A Fine Balance

A landmark home in a landmark building is filled with exquisite antiques, but is comfortable enough for everyday living

The thing about living in a unique dwelling, surrounded by beautiful, museum-quality furnishings and rare carpets, is that the dwelling still needs to feel like a home. After all, no one wants to feel like a docent in his or her own living room or kitchen.

That was just one of the unique challenges for Kansas City philanthropist Adelaide C. Ward—the indomitable “Addie” from Canton, Ohio—when she combined two large units in the legendary apartments, The Walnuts, 17 years ago. After nearly two decades, the spacious suite of rooms is still a work in progress, a project that Ward points out is her first home “that’s all mine, done in my own taste.”

Ward purchased the two units in The Walnuts after the death of her husband, Louis, former president and chairman of Russell Stover Candies, in 1996. Guided by designers Bob Trapp and Daniel Houk of Trapp and Company, Ward arranged for the adjoining apartments in the 1930s building to be completely gutted down to the floorboards. The reconstructed single dwelling—with a splendid view of the 87-year-old English gardens—now boasts hand-buffed patterned wooden floors.

“The secret to the floor, which was laid by hand 17 years ago,” says Bob Trapp, “is that it’s relatively new, but looks a couple of hundred years old. Each individual piece of wood was stained, waxed and polished and installed by craftsmen before being pieced together and hand-buffed.”

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If the flooring simply looks old, the limed-pine paneling in the front rooms of the apartment is the real thing. Removed from an 18th-century English manor home, the paneling was shipped to the United States in three massive shipping containers; a template had been created of the apartment’s dimensions prior to shipping so that each piece would fit, like snug puzzle pieces, on the walls of the rooms. The molding and intricate dentil work were installed by workers fitting—with painstaking precision—each individual square and carved rosette by hand.

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These labor-intensive details slowed the process for Ward’s possession of her new home, but she used the time to travel to Europe—with Bob Trapp and Daniel Houk in tow—to purchase remarkable antique furnishings.

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A 19th-century English mahogany and glass display cabinet holds Ward’s collection of crystal and silver inkwells.
A 19th-century English mahogany and glass display cabinet holds Ward’s collection of crystal and silver inkwells.

“We had many fine pieces in our original home,” says Ward, “but I gave a lot of those things away. The only thing that I brought with me from our home on 57th Terrace was an 18th-century secretary that Louis and I purchased—our first big antique purchase—from the great antiques dealer Malcolm Franklin in Chicago back in the 1960s.”

The complete renovation of the apartment permitted Ward to enlarge and modernize the original dated bathrooms, install a modern kitchen (the other kitchen located in the former adjoining apartment is now a combination catering kitchen, storage closet, and gift wrapping room, with every ribbon, bow and roll of paper neatly and efficiently stored in its place).

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“You can’t create an apartment like this anymore,” says Trapp. “Not with this level of craftsmanship. It would take too long and be outrageously expensive.”

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Ward says that her home in The Walnuts took three years before she was able to move in and carefully place her collection of antique snuff boxes—all designed to look like wooden shoes—inside a built-in cabinet in the living room.

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Why shoes? “My children found the first one for me,” she says. “They’re supposed to bring good luck, they say. But we have shoes in our soul: my great-grandfather ran the Selby Shoe Company in Portsmouth, Ohio.”
Ward insists, however, that her home was designed for comfort—not show.

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“I don’t entertain like I used to do, but I still think you need to make your guests feel at home and not be terrified that someone will spill wine or drop something on the carpeting,” Ward says. “And if you are, you might want to think carefully about who you’re inviting over. It’s better to have a home than a museum.”

SOURCES

Flowers and Interior Design
Trapp and Company

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