprisingly, he purchased the signed Andy Warhol from a local source. “I bought it through Dirk Soulis. I was thrilled.”
He was thrilled, too, to find the Frank Lloyd Wright chairs that came from the Sondern-Adler house in Kansas City. “Those I bought through Wright in Chicago. It’s so great to be able to bring them back home.”
Rose likes to entertain and has designed his dining room to accommodate both intimate dinners and a crowd. The Florence Knoll cabinet provides a base for the Donald Sultan piece above. The fluid curves of the sculptural urn from the Santa Barbara courthouse are juxtaposed against the colorful Larry Rivers painting just above.
Rose’s study is the most traditional room in the apartment and he says it is very nearly the same as it was in Ojai. The photograph is the work of a friend. “I originally saw it as an eight-by-ten and asked him if he could blow it up. Now it looks like the road goes on forever. It’s a stretch of highway near Salina. I love it.”
While the bedroom has a calming energy, there is nothing timid or bland about it. A sleek vintage rosewood chest happily coexists with a bold and colorful chest by Raymond Loewy, who is often credited with being the father of industrial design.
Rose’s home is in sync with his feelings about his hometown. “Culturally, the city is so rich. The Kauffman Center is terrific and the theater scene is simply amazing.” Rose has recently gone onto the board of the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. “It’s crazy. I used to act at the Rep as a kid,” he says.
He’s energized by the resurgence of Crossroads, the Westside and Roanoke. “People are moving back into these neighborhoods and renovating or building. It’s hip.” Rose has no second thoughts about his move. “I worked in a tough environment. I had a great adventure. But what I am is a kid from Kansas City. I’m happy to be home again. And I get to hang out with my dad. It doesn’t get any better than that.”