Design & Remodeling

Modern Family Meets Urban Cool in Kansas City

When it comes to urban cool meets modern family, Kansas City has the market cornered on its own brand of living outside the suburban equation.

When was the last time you opened your front door to an urban adventure?

Kansas City’s dynamic urban revival is comprised of a diverse tapestry of modern-minded homeowners and buyers: singles, couples, empty nesters and even mixed-generation families. They walk a short distance from home to see the latest exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum or to enjoy a show at Sprint Center. Perhaps they saunter over to the Westside or Crossroads Arts District and visit a delicious restaurant for a crepe, a Boulevard beer and burger, some burnt ends or a bowl of vegan roasted red pepper soup.

Or maybe they mix up a cocktail to enjoy on their front porch and strike up a conversation with a neighbor who is sitting on their own front porch.

Urban dwellers thrive in neighborhoods that are rich in community, offer stress-free commutes to work (sometimes in sneakers or by pedal-power on a bike) and are within walking distance to shopping, dining, entertainment and cultural attractions.

And when it comes to urban cool meets modern family, Kansas City has the market cornered on its own brand of living outside the suburban equation. Two people who make it their business to understand the unique needs of homebuyers seeking to put down roots in hip areas of the city, in addition to those that aren’t so-called “it” neighborhoods, are real estate agent Franny Knight and architect Lauren Wendlandt of Framework Design.

Urban Homestead with a Midwest Twist

Knight, who positions herself as an “EcoRealtor and Urban Creative Sustainable Enthusiast,” has created a savvy niche by catering to homebuyers seeking a lifestyle in the urban core. “I love promoting sustainable living in cool neighborhoods,” says Knight. “I sell lots of what I call a ‘front-porch lifestyle.’ People buy homes and live in these areas where there’s a strong sense of community, where they know their neighbors and interact with them.”

Indeed Knight admits that often the most important features homeowners find during a house-hunting expedition in the urban core are the street smarts beyond a property’s front door. “For instance, the Hyde Park neighborhood is fantastic,” she says. “You get this cultural-historical patina with gorgeous trees and foliage plus the ease of services, restaurants and other attractions nearby. And easy access to public transportation.”

One of Knight’s top urban-centric neighborhoods is the Westside where homes range from $100,000 to millions and boast close proximity to the bustling Crossroads Arts District and world-class Kauffman Performing Arts Center.

“The population is diverse in this area of the city,” says Knight. “Lots of artists and creative types. You have stellar views of the cityscape and can still buy a lot and build for a couple hundred grand.”

Knight considers the Plaza area, which encompasses West Plaza and South Plaza, Westwood and the KU Med area, prime for urban dwellers. “Parks, museums, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, the list is endless,” she says. “You live in an area like this and your footprint diminishes because you don’t rely on your car as much.”

Modern Dwelling, Design Abound in Kansas City

Wendlandt and her team at Framework Design, including Layne Richardson and Jerald Kohrs explore design and art in the field of architecture. They work with urban clients and those beyond the core in both renovating and building single-family homes, lofts and condos to accommodate modern lifestyles.

The firm’s signature Vivienda Moderna —which translates from Spanish to modern dwelling—is a mixed-use building on the Westside. Consisting of workshop, commercial office and residential spaces, the striking structure utilizes limestone and salvaged barn siding to tie it into the surrounding historical neighborhood while stucco, concrete and aluminum lend a modern aesthetic.

Inside, the project is a study in modern living.

“One of the biggest things people want is the open floor plan,” says Wendlandt, who echoes Knight’s assessment of a buyer’s checklist. “Bedrooms are smaller, almost meditation spaces. The shared public area of a home we renovate or design is typically larger and visually one space.”

Clients want a communal space that is free flowing—the living room, dining room and kitchen are open and interconnected.

Wendlandt notes that the industrial look is still in vogue for lofts and condos and that in older single-family residences, homeowners want a classic, modern look that dovetails with a century-old structure.

“And almost every residential client we work with wants an extension of indoor-outdoor, often through materials used inside a house that are traditionally used outdoors, like stucco,” she says. “Homeowners today don’t want to feel like they’re stuck in a box.”

Framework Design, which offers clients a one-stop shop approach, including architectural design, interiors and landscaping, retrofits older homes with a distinctive modern appeal. “A lot of people want us to tear down walls to open up the space,” says Wendlandt. “Classic-modern is very much in demand. It’s timeless.”

Wendlandt says Kansas City’s existing inventory of buildings is a priceless asset when it comes to maintaining a desirable urban core for today’s homeowner. “You couldn’t rebuild today what the Crossroads has, for instance,” she says.

The cost of living urban cool in KC is attractive, too. “Although the Plaza, for instance, is more expensive than Waldo it’s still nothing like Chicago,” says Wendlandt. “We are lucky here—we have great housing, incredible neighborhoods with top-notch amenities and it’s very affordable.”

When it comes to modern family meets urban cool, Kansas City has it all. “The possibilities are endless,” says Knight.

And so is the potential for urban adventure.