A maisonette, by definition, is a self-contained living space or apartment, typically inside of a larger building, extending over two stories and with its own entrance. It’s not unusual to find such living quarters in Paris or New York, but they’re distinctly rare in Kansas City.
One of the few apartments in Kansas City that would pass as a maisonette is located on the ground level of the Sulgrave—the apartments-turned-condominiums at 121 West 48th Street—a split-level unit with both an exclusive exterior and interior entrance, and a narrow hallway leading to a lower-level living room, dining room, laundry, kitchen, spacious private terrace and half-bath.
Four steps lead upstairs to three bedrooms and three baths. The unit was initially gutted by its current owners. They immediately renovated the kitchen and then hired Spanish-born interior designer Alejandro Lopez to bring his European sensibility to the remainder of the free-flowing apartment.
When the Sulgrave Apartments were completed by the J.C. Nichols Company in the late 1960s, the 20-story building represented the first truly luxurious apartment building on the Country Club Plaza in years. Located south of Brush Creek, behind a quartet of older apartment dwellings from the 1920s, the Sulgrave featured spacious rooms, balconies looking out over the Plaza, an enclosed garage, and doormen who delivered packages and groceries to the upstairs tenants.
The Sulgrave was converted into condominiums by a team of local investors at the beginning of the millennium: a multi-million dollar project that updated the very bones of the structure—balconies, heating and cooling, elevators, swimming pool—to a state-of-the-art dwelling.
The ground-floor apartment is unlike any other unit in the Sulgrave. Lopez was given the mandate of retaining the original 1960s simplicity of the apartment’s footprint while giving it a unique style that was both fresh and thoroughly modern.
With sleek finishes, Italian-made Calligaris furnishings, and a dramatic use of space and lighting, Lopez gave the apartment a cosmopolitan sophistication that sets it markedly apart from other high-rise dwellings on the Plaza.
“One of the challenges of this project,” Lopez says, “was that the apartment was like an empty canvas. The white walls needed to come to life.
“The owners wanted a very minimal approach, nothing too heavy. But sometimes creating the simple is more difficult than the baroque.”
Lopez created contrasts within the apartment, utilizing darker shades for the flooring and finishes as a counterpoint to the stark white walls, which became, in turn, a private gallery for a collection of canvases by local Kansas City painters.
A wall separating the kitchen and dining area was removed to allow the kitchen to organically flow into the dining area—featuring a Calligaris glass-topped table that easily seats 12—the living room and the outdoor terrace. “We used Italian tiles in this area,” Lopez says, “to tie this big, open space together. It’s the perfect space for entertaining.
“The other challenge was to give the outdoor terrace an even greater sense of privacy using a natural palette of materials, including a screen of living bamboo, to create a very intimate space that could be enjoyed during the warmer months as another room.”
Relaxing was another key requirement for this apartment, says Lopez. The hustle and bustle of the Country Club Plaza is minimized by a living space that is, says Lopez, “a sanctuary from life outside of the building.”
The result is a stylish dwelling that’s both urban and urbane, in the very heart of Kansas City’s liveliest shopping and entertainment district. “There’s a very exciting energy to this apartment,” Lopez says. “It has a personality all its own.”
Studio Dan Meiners
Alejandro Home Design