A former photo studio becomes a light-filled in-town getaway with stunning views for a Kansas City power couple
Longtime leaders in both Kansas City’s business and not-for-profit community, Peggy and Bill Lyons are no strangers to the power of connection. It’s no surprise that personal relationships have played such a key role in the design of Bill’s new office and the couple’s pied-à-terre in Kansas City’s emerging Westside.
“We ran into Nick Vedros at a fundraiser for the Nelson,” remembers Peggy of the local photographer and previous owner of the space. “Our children had gone to school together and Nick mentioned that he was looking to sell his studio.” While the couple is happily ensconced in a gracious Tudor, Bill had outgrown his office and was looking for new space.
Originally designed as a studio, the central space had soaring ceilings with clusters of rooms on each side for offices and model dressing rooms. “This was all a blank wall,” says Bill of the now two-story windows that frame one of the most interesting vistas in the city. Just beyond a small patio, the West Bottoms, Kemper Arena and the Livestock Exchange are all on view.
“It was too big for just an office, but we loved the location and the views,” says Bill. “I could watch the trains all day long. It really is planes, trains and automobiles.”
Once the couple could see that they would use the space for more than work, they began to think about the project differently. “We spend a lot of time downtown and in the Crossroads and we could see this as an urban retreat,” says Peggy. They both knew that they wanted something different from the traditional interiors of their home. “We didn’t want to change the exterior, but the inside needed to be dramatically different,” says Bill.
They approached Kevin Cowan of Kevin Cowan Architects to execute the project. “It was basically a blank space. We knew we wanted to incorporate more wood and natural stone,” says Bill.
In addition, while the house had a small galley kitchen, the couple knew that they needed a full kitchen that could accommodate a catering staff when necessary. As decisions on design, furnishing and finishes loomed, they turned to interior designer Lisa Schmitz. “She had worked with our friends Susie and Tom Corbin on their house and we loved what she’d done there,” says Peggy.
“I came in at the very beginning,” says Schmitz. “It was raw, commercial space. We started determining the function and layout of the kitchen and the master suite.”
Eventually, the vision began to become reality. The former studio is now a gathering space with a living area to relax and converse and a long conference and dining table. “We were having dinner with our friend Bonnie Kelly and she had the most amazing table,” says Peggy. “I knew something like it would be great and asked where she got it.” It turned out the craftsman was Kelly’s son-in-law, Bret Delka, of Delka Design. “It’s made from one walnut tree. The brass inlays are where the branches were.”
Like the table, much of the furnishing and finishes of the house were custom. “Because of the size and distinct aesthetic, a lot of what is on the market was either too traditional or too modern. We wanted it to be sleek, but earthy,” says Schmitz.
She was careful to consider lighting as well. While the large room works beautifully for entertaining and meeting, she wanted to ensure there was a smaller, cozier space to connect. “We kept the lighting low in the library. Even though it’s open to the gathering space, we wanted it to be intimate.”
This idea of balancing office and home led the team to keep the forms in the new kitchen simple. Full-height cabinets on the east end create a seamless backdrop and provide plenty of storage. The large quartzite island accommodates a caterer’s workspace needs, while remaining perfect for reading the paper with coffee in the morning. “We designed the kitchen as if it were a primary residence,” says Schmitz. “It’s the most functional, efficient kitchen I’ve ever worked in,” Peggy adds.
The second floor houses office space and the master suite. “Lisa had great ideas here,” says Peggy. “We love the wood wrap over the bed. It makes it feel like a cocoon.”
Schmitz offered perspective on opening to the outside as well. “I love throwing out quirky ideas. I suggested opening the sitting room wall to the outside and incorporating an indoor/outdoor fireplace.” The Lyons loved it. The patio looks out onto Jarboe Park, one of the oldest in Kansas City. While the west side of the property pulses with the grit of the city’s birthplace, the east offers a green, residential view. “You can see downtown from here, too,” notes Bill.
It’s the best of both worlds, with the Lyons right in the middle.
Kevin Cowan Architects
Lisa Schmitz Interior Design