An art degree isn’t required to work for K M Construction, in Kansas City, Mo., but it helps. Over the years, the company founded by a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) has employed dozens of artists — and discovered that an aesthetic sense makes good business sense, too. Its artistic inclinations have helped the high-end remodeling company sustain an almost 20-year alliance with both architect/artist Roger Kraft and the family for this project.
Kraft, an architect in Kansas City known for his modern designs and meticulous detailing, first heard of KMC while teaching a design studio at KCAI in the early 1980s. He is also a painter whose works have been shown at several galleries in the Midwest.
Impressed with the company’s work, he began to recommend KMC. In 1990, Kraft recommended the remodeling firm to a philanthropic couple in the area with whom he has an ongoing relationship.
Three years ago, the couple’s son and his wife approached Kraft and KMC. They were living in a three-bedroom colonial near the center of the city and wanted a larger home. They had just had their second child and were feeling cramped by the small rooms and low ceilings, but wanted to stay close to town. The art collectors had also acquired some large abstract expressionist works by Grace Hardigan and Theodoros Stamos and needed more wall space to display them.
They found a home set on a 1-acre lot in a desirable older suburb near Kansas City. The neighborhood of ranch houses had generous setbacks, mature trees, and well-enforced deed restrictions that had maintained an open, gracious feel.
The house, though, was much less promising. The clapboard and brick 1962 ranch had little connection to the outdoors and was an amalgam of colonial trim, classic pediments, and windows of diverse proportions. Inside, there were hollow-core doors, no reveals or segmentation, and a lack of architectural details.
The first question the clients posed to Kraft was “tear down or redo?”
Many architects would have jumped at the chance to design from the ground up. Kraft instead drew inspiration from the existing limitations. He set out to harmonize the home’s discordant elements, fill the house with light, and inject a timeless quality into the dated structure.
A large picture window that seemed orphaned in the existing house prompted Kraft to use its proportions to add other openings and deepen the window boxes to lend a more sculptural air. He designed exterior and interior horizontal bands to flow around and through the home to provide a unifying continuity. “I prefer the order of existing limitations rather than the chaos of unlimited possibilities,” Kraft says.
His design scheme, developed with help from associate Adam Roberts, expanded the footprint in three places and added a half story with four bedrooms. This almost doubled the size of the house to just under 6,000 square feet. The plan also included adding 3,000 square feet of porches, decks, an outdoor kitchen, and a pool. The overall design scheme was simple, open, and fluid.