Source: to be or not to be an architect (actually 7)

What a surprise to be leisurely  reading today’s Kansas City Star House and Home Section and to see a picture of my living room in it. I have written articles for the KC Star. The picture was a from a story about doors I wrote a few years ago. Hard to imagine pocket doors being trendy as they just make good sense!  I use pocket doors all the time in my clients’ homes. Pocket doors have come a long way from the fall off the track closet doors everyone mentions when a pocket door is introduced. First you need a great track which can be more than you think usually at-least $ 100 but can many times that for a barn door exposed track. The pocket door between my bedroom and bath/closet/dressing area my cat can open it with a single paw! We don’t lock it so she isn’t Houdini  but a very petite 11 pound curious cat! Pocket doors really do glide easily when properly  installed.

Kansas City Star 10 Top Trends. My living room pocket doors!

Kansas City Star 10 Top Trends. My living room pocket doors!

Here is the article about doors I wrote in Spring 2012 for the Kansas City

Star House and Home Section


Don’t forget the interior doors!

Doors are a key part of a new home design or a home renovation. Considering how many times a day an interior door is used careful attention is needed while deciding on a style or even size. I always stress to spend time selecting home elements that you will use and enjoy every day.  There are many styles, shapes and sizes of interior doors available.

Deciding on a door style can either be daunting or exciting. Often clients are surprised to learn that they have the option to select an interior door style for their home. If a door is not selected by the homeowner, the standard default of a six panel colonist hollow molded door is frequently installed.  A solid interior door with frame (stile/rail) and panel(s) is more expensive than a hollow door. Just one test swing at a home building showroom and clients are sold on the feel of a sturdy and beautiful door that can even bring back memories of an older home. Sometimes it is the first item to be replaced on a home renovation dream list when a client will mention their existing doors feel flimsy!

Even within a door style there are many options. Craftsman style doors with simple square detailing can have several panels within their frame or just one. There are many panel configurations available and just as many detail options.  What makes sense with your home? Do you want to dress it up with applied trim, accent arches with an arched top panel or quietly add detail with an elegant yet simple panel design?   

Once a door style is selected other features should be considered. The panels can be glass providing a   great solution where you need acoustical privacy but still want see into room and feel connected to the nearby activities. The glass doors can help create a quiet zone within the house for reading, homework or even to make a phone call while the adjacent room has a television or music playing.  

Interior doors can be pocketed doors to save space as they slide completely into a wall and out of the way which makes them a possibility for a small room, hallway or where wall space is at premium.  With the pocket door concealed in the wall it creates a wider clear opening which can be a benefit for access to bathroom, pantry or laundry where every square inch counts.

Even the numbers of doors in an opening should be thought through. Pair of smaller doors rather one large door or a bifold door can save space, frame the doorway and add interest. This works well in a formal dining room to create a separation from the kitchen but there might not be enough swing space for a single door to “park” in either room.

Doors can save wall space too if a full length mirror is desired in a bedroom, bathroom or closet. A single panel will easily allow a mirror to be added in the panel for a custom traditional look. Many doors manufacturers will allow the option of a mirror on one side when specified during ordering.

Even the size of the door should be considered. Compare what doors you have now to confirm what size works for you. Often larger bathroom and bedroom doors are currently being selected to accommodate future potential needs.  Take time to carefully select your new interiors doors and you will enjoy them every day!


House trinket found at my folks house. Not sure where it is from but I adore the handmade quality especially shape,  patterns and two inch tall size!

House trinket found at my folks house. Not sure where it is from but I adore the handmade quality especially shape, patterns and two inch tall size!

It was three degrees this morning my tile installer told me. He added that is without wind chill factored in. He was here promptly around 9 AM to finish grouting my kids’ bath. 2014 was the year of finally doing work around our own home. The danger of being an architect and also being married to an architect is that we can see the future. We can imagine it done so in actuality improvements at our own home tend to move very slowly.  Add in the fact that my favorite tradesmen are often busy building projects I have designed. It is hard to get them scheduled when I need them.


What does three degrees outside my favorite tradesmen and my own home have to do with a handmade house? Everything! As we wrap up 2014, I want to remind everyone dreaming about a new house or renovation and even those currently knee deep in drywall dust a house is handmade. What? Not in today’s machine made world. Not with everything being made across that big wide world in a factory. What could possibility still be handmade? While the actual building materials may have been machine made they are almost always placed or installed by hand. No robots were used at my house to replace windows, doors, trim, or tile.   Everything was installed by hand.


Getting ready to Install doors  by hand at my own house.

Getting ready to Install doors by hand at my own house.

