Freedom of Movement

A ballerina’s Midtown home fits her like a custom-made costume

Every movement in ballet begins or ends in one of five positions.

But the movement is the thing, says former Kansas City Ballet dancer Lisa Choules.

After retiring from dance in 2009, Choules reinvented her career by starting a clothing business, Eleve Danceware.

“I wanted to make leotards and ballet skirts that fit and make you feel comfortable and beautiful,” she says. Choules had learned to sew from her mother and had started making leotards for herself after her second child was born. Her custom look was the envy of other dancers, and her business grew from that.

When a fire wiped out the 1920s Midtown home she shared with daughters Hannah and Zoe Scofield—and the lower level studio she used to create new designs—she had to re-imagine the entire space. It took a week to get her business going again but six months to get the house rebuilt. “We moved back in the day before Thanksgiving last year,” she says.

First Position: Exterior

Right after the fire, Choules contacted Jared Foster of StudioBuild, a design company that does space planning, design, and contracting—sort of one-stop shopping, Choules says. Using the same footprint of the original rock foundation, Foster worked with Choules and her ideas for a midcentury roofline, contemporary styling, and privacy for her daughters and herself.

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Designing in 3-D, Foster says he found ways to make “a little house seem bigger” with a soaring ceiling in the main living area, an upstairs balcony, and two enclosed outdoor spaces. “We wanted to make the home inviting but not open to the street or the park,” he says.

Keeping the budget in mind, he used a mix of exterior materials: painted corrugated metal, fiber cement block trimmed in aluminum, and an exotic Brazilian hardwood known as cumeru “to warm up the industrial feel,” he says.

Second Position: High/Low, New/Old

Foster also worked with Choules to get a high/low mix of Ikea and custom cabinetry, bleached maple floors and stainless steel.

“I didn’t want everything new,” Choules says, “so I found old things at River Market Antiques.” She added her own blend of vintage, midcentury modern furniture and lighting, flea market finds and curtains she sewed herself.

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Third Position: Main Floor

“I saw the Angela Adams rug, fell in love with it and took my colors from that,” Choules says of the wavy-patterned rug in aqua, cream, and green apple on the living room floor. Her design mantra? “You find one thing you like and you base everything else around it,” she explains.

Rod Parks of Retro Inferno helped her choose midcentury furniture, lighting and her favorite glass pendant lights in the kitchen. A midcentury armchair in the corner got a makeover in chartreuse green Knoll fabric by Kansas City Upholstery. Choules used vintage-patterned fabric from tonicliving.com for the throw pillows on her couch.

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“I just love the view from my toaster,” Choules laughs, turning from the back counter to look through the swirled glass pendant lights to the living room, the aqua front door, and the second-floor balcony above. High/low continues in the kitchen with Ikea cabinets with custom walnut surrounds by StudioBuild. A stainless steel countertop and KitchenAid appliances continue the sleek, modern feel. White quartz countertops, walnut custom accents, and Ikea piston barstools in chrome and white complete the sleek kitchen look.

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The dining room sports a feature wall of champagne bottle- patterned wall flats by inhabit.com and a George Nelson bubble pendant lamp. A glass and chrome dining table from Retro Inferno is surrounded by Eames “Eiffel” chairs in party colors. A tall metal James Bearden sculpture was a gift from Rod Parks.

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The calm master bedroom in shades of dark chocolate and spa blue features a master bath with custom walnut cabinetry and a shower with a custom glass door by Westport Glass. “Being a dancer, it’s a huge thing to have a Jacuzzi tub that you can soak at the end of a day,” Choules adds.

Fourth Position: Second Floor

The family area on the second floor features an Ikea sectional sofa, cube-like custom storage from StudioBuild, FLOR carpet tiles in shades of gray, and a color palette of dark gray with orange or teal accents. Hannah’s room goes the orange route, with a vintage B. Kliban cat affixed to one wall.

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Zoe’s room pairs teal with charcoal, using a Dali Decal of a dandelion for a feature wall.

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Fifth Position: Lower Level Studio

The aqua, cream and chartreuse theme continues to the lower level studio, where Choules works with new patterns and fabric for her danceware company. With its own mini kitchen and playful folding Blu Dot “Real Good” chairs surrounding a Saarinen-styled table from CB2, Choules can have a meeting or just spread out her kraft-paper patterns under an Ikea “Dandelion” chandelier. Choules splurged on glass tile in shades of charcoal, aqua, chartreuse and cream for the backsplash. A poured concrete floor in charcoal gray keeps this space functional yet stylish.

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Like a dance’s choreography, a home is all in “how you put it together,” says Choules. “For me, this new part of my life and our new/old house is all about freedom of movement.”

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