The Modern Lake Home

A Kansas City couple builds a contemporary stunner on Lake Lotawana

In early June 2012, David and Noelle Manica and their three children were invited to spend a night at a friend’s house on Lake Lotawana. The Manica family had been thinking about building a second home in rural Missouri but quickly changed their minds.

“We were out on the boat, and the kids loved it,” David Manica says.

“I knew there was going to come a day when we’d have to live somewhere cool for our kids to want to hang around with us,” he says with a laugh, “and this was it.”

They chose a traditional Kansas City getaway but not a traditional lake house.

“We wanted the house to feel light and airy with a distinctly modern feel—like something you would expect to find in LA or Miami,” says Manica. “It’s funny how everyone who walks in the door stops just after entering and literally says, ‘Wow. This place is huge.’ It was important that the main space of the home have incredible volume, with real height and space—belying the fact that our lot is very narrow—and we were able to accomplish that.”

Manica’s architectural firm designs soaring glass and steel stadiums, arenas and convention centers from Reliant Stadium in Houston and Wembley Stadium in London to venues in China, Japan and Belarus. The carryover from his commercial projects to this very residential one was both in the space and the finishes.

“In the sports world, you have premium areas for premium guests, and I wanted to use those same high-end finishes in our house,” Manica says.

Noelle Manica wanted “freedom of movement” for the family. “It was important to me that we could be together as a family and not be compartmentalized,” she says. And she didn’t want a ‘don’t-touch’ house. “We wanted clean and crisp, while still feeling soft and comfort- able,” she says.

Meanwhile, contractor Brian Faust kept hearing about this new house from his sub-contractors. “It’s the kind of stuff you do,” they kept telling him. So, after David Manica invited him to bid on the construction, a match was made.

For this project, “We knew we couldn’t pre-fab a 55-foot steel frame and drive with it along the twisting roads of Lake Lotawana. We had to figure out how to do it on-site,” Faust says. “And to get that open feel, you have to have the engineering with the steel and the mechanical performance for things like the fresh air intake, so the house always feels comfortable.”

When the house was built, the Manicas tapped Alejandro Lopez and his associate Eddie Michael Sandridge to make the furnishings as quietly luxurious as the house.

“To me, modern needs to go toward contemporary minimalism,” Lopez says. “It’s having the essentials to make the room comfortable and functional. Modern should feel calm, settled, and even soft.”

Now, as you drive up to the house, the rectangular fish ponds around the walkway, fed by water pumped up from the lake, give the first clue that this is a lake house extraordinaire. As you walk in the door, the sheer volume of the space dazzles. Everything looks toward the lake. Manica even made sure that the stair railings were “elegant yet invisible.”

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The dark floors of 6-inch rift-cut oak planks stained espresso help ground the space while the different shades of white on the walls help the light dance around during the day. The family has kept ornamentation to a minimum but collects works by local artists. They also love reminders of Venice, where David proposed to Noelle: the colorful Murano glass displayed on the mantel, and forcoles, the sculptural wooden oarlocks used on gondolas, are mounted and displayed as sculpture in the foyer.

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The main floor of the house includes the great room, dining room, open kitchen, elevated deck and the guest master suite. Lopez helped the Manicas choose a gray sectional sofa, a shaggy silk area rug and a sculptural armchair in dark walnut with dark gray linen upholstery from Calligaris in Italy. Decorative pillows are from Alejandro Home Couture.

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The dining room sometimes doubles as a conference room for Manica’s firm, so the walnut extendable table has a sophisticated
system that works with the push of a button to seat 14. The elegant chairs, also from Calligaris, have changeable black upholstery, a must for a lake house.

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“It’s not just to look pretty,” says Lopez. “It has to be multi-functional.”

The Cherner walnut barstools at the kitchen island sort of mold to your body as you sit. “Their design is so exquisite,” says Lopez. Custom white cabinetry and a steel and glass commercial shelving system keep the open and airy look.

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The upper floor has the main master suite (with a Japanese soaker tub) as well as two smaller bedrooms with a shared bathroom. A Lutron blackout shade system on the windows allows a good night’s sleep.

“Our children and younger guests are incredibly excited about the hidden ‘kids’ loft,’ accessed off the upper floor by a ladder, with a large Plexiglass window that looks down 25 feet into the great room,” says David. Noelle calls it “the fish bowl.”

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The walkout basement features the media room with a virtually indestructible yet stylish sofa and ottomans from Calligaris. A triology of Star Wars posters by British artist Olly Moss keep it fun. Furniture by Janus et Cie extends the modern look to the outdoor spaces.

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On weekends, David and Noelle Manica love waking up to the morning light off the lake, knowing they’ve got the entire day to spend as a family.

There could only be one thing better, says David—seeing their house from their new boat at sunset.

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