I am repeating that phrase everything was installed by hand. Sometimes in the midst of a home project it is very easy to forget. Yes things can go wrong, things can go right, and sometimes projects can even take your breath away with joy when you see it finished! My kids’ wall tile was not on a tile backing matt mesh. They are individual 4”x4” and 6”x12” tiles that need to be placed one by one by hand. The smaller tiles were handmade which means there is variation in each tile. Variation requires extra attention when laying placing the tile.  It takes time and skills make that finesse to do it right. I appreciate that effort as I know my tile installers take pride in their work.


Handmade tile being installed by hand!

Handmade tile being installed by hand!

I tried to keep a list of everyone who has worked or built/produced any part of my small project. From salesman, delivery drivers, installers, inspectors etc. but there are so many it easily gets away from me. Even my tree trimmer had a crew of 8! I bet for my own small project it was easily over 100 people! The fine folk in Versailles MO who made my new doors by hand or the Seneca KS door and cabinet makers I didn’t even meet. Keep that in mind when any work is done at or on your house it can be three degrees outside and the show goes on! Somewhere, someplace there is a framing crew working by hand right now or a cabinet maker is building unique custom cabinets or a painter painting a hand selected the color choice or carpenter is installing trim just the way a homeowner wants it. All of them are creating a Handmade House!

Miracle on 34th Street is one of my favorite holiday movies. Christmas, Santa, NYC, great coats and a dream about a house! Does it get any better? Add in an apartment that has a view of the Macy’s Day Parade. Wow! I grew up in the suburbs so I always dreamed the opposite, an apartment in a high-rise with a view, a doorman, a butler and maybe a chance to play in THE park. The butler was actually from watching Family Affair!

I am not sure how many times I have seen this movie but it is always still exciting to see her run in the house and find the cane. It is a sign that her dream came true. It is her house. It was meant to be.

Sign of a “Dream House”

Wouldn’t it be great if all houses had a sign that this was the perfect choice? Often they do, with a great location, perfect floor plan a kitchen that works well, a spacious yard and a price that fits. Sometimes that sign can be elusive. There are more questions than answers: it might work if we add a family room? It could work if the kitchen was redone? Would it be perfect with a master suite? If it only had a bigger garage with mudroom!

I am often called by prospective clients who are deciding whether to buy a home that requires a renovation either small or whole home to make it work. Sometimes it is an easy answer, “Yes you have enough space to reconfigure the kitchen and it will work. Let’s design it!” Other times it is complicated and needs thoughtful design drawings to see if makes sense. If they already own the house, love the neighborhood, and the addition will make their home function better, the fee to develop a design makes sense too. You never know until you see the possibilities.

Sometimes the answer to buy or not hinges on what can be added or changed. I always recommend that clients step back and dream about what their perfect home would be and make a list. How far is the list from what is there? Our neighborhood is filled with well-built homes over 50 years old from another era long before jetted tubs, SUV’s and backpacks. Compared to new houses with tall ceilings, open plans and three car garages it can be tricky to transform these existing homes to compete with a new home. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense.

When dreaming about the home if the “perfect list” is very extensive it may not make sense. The second step would be where is the perfect house and is that where you want to live? Prioritize what are the most important spaces or features you need. Also create a list of why you are considering the home to buy, what features drew you to it? Comparing the lists side by side might give you the answers you need. With lists in hand, that cane just might appear in a corner to let you know this home is for you!

I am an #archimom to three teenagers. I can only hope they have fond childhood memories. My sole proprietor practice is residential,  single family homes with clients that become friends. I also teach a first year Environmental Design Studio at University of Missouri-Kansas City and print make in my tiny amount of free time.


My daughter and #archidad in front of her Bowdoin College Dorm. Stowe Hall 1996 William Rawn and Associates. Doesn't everyone know the architect for their child's dorm?! Notice the picture includes the entire building!

My daughter and #archidad this fall in front of her Bowdoin College Dorm. Stowe Hall 1996 William Rawn and Associates. Doesn’t everyone know the architect for their child’s dorm?! Notice the picture includes the entire building!

I work out of my home studio and often have client meetings at my dining room table. My children have shared the panic of picking up the house when a client calls to just drop by drawings impromptu. They have also been rustled from their beds early (9 AM!) on a Saturday morning to ensure they will be dressed when a client arrives. On the flip side they have traveled to vacation homes I designed, stared wide eyed many years ago when a client dropped by dressed as Santa and enjoyed living though many renovating projects over the years. To say it is unique to have a mom architect is an understatement. Add in the fact that my husband is an architect with his own practice doubles the odds that there will be a random sketch on the back of permission slip.

