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
By Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
Room to Move into Retirement
Photography by Steve Sanders
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
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.
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
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
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
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.