Words by Kimberly Winter Stern | Photos by Nate Sheets
A dream team of design professionals crafts an extraordinary multi-generational home off the Plaza, showcasing local artists and an heirloom library.
ichard Wetzel’s entire career has focused on imagining how to build better—from his time working as an architect on teams redefining the modern sports stadium to his role as an urban planner and general contractor cofounding Centric, which brings buzzy creative energy to large-scale and residential builds and small, specialty projects in Kansas City and beyond.
Richard’s professional mantra became personal when he embarked on building a home for his two teenage children, his 79-year-old father, and their beloved golden retriever, Lloyd. His partner, Jen DeMeyer, marketing director for a local tech company, and her children often join the mix too. Since 2014, the single dad has lived in Kirkwood—a bucolic, planned community south of the Country Club Plaza—first in an apartment, then purchasing a townhome and finally settling on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a bespoke home in the lively urban atmosphere that continually inspires him.
For several years, Richard had his eye on one of two side-by-side empty home sites in Kirkwood. After expressing interest in the properties, he and his company ended up acquiring both lots in 2018, with Centric Homes building a spec home on one and reserving the second for his residence. Although Kirkwood’s design review committee doesn’t have prescriptive requirements for building, both new home designs had to be approved.
“Kirkwood’s row homes represent skilled craftsmanship, built of brick and stone in Tudor and Colonial Williamsburg styles, among others,” Richard says. “While the challenge was maintaining the neighborhood’s traditional overlay, there was a wide latitude to achieve a contemporary look on the exterior of my home, blending it with the period architecture.”
With the mission of creating a home where his extended family could cohabitate with an arty vibe, Richard enlisted professionals he admired: Christopher Fein, AIA, LEED AP of Forward Design and Architecture; Kali Buchanan, IIDA, NCIDQ of Kali Buchanan Interior Design; and Tyler Harrelson, who developed, launched and manages Centric Homes.
“My firm worked with Centric Homes on multiple high-end residences,” Christopher says. “Richard wanted to collaborate with someone he wasn’t previously friends with to encourage an honest dialogue to ultimately accomplish his objectives.
It was a very different process working with a fellow architect—you get into the minutiae, sometimes have differing opinions, lots of discussion. Some things are easier because we speak the same language.”
Richard enjoyed the spirited back-and-forth with Christopher, noting that “80 percent of the time we were excited about the same things, and perhaps 20 percent of the time there were differences, which resulted in making better decisions. Chris and Kali got it—they understood the assignment and had a tremendous impact on the house.”
Kali, whose father is an architect and whose mother is a kitchen designer, was equally energized by the trio’s vision. “It was a true success,” Kali says. “Each member of the team agreed on the design’s intent.”
While the façade of Richard’s home features stripped-down decorative elements to preserve the flavor of the neighborhood’s architecture, the 6,400-square-foot modern interior took shape through a U-shaped floor plan that wraps a central courtyard.
Richard, Christopher and Kali’s careful selection of materials, finishes and fixtures—combined with unexpected design solutions—results in a stunning, curated art gallery imbued with a very personal patina.
“Art is the unifier throughout the home,”Kali says.
A lifelong collector, with a penchant for local artists, Richard wanted to ensure that the art would benefit from the house—and that the house would benefit from the art. Together, Richard and Jen selected large-scale anchor pieces for prominent display in the heart of the home: a two-story kitchen, island dining and living area with formal column grid, and soaring eighteen-foot ceilings.
A moody black-and-white Jennifer Janesko is positioned above the kitchen’s cabinetry, twenty-foot granite-topped island, and Carrara marble backsplash at one end. A colorful, eye-catching piece by Archie Scott Gobber is a counterpoint at the opposite end, commanding the living space above a cleverly concealed television cabinet. Four massive gold-leafed pieces, originally designed by Jennifer as screens for Kansas City Fashion Week, run along the main wall. Kali appreciates the main living area’s ability to expand and contract, “driven by how the family chooses to use it. Nowhere in the house is space overcommitted where it’s not needed.”
Between the living space and an all-inclusive apartment specifically designed for Richard’s father, David—who in 2010 relocated from Richard’s hometown of Denver—is an intimate library. Randomly arranged on rift-sawn stained walnut shelves in order of height, the eclectic collection includes books on 1960s feminism, architecture textbooks Richard pored over as a KU student, Harry Potter tomes coveted by his daughter and dog-eared beach reads.
“The house is full of dichotomies—art and large open spaces and then a contemplative room like the library,” Richard says. “My mom was a women’s studies professor and my dad a historian and writer. Many of the books are theirs, with others interspersed. The library is also where my father, son and I play chess.”
David’s spacious residence-within-a-residence boasts a striking kitchen with a glass island, original framed sketches and more captivating views toward both the courtyard and the Kirkwood gardens.
The primary suite is situated across the central bridge walkway, where four alabaster and marble sculptures by David’s father, Nevin, are perched atop columns.
“The bridge presented another opportunity to experience art,” Kali says. The home is a sanctuary devoted to daily living, encouraging introspection and reflection for each family member while simultaneously functioning as a seamless space for kids’ friends, parties and galas. But essential for Richard is that the home embodies a continually unfolding narrative, taking its cue from art, chapters of his life, a passion for design, his love of family and Kansas City.
“Each component in this house makes a statement, tells a story,” Richard says. “We live here, among meaningful art and design, and we involve the community. One night we’re eating sushi as a family and the next night we’re welcoming guests to a fundraiser for the arts or a social services nonprofit.”
Architect: Forward Design | Architecture
General Contractor: Centric Homes
Interior Designer: Kali Buchanan Interior Design
Art: Jennifer Janesko
Flooring: solid white oak and honed granite slab
Casework: rift sawn walnut
Paint: Sherwin-Williams (Pure White); Benjamin Moore (In the Midnight Hour)
Marble Splash: Carrara
Island Top and fireplace: granite
Lighting Fixtures: Sonneman (chandelier and linear pendant); Leucos: Luceplan wall sconces
Appliances: Wolf/Sub Zero
Plumbing Fixtures: Hansgrohe; Grohe
Undermount Sink: Elkay; Blanco
Entry Door: Custom
Door Hardware: Baldwin
TV Backdrop and Bookshelves: rift sawn stained walnut
Area Rugs: Flor
Furnishings: Room & Board; Blu Dot; Crate & Barrel
French Doors: Marvin
Father’s Quarters Countertops: Caesarstone Pebble Quartz
Mural + Skylight: custom
Bathroom Tile: Daltile; Heath Ceramics
Bathroom Fixtures: Kohler; MTI
Bathroom Lighting Fixtures: Flos
Outdoor Tile: Heath Ceramics
Outdoor Fixtures: Marvin Windows & Doors
Lower Level Bar Stools: CB2
Lower Level Floor: repurposed arena flooring