I thought about exactly how we made through the years with infants and toddlers while homes were were being designed and built. Some days it was sheer survival mixed with sheer delight!  I will work on a survival list sometime for #archimoms with small tots. The best tip for today: NEVER sign up, volunteer or be drafted for the decorations committee for any school/child event.   Don’t go there – Trust me! There are moms way more skilled with balloons, crepe paper, flowers, posters and such than I can ever hope to be. Truth be said my less is more design sense doesn’t translate well to school parties, carnivals, auctions, homes tours or banquets! There are plenty of other areas to help or volunteer or use your project management skills!!

Instead of a list of how to survive designing and parenting, I thought about my teenagers and what they experienced with their #archiparents!

Top ten signs your mom or dad is an architect:

  1. You never say cement “it is concrete”
  2. Your first day of school pictures might include the entire building
  3. The smell of drywall mud is comforting. You often wonder if they make a drywall mud scented candle.
  4. You always win at Jenga and built amazing block “structures” in preschool
  5. Your parent often wears black and always has cool glasses.
  6. You don’t know what wallpaper is.
  7. You only have levers no knobs in your life.
  8. A vacation always includes a tour of an historic place or new building.
  9. You have no fear of heights as handrails and guard rails were rarely installed during “just a quick tour” of projects during construction.
  10. You only color in one direction!

Recently a professor I teach with asked me about a house just down the street from mine.  It is a striking new build home with a great profile of two gables and the entry centered between. Not exactly traditional exterior,  yet not modern a wonderful comfortable blend. It has been off and the market for years since it was built in 2008. I toured it a few years ago during an open house. It was built as speculative home on a great tear down lot with coveted golf course view. My neighborhood is walkable to restaurants and even a Macy’s.  The public schools are strong and homes have aged well since built after the war starting in late 1940’s . More and more tear downs are happening as housing needs and generally how we live has changed. Kitchen, garages and mudrooms need more space than in 1952. The rumpus or activity room as it was called in the day is now a family room that houses a TV and most likely a view if not the actual of kitchen. The rooms have blended together to reflect today’s casual lifestyle.

Dining room and living room are distinct rooms in my home a 1960's split level. The door trim allows for paint to easily change color. The contrast of colors creates two rooms allowing a comfortable to feel larger.

Dining room and living room are distinct rooms in my home a 1960’s split level. The door trim allows for paint to easily change color. The contrast of colors creates two rooms allowing a comfortable home to feel larger.

I love to design homes with tight square footage where EVERY foot counts. 1700 square feet first floor with guest rooms either  up or down is magic to me! So how could this home down the street with stunning exterior, great location and over twice the size of my typically designed homes not sell?

This home that has dropped 25% in price since it first hit the market in the dismal 2008. Great exterior, great location, great view, lots of square feet, price reduction what more could it need? In my opinion it needs distinct interior rooms or spaces.  Teaching a design studio has forced me to critique projects in order to help students improve their design skills. Honestly it didn’t come easily. I am more than happy to review and amend my own work but not one to seek out and crit others. Yet this house was a puzzle of things that needed to happen on the plan and didn’t.

An entry space is important, a space to take to coat off without standing in a room for sitting or dining or cooking. It may seem as wasted little used space but it allows a transition which actually makes a home feel larger. It is the same idea of slowly unwrapping a present. The drama, the careful reveal you aren’t just handed an unwrapped gift just as you shouldn’t see everything from the front door. It will collapse the space in perspective and make even a large space feel small.  Why do you wrap gifts? Does it make then event special? An entry space makes a home feel special.  It is an important luxury to have an entry hall/space. The house down the street had an entry door that was right into to the combined living dining. It was an implied room with a tile floor alas it didn’t have any walls to help create a transition from exterior to living.

To design a smaller house you have to make it feel spacious. One way is to make sure there are distinct rooms. I explain to clients if you wanted to paint each room different color A BIG what if…are there edges?  Are the rooms distinct with trimmed doorways  or are they fuzzy? On renovations I add walls to help make a large multi-function living and formal dining space feel as two distinct spaces.  A living room with dining table in one room isn’t two rooms just a big room! If the table light moved, it is hard to tell where a table might go. This unsold house has the formal table space adjacent to the seating space. A large room yet the table “floats” only grounded by the chandelier.

Stairs! In the Midwest, we typically have basements. We often have two-story homes too! Stairs can be a feature. I have spent many hours, perhaps all combined from many projects over the years… months of time designing stairs. They can be a feature yet they have to be in the right place or it is very easy to create wasted space in long hallways. Typically stairs are placed in the center of a home for efficient second floor layout if bedrooms are involved. If they are for basement access only location can be more flexible. Stairs can be a front hall feature but I have done quiet off to the side stairs also. Stairs are fun anywhere and a great chance to have nice thoughtful railing or a window to allow borrowed shared daylight in basement. The house down the street has them to one side which is fine on the first floor but it creates a very long hallway on the second floor.

