Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

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Kansas City Homes and Gardens

3 Lofts, 3 Looks

Downtown living is hugely popular, no matter which downtown you choose: Kansas City, Liberty, even Merriam, Kansas. Three loft dwellers share their stories of open living, innovative spaces and active communities.

By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

The Room to Move into Retirement

Photography by Steve Sanders

Hardwood oak floors lead into Vicky's open kitchen/dining area.

For most baby boomers, a move to a loft apartment may mean also scaling down on square footage, but that wasn't the case for Vicky and Roger Burnett.

When the Burnetts moved from their 1,700-square-foot suburban home, they expanded into a 5,000-square-foot loft in downtown Liberty that was specially designed for one of their passions—entertaining. But that wasn't all the Burnetts had in mind when they designed what they describe as their final home, they also built the entire living space to be universally accessible, a feature they hope will help them ease into their golden years.


The building the loft crowns houses both Vicky and Roger's businesses downstairs and also has a place in Liberty history.

Located in the 1900 block of North Water Street, the building sits atop a well, which was once the water source for the town. It is also a famous marker to the Jesse James legend, as he reportedly shot a man at the foot of a stairwell that was once outside of the building.

By the time the Burnetts took possession of the historic landmark, the upper floors had been converted into 14 separate apartments with one communal bathroom. The challenge, Vicky says, was to convert the small, design-challenged dim spaces into an open, brightly lit floor plan that respected the building's history. "The architect designed the space around the load bearing walls," Vicky says. "The building pretty much told us what should go where."

An elevator that delivers guests to the formal living room replaces a dark, narrow staircase. Beyond that is Vicky's office, which is separated by French doors, the first of many rooms designed around natural partitions and beams already in the building.

Hardwood oak floors lead into Vicky's open kitchen/dining area. Vicky not only loves to entertain friends and a large blended family, she likes to be able to visit with guests while cooking. Built-in window seats provide additional storage space, and allow guests to chat while Vicky cooks. "The windows are really the focal point of this space," she says. Appliances are all tucked away behind light-colored cabinets, lending to the uncluttered, open feel of the area.

The living room.

Low cabinets provide easy access for Vicky, who is short in stature, but may prove necessary in the future should either she or Roger ever need a wheelchair. The open area can be made even more maneuverable by moving the portable island.

Everything in the kitchen is functional. For example, a water outlet was placed near the cook top for ease in filling large pots without having to move them. A laundry area off the kitchen is large enough for another stove and a commercial kitchen table.

"Caterers just love this laundry room with the extra stove," Vicky says. The couple has hosted benefits for their favorite local non-profits. A guest powder room also sits off the kitchen/dining area.

The master suite connects to a large master bathroom, again, lending to universal design by a higher placed commode as well as an open shower.

A laundry chute from the master closet connects to the laundry room on the other side.

The room second in use only to the kitchen/dining area is the entertainment room, which is the site of a large home theater system, a bar and an upright piano.

Vicky says that she was so afraid the movers would be hurt trying to get the antique piano up the narrow 1880s fire escape that she said a prayer promising to learn to actually play the instrument if no one was harmed during the move. Keeping her promise, piano is now one of her hobbies.

The entertainment room bears things the couple loves: a handmade quilt that belongs to Roger and a collection of programs from ballets and musicals that are Vicky's. The room is drawn together by a photograph of the building as it was in the 19th century, showing the staircase made famous by Jesse James.

Quotes on the walls separate the adult book selection in the library from the children's library, a space used and loved by numerous grandchildren.

Quotes on the walls separate the adult book selection in the library from the children's library, a space used and loved by numerous grandchildren. A room used by the couple as an exercise room and a guest bedroom situated on the opposite side of the loft from the master suite give guests plenty of privacy.

The loft doesn't have a deck or patio area outside, but Vicky and Roger's "outdoor room," overlooks Liberty Square and is decorated with a huge pine tree (it serves as the family Christmas tree during the holidays) and live plants, which give the couple an urban patio feel.

The couple says when they were looking into loft living, they sought a small-town feel that would allow them convenience later in life. "As we get older, instead of driving, we can just walk down to the square for anything we want," Vicky says. "And yet we are still just 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City."

See more photographs of this loft and the others in the March/April issue of Kansas City Homes & Gardens.

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