Native Californian Jason Elm has been an enthusiastic Chiefs fan for years, but he and his wife, Suzanne Steele, had never considered making Kansas City their home. Both are from the West Coast and had made California home for themselves and their two daughters.
But when a friend called Elm to let him know that Kansas City has more to offer than Arrowhead, and that Barkley, a local advertising agency, was looking for an executive creative director, their game changed.
“We had just moved to Tiburon,” says Steele of the town just across the bay from San Francisco. Kansas City was not on her radar. “I mean, I was working on the launch of the Apple watch. I thought there was about a three-percent chance that I’d want to move.” But the couple came to visit, to get a feel for the city and determine if it could be a good fit.
The couple was excited by the creative community in Kansas City and impressed by the people and the neighborhoods.
“This is one of the first houses we saw,” says Elm of their Reinhardt home. The house had everything on their wish list.
“We wanted a great room where we could hang out and a guest room for when family and friends visit,” Steele says. The finished basement and garage space for Jason’s vintage Volkswagen bus were a bonus. “This house had everything,” she says.
But the finishes, which were of good quality, were not to the couple’s taste. Their real-estate agent recommended designer Laura Norton. “I’ve done a lot of work in Fairway and Reinhardt, and Suzanne was able to see a few of my projects, so we knew it would be a good fit,” says Norton. “She and Jason are terrific. We had a great time making the house theirs.”
The original palette of the interiors was primarily browns and earth tones. Heavy curtains blocked the natural light of the generous windows.
“We just wanted to lighten it up. To make it more modern. Honestly, our houses have always been modern. I thought we’d end up in a ranch,” says Steele.
The first decision they made was incorporating a color scheme of gray, black and white. The rest of their decisions fell into place from there.
The double-height living room offers a calm retreat at the front of the house with its iconic modern furniture. The patchwork cowhide rug provides a touch of Midwestern grounding, while a quintessential photograph by Slim Aarons above the fireplace winks at the California dream.
The dining room’s clean lines are courtesy of Jonathan Adler, whom Steele admires. The chandelier is Adler’s design, it’s shiny chrome providing a more modern sparkle than a traditional crystal chandelier. The Parsons-style table, with its clean lines, anchors the room, while the metallic glint in the rug provides an additional hint of glamour.
The kitchen/family room is where the family spends most of their time. While the kitchen had been designed with quality materials, it too needed a lift. They removed dark stone from the kitchen backsplash and replaced it with crisp, white subway tiles. The cabinets, which had also been dark brown, were painted gray, creating a soothing look alongside the stainless appliances and white marble countertops. A crisp, Greek-key wallpaper in the breakfast area accentuates the couple’s fresh aesthetic.
The generous, finished basement allows for all the “extras” the family wanted. Elm, a consummate do-it-yourselfer, created the credenza in the media room from Ikea cabinets. The couple dedicated one room as an art studio for their girls. “It’s their sport,” says Steele. There’s room, too, for Jason’s pinball machines and Evel Knievel memorabilia, including an x-ray of the daredevil’s broken hand. “I just thought he was the best action figure ever,” says Elm.
The upstairs bedrooms required mostly paint and paper. Old Hollywood provided the inspiration for the couple’s master bedroom. The rich wall color makes the space intimate and serene.
A lot of the project was completed before the family moved. “We did a lot via Face Time,” says Norton. “They are such a fun, hip couple. I was able to get a lot done before they moved. They drove into the driveway, and I opened the door and basically said, ‘Surprise! Do you like your new home?”
“We love it here,” says Steele. “Everyone is so friendly, and our neighbors are so welcoming. People have gone out of their way to welcome us. It’s been the ‘extra bump’ to being in a great new place.”
Studio Dan Meiners
FURNITURE & LIGHTING
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Laura Norton Designs