written by:
photos by:
June 23, 2016
Originally published in Modern Views
as
Music Box
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
Affordable Kansas City home steel facade with cypress cladding

The house that Kem Studio designed for Sarah Magill on a narrow lot in Kansas City has a steel facade with reclaimed cypress cladding near the entrance. The entire structure sits atop a steel foundation set on concrete piers that were driven into solid stone.

Photo by 
1 / 11
affordable Kansas City home entrance with aluminum ikea hooks and vintage coffee table

Inside the front door, coats hang from aluminum Bjärnum hooks by Ikea above a vintage Lane coffee table, which Magill bought from a coworker, and beneath a photograph by Beth Mercer.

Photo by 
2 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home loft with west elm sofa and eames table

The loft is furnished with a Tillary sofa from West Elm and a wire-base Elliptical table by Charles and Ray Eames.

Photo by 
3 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home with cb2 sectional sofa and maple floors in the living room

A Dual Pebble tufted sectional sofa by Gus Design Group for CB2 is the focal point of the living space. The maple floors are composed of inexpensive “shorts” left over from other projects and sold at a discount.

Photo by 
4 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home stairs with extra storage underneath and maple treads

The staircase features a minimalist design with maple treads and edges. The alcove beneath the stairs allows Magill to stash things where they can still be easily accessed. The metal shelving system is another coworker castoff.

Photo by 
5 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home living area with molded plywood Eames chairs, coffee table, and fiberglass chairs

Magill furnished the living area with an Eames coffee table and molded plywood chairs that she bought from a neighbor. The Eames fiberglass chairs were eBay purchases, and the Alba credenza is from CB2. The lithograph is by St. Louis artist Sage Dawson.

Photo by 
6 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home with eco-quartz countertop island and ikea cabinets and handles in the kitchen

Sarah Magill and Copa, her golden retriever, relax in the kitchen of her home in Kansas City, where an eco-quartz-topped island can be used as a dining table­—one of the home’s many adaptable features. The Akurum cabinets and handles are from Ikea, as are the Franklin folding bar stools, and the appliances are compact models from Summit.

Photo by 
7 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home kitchen with ikea faucet and white cliff countertop

C & G Construction made the kitchen shelving from reclaimed cypress not used in the siding and decking. The White Cliff countertops are from Cambria, and the faucet is from Ikea.

Photo by 
8 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home with ikea shelving in the bedroom

A pair of Ikea Expedit shelving units line one wall of the sleeping area.

Photo by 
9 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home with west elm bedding and platform bed along with ikea chairs in the bedroom

The sleeping space is set off with curtains instead of a door to foster an open feel on the ground floor. Bedding from West Elm and a quilt made by Magill’s mother sit atop a platform bed, also from West Elm. The red chairs, originally from Ikea, were another inexpensive secondhand acquisition. The deck chairs feature reversible canvas slings by the fashion designer Julie Brown.

 

Photo by 
10 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home floor plans

Magill Residence Floor Plan

A    Bathroom

B    Closet

C    Loft

D    Bedroom

E    Laundry Room

F    Storage

G    Living Room

H    Kitchen

I    Entry

Photo by 
11 / 11
Affordable Kansas City home steel facade with cypress cladding

The house that Kem Studio designed for Sarah Magill on a narrow lot in Kansas City has a steel facade with reclaimed cypress cladding near the entrance. The entire structure sits atop a steel foundation set on concrete piers that were driven into solid stone.

Project 
Magill Residence
Architect 

Most people who build a house have a grand list of things the place has to have. Sarah Magill’s went like this: “I wanted to be able to run on a treadmill, I wanted to watch movies, and I wanted to be surrounded by apple trees,” she says, standing in the house that emerged from those modest requests—a luminous angled box, perched on a ridge at the western edge of Kansas City. Affordability and sustainability rounded out her list.

Magill, 35, moved to Kansas City with her band after graduating from the University of Missouri with two journalism degrees. The band eventually broke up, but Magill, a singer and keyboardist, stayed, finding a home
in the city’s creative circles. She landed a job at Hallmark—a local destination for a lot of artistic, writerly types—and made the usual domestic rounds from apartments to lofts, all of them rentals. Along the way, she picked up the bug to build a house—a minimal space that would nod to the Iowa farm where she was raised. Undaunted by her solo status, she dived in. “You can do it,” she told herself. “Don’t wait.”