Lack of clear rooms, missing front hall foyer and wasted hallway space might be contributing factors why it is on the market. There are probably many more factors but imagine a home as a gift you slowly want to unwrap. Ribbon is a nice touch as is an entry foyer.  Needed maybe not but enjoyed yes it is! Pay attention to the ability to change paint color if you would like for distinct character in a space. Do rooms have edges/ are they distinct rooms or are the edges fuzzy? I teach my students 8 points determine a space…a room has 8 corners! You can have more but any less and it is not a distinct room!



This Old House is a great magazine for home enthusiasts. Imagine my sister’s surprise when she was reading it one afternoon and our ancestor’s home was listed on the Save This Old House page. It was as if the house was on a milk carton. How did it get there? Why isn’t it in our family anymore?

Page from This Old House Save This House West newton PA Plumer Home

Page from This Old House “Save This Old House” West Newton PA 1814 Plumer Home

The last time I remember visiting with my dad it was when I was a child. It was at that time in the 1970’s part of the West Newton Historical Society. It was safe and sound with kind docents who toured us through. I didn’t really understand at that age how this home had any connection to me or even my family who happily lived in a 1950’s split level in Kansas. My parents, grandparents and my entire extended family were from Pennsylvania. My dad was transferred to Kansas from Pittsburgh PA in the 1950’s. We visited my grandparents often and I loved being in a city, especially a city rich with history as I grew up in the brand spanking new suburbia.

I was waiting to write this blog until I unraveled exactly how many great great great grandparents back lived in this home but after a few years I still haven’t sorted it out with confidence. My family connection relocated though marriage to a small yet breathtaking valley town Mc Veytown PA.  One day I will update the family tree but until then here is the story.

Honestly it is a tough situation. This quite beautiful and surprisingly timeless house is far from where I live. My family considered on a whim/dream stage how we could possibly manage it from a distant. How could we reclaim it? As a vacation home? A second home? A business? A retirement dream? We watched from a distance how it was finally sold with current status unknown.

The irony of course is as an architect, I have worked on many older homes with history. I have tracked down Sanborn Maps trying to unravel when, what and where additions and alterations happened. Often wondering did such magnificent homes ever  change hands? Where did the owners go? Now it was my families turn. And in a national magazine too. Every house has a story here is one…

Situated on the banks of the Youghiogheny River, the Plumer House was built in two sections. The original wood frame two-and-a-half story structure was finished in 1814 and features a gable roof, molded cornices, clapboard covering, and a brick chimney. The brick addition of 1846 is also two and a half stories with two large chimneys. The street entrance is recessed and paneled and topped by a three-light rectangular transom. Evidence remains on both houses of the original shutters.

The interior of the original structure features two rooms on the first floor and two on the second. The three fireplaces, although primitive in detail, remain in good condition. All rooms have chair rails, doors and trim of typical colonial design. The addition has two rooms plus a hallway on the first floor, and three rooms plus a hallway on the second. Only one of three original fireplaces remains in this section. MVI replaced a deteriorating tin roof and box gutters about twenty years ago.

The riverfront lot is about three fourths of an acre with 220 feet of river frontage and 110 feet deep. A small brick outbuilding is situated on the lot near the main house. New wiring, drywall, and insulation were added in the late 1980s as part of an effort to restore much of the house to its original condition.

This property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown West Newton, Pennsylvania is a vibrant community of businesses and residents on the banks of the Youghiogheny River about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh. West Newton’s business district spans both sides of the River and includes dining and entertainment, health and fitness, banking and financial services, as well as a variety of retail and service establishments that serve a trade area of over 28,000 residents. The Great Allegheny Passage bike and hiking trail connecting Pittsburgh to Washington DC passes through West Newton, bringing thousands of visitors and tourists to the downtown each year.



Kappa Kappa Gamma Holiday Homes Tour 2014  Kansas City

Kappa Kappa Gamma Holiday Homes Tour 2014
Kansas City


It is that time of year! I am volunteering to work a shift as a hostess for the Kappa Kappa Gamma Holiday Home Tour. I was a Kappa at K-State and loved every moment. Many of my lifetime friends came from being roommates at 517 Fairchild Terrace together! Balancing my architecture degree with my sorority life taught many time management lessons. I use those lessons today as a mom while managing my architecture practice, teaching an Environmental Design Studio at UMKC, and working on printmaking in any spare time. The least I can do is spend a few hours a year being a tour hostess in a stunningly decorated home.

