A Kansas City couple enlists the help of Chicago designer Michael Abrams to update a 1930s Tudor for modern living
Rob Gray and Rob Adams moved to Kansas City two years ago. The couple met in Chicago and later transferred to Toronto. It was from the Canadian city, and a series of apartments, that the men moved back to where Adams had grown up. But it was the renovation of a Brookside Tudor that made Kansas City home.
“I’ve lived in a lot of different cities—San Diego, Las Vegas, Chicago, Toronto,” remembers Adams, who started the LaMar’s Donuts franchise in Las Vegas, which he eventually sold to Andre Agassi. He made later moves with Microsoft before he and Gray decided to settle in Kansas City, where he’s the president and CEO of Bishop McCann. The couple was ready to buy and make a home their own.
“Our last apartment was 1,500 square feet, which was huge for Toronto,” says Gray, a principal in the landscape design firm Hoerr Schaudt headquartered in Chicago. “We were excited to be here and we knew we wanted to be in this part of town.”
The couple purchased the house from empty nesters and while it was slightly dated, it had been well-tended. Still, while they felt the changes would be mostly cosmetic, they wisely enlisted their friend and Chicago designer, Michael Abrams. “Michael and his partner have been some of my best friends. I knew it would be a great process,” says Adams.
“Rob had always said that when they settled down I would do the interiors,” says Abrams. Upon seeing the home, he was pleased that the house had such strong bones and that, to a great degree, they would mostly be focusing on surfaces.
One of the advantages of coming home for Adams was being closer to his family. “This project was a great opportunity,” he says. “My dad is a craftsman and he always told me when I was growing up, ‘Someday you’ll own your home and I’ll do something to make it really special.’ We’ve had some of our more personal moments while we were working on the house together.”
Adams’ father, Robert Adams, did all of the woodwork in the house including custom bookcases in the den and stunning cabinetry in the dressing room.
“When Rob said, ‘My dad can do this,’ I was worried,” remembers Abrams. “I mean, what was I going to do if it went badly? But his craftsmanship is remarkable. I was blown away by his level of detail and perfection.”
With all the players in place, the renovation began. “They wanted transitional clean lines,” says Abrams, “which worked well with the masculine feel of a Tudor.” Abrams and the couple relied on a neutral palette to create a cohesive look throughout.
The living room, an artful combination of texture, relies on a soothing but interesting gray that brings out the veins in the marble of the original 1930s mantel. A low daybed defines the room at the entry, but its openness sends a welcoming message. Come in. Sit down. Relax. It is the perfect mood for a couple who loves to entertain.
This itch to gather family and friends means the dining room is not a cavernous catch all for bills and ephemera, but a spot to talk, laugh, and engage. “We were overwhelmed by how welcoming the neighbors were when we moved in. Everyone on the block came out to greet us,” says Gray. When the pair learned that the previous owners had hosted a cookie exchange for the block every year for decades, they resurrected the tradition.
When the “Robs” (as friends call them) are not traveling or working or entertaining, they are relaxing in the den. “It was a screened porch originally and enclosed—probably in the 60s,” says Adams. The men, with the help of Robert Adams and Abrams, created a perfect cocoon to unwind and rejuvenate. “It’s basically the House of Cards room,” says Adams of the Netflix political drama to which the pair is addicted.
The major renovation on the house took place upstairs. In order to create a generous master suite, bath and dressing room, Abrams reconfigured the original master bedroom, sitting room and closets. The old master bath was combined with a previously added upstairs laundry room and the original maid’s room became the new spot to wash, dry and fold.
The team touched every room. The kitchen, which had been renovated by the previous owner, was the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place when they refinished the floors and painted walls and trim.
What’s next? “The yard!” says Gray, aware that the lovely lot is his version of the cobbler’s children’s shoeless state. There’s no doubt the couple will coax beauty into this outdoor space, just as they have inside.
Michael Abrams Limited
Wood Wallcovering, Inc.