Magill started talking about her priorities with the Kansas City firm Kem Studio, keeping a watchful eye on her budget. Designer Jonathon Kemnitzer and architect Brad Satterwhite began  the fairly intense process they undertake with all their clients, working with Magill’s initial ideas and researching where to take them. “We’re not asking direct questions about how big you want a bedroom to be,” Satterwhite says of Kem’s process. “We try to find out how people want to live to inform what they ultimately need.”

Affordable Kansas City home with cb2 sectional sofa and maple floors in the living room

A Dual Pebble tufted sectional sofa by Gus Design Group for CB2 is the focal point of the living space. The maple floors are composed of inexpensive “shorts” left over from other projects and sold at a discount.

For the designers, Magill’s limited wish list meant there was ample room to get creative. “It was really refreshing working with someone who was that open, who didn’t have preconceived notions about what a house should be,” Satterwhite says. “It was more about volume and light than it was about square footage and number of rooms.” Still, the bigger goals—sustainability, flexibility, and affordability—needed to be wrapped in a small footprint. Magill’s original target budget was $185,000 for an 800-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bathroom structure. That grew to 1,250 square feet with the addition of a loft, coming in around $235,000. 

Given the numbers, the Kem team designed spaces to pull double duty. “How could we take one thing and let it do two or three things?” Satterwhite says. In the kitchen, an eco-quartz-topped island doubles as a dining table. A deck off Magill’s bedroom, at the back of the house, extends the living space outdoors. Eventually, Magill plans to install a Murphy bed, expanding the living area even more. The loft, which serves   as a second bedroom, morphs into a balcony for viewing shows, movies, and live music—Magill sometimes invites musicians and bands over to play—in the space below. The living room fulfills two of Magill’s needs, becoming a gym of sorts when she rolls her treadmill from an oversize closet, and transforming into a cinema when she pulls a projection screen over the window facing the street.

Kemnitzer and Satterwhite, along with Ryan Gale of C & G Construction, kept materials simple. The frame is standard wood; with studs every 24 inches rather than the typical 16 inches, it economizes on timber. The exterior is reclaimed cypress and steel, an inexpensive cladding that references Magill’s farm roots. “This was a project where you’re using basic things, but you’re using them in new and unique ways,” Kemnitzer says. Some of those exterior finishes made their way inside. In the kitchen, for example, cypress shelves line the wall, adding volume to an otherwise flat area. 

Affordable Kansas City home with eco-quartz countertop island and ikea cabinets and handles in the kitchen

Sarah Magill and Copa, her golden retriever, relax in the kitchen of her home in Kansas City, where an eco-quartz-topped island can be used as a dining table­—one of the home’s many adaptable features. The Akurum cabinets and handles are from Ikea, as are the Franklin folding bar stools, and the appliances are compact models from Summit.

Magill also saved on appliances. “My specialty is popcorn,” she says. “You don’t need a nice gas stove to cook popcorn for your friends.” The kitchen cabinets are from Ikea, as are the bathroom fixtures—maybe not the “greenest” choices, Magill acknowledges, but affordable. The maple floors are composed of “shorts”—pieces discarded by people who don’t care for eccentric patterns of oddball wood. 

The foundation also offered opportunities to save money. The lot, which is only 40 feet wide, slopes sharply from front to back and is solid stone. Digging the stone out for a traditional foundation would have been too expensive, so the team drove concrete piers into the rock and placed a steel foundation on top. That means there’s no basement, a feature whose absence would set most tornado-wary Midwesterners on edge. But, Magill says, “this place isn’t going anywhere.”

Magill moved into her new house in January 2013, after about seven months of mostly seamless construction. When you’re on your own, Magill says, “you can’t divvy things up. You can’t say, ‘You take the crisis of the week.’” But then, there’s also no one to negotiate with. “It was empowering,” she adds. “If you get the right people to work with, it can be a great experience.”

The result of Magill’s collaboration with Kem is a highly personal space that reflects her interests and passions, a custom fit where everything matters. There are still a few things left to do—planting those apple trees, for one—but for now her house feels finished. “It’s designed so well, it doesn’t feel incomplete,” she says, standing on the back deck. “It feels really good to be here. It feels like me, which isn’t surprising.”

Affordable Kansas City home with west elm bedding and platform bed along with ikea chairs in the bedroom

The sleeping space is set off with curtains instead of a door to foster an open feel on the ground floor. Bedding from West Elm and a quilt made by Magill’s mother sit atop a platform bed, also from West Elm. The red chairs, originally from Ikea, were another inexpensive secondhand acquisition. The deck chairs feature reversible canvas slings by the fashion designer Julie Brown.

 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016