As an architect, I encourage clients to attend as it a wonderful opportunity to visit homes.  I always recommend when designing a space whether it be a small addition, a complete a home renovation  or a new home for clients to start understanding how large rooms are and how they feel. Why does a room feel comfortable? Does it have wonderful natural light? Is the size cozy or spacious for the function? Interesting details? Inspiring colors or lighting or many other amazing features? What size is it? Learn to guess room size and height. What size is the furniture? The best way is to look at your home and rooms and learn how big they are and to understand other home’s spaces.

This year’s 63rd Annual Tour proceeds will go locally to Safe Home and Kansas City Community Gardens as well as to the national Kappa Kappa Gamma foundation. For anyone not sure what “style” they like this tour has four unique style distinct homes.

1950’s renovated home, a new home, a 1920’s colonial and 1929 Tudor that is on The National Registrars of Historic Places.  Colonial is always a style crowd pleaser, unfortunately the term “colonial “has been over used on too many homes that are colonialesque! Far far far way in from their   original eastern seaboard brethren! The home on the tour is a great COLONIAL home! Please check out the 1920’s details including trim, windows and room size to understand what a Colonial Style Home is all about.

Where will I be tomorrow afternoon? It was tough choice! I will be at the 1929 Tudor. Here is tiny teaser or information! Hope to see you there!

kappa tour home

Kappa Kappa Gamma Holiday House Tour 2014 1929 Tanner Tudor



Horn/Vincent/Russell/Peet Home – Brief History

When the Tudor Revival, Mission Hills home was built in 1931 by oilman John E. Horn, the estate was thought to be one of the areas’ finest.   Edward Tanner, J.C. Nichols’ celebrated Country Club Plaza architect, designed the building.  Borrowing from medieval English styles, it features front-facing gables, heavy timbers and stucco and stone walls, topped with a slate roof.  “It is one of his finest commissions,” said Rich Lippincott, the Johnson County Museum of History’s historic preservation survey manager. ” To be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a site must be at least 50 years old and have a “quality that sets it apart from being just another old building,” Lippincott said, such as a rare design or historic significance.  This was stated in the KC Star in 1997 when the home made the registry list.

 The house is best known as the H.O. Peet home.  H.O and Margot Peet owned the home from 1956-1995.  Mr. Peet opened one of Kansas City’s first Stock Brokerage firms in the late 1920’s.  He was a descendent of the Peet Brothers who started Peet Bro’s Soap, the largest soap manufacturing company west of Mississippi River in the 4th quarter of the 19th century and into the early 20th century.  Peet Bro’s Soap Company merged with Palmolive Company to become Palmolive – Peet Company and then merged with Colgate to become Colgate, Palmolive, Peet Company. Known today as Colgate.

 The home has many original features including Batchelder-Wilson Floor Tiles, walnut and oak paneling, linen fold carved front doors, leaded & stained glass windows and 6 beautiful acres of landscaping originally designed by Hare & Hare.  The current home owners added a Great Hall to the home and enlarged the lower level as part of the renovation in 2008-2011. Our tour will cover the main level and the lower level of the home. Studio Dan Meiners has done an exceptional job decorating the property. 

Happy Thanksgiving!


Thank you note from home design client. entire home was renovated with an kitchen addition, new second floor with two bedrooms bath and play room  plus new front porch added.

Thank you note from home design client. entire home was renovated with a kitchen addition, new second floor with two bedrooms bath and play room plus new front porch added.

I am a tad bit late but wanted to share a nice note I received last week from a client. It is true I do care as much about your home as you do!


Hope your holiday was wonderful! This time of year potential client calls increase due to celebrating the holidays. A home is used differently when full of friends and family. A dining room table has it biggest days on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the kitchen too when cooking or entertaining for large groups. After the holidays, I will have inquiry calls for

  • Enlarging a kitchen or making a dining room or even entire home more functional
  • Holidays spent at my house! A potential client wants to be the “go to” house. Existing rooms aren’t large enough or perhaps need updating to be the “gathering” home
  • “I want a change!” a potential client has a vision of how they want their home!


If you are already thinking about next years’ 2015 holidays and home changes consult an architect right away!

Happy Monday!

I love Voysey and Lutyens. If you aren’t familiar with these names and enjoy Arts and Crafts Homes you need to discover them!

Best part of the article “this stunning new home has simple massing” Music to my ears! It is traditional or modern or perhaps both! Enjoy!

Thoughts about designing a new home or rethinking an existing one by an award winning Kansas City residential architect.

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