Interiorssneak peeks

A Cheerful, Creative Home in Kansas City, MO

by Bethany Joy Foss

Lauren Phillips and Frank Norton are proud to have been a part of the evolving creative community in Kansas City, MO for the past six years. “When we graduated college, it seemed like most of our friends left the Midwest for larger coastal cities — this wasn’t entirely true, but it felt that way.” The couple chose to set roots and have since discovered a voice in the local creative culture. “Sometimes, younger people will ask us for advice about their careers. Most people’s first impulse is to say, ‘Move to New York,’ but if more unique and creative people chose to push and grow the culture here, it would become a more fertile territory for young artists and designers.” Frank is a graphic designer and illustrator, currently working as an art director at Boulevard Brewing Company, and Lauren is a local art teacher. They made the conscious decision to be a part of a community that is already bursting with inspiring artists and designers by purchasing a home in Kansas City one year ago, instead of relocating.

They chose to search for a house in Waldo, a family-friendly neighborhood that is home to a handful of Kansas City businesses, parks and community events. Because of the competitive market in Kansas City, the couple searched for months and their offers were often turned away for buyers paying over the asking price in cash. “When we finally walked into this house, we knew it was the one.” They purchased a 1927, 1,700-square-foot house and immediately started with a fresh coat of white paint to best display their burgeoning art collection. The couple focused on simple details that were true to the style and time period of the house, while adding a crisp facelift with a few kitchen renovations. “Since we don’t have kids to think about, we wanted to create a place where our local and out-of-town guests felt welcome and comfortable.”

Lauren and Frank love to create and collect the work they display in their home. “We kept all of the walls very neutral to make the artwork stand out and have tried to build a relaxing, not overstimulating space.” Each of the thoughtfully placed pieces adds color and whimsy to the composition of the home, and the couple added personality by creating the work themselves or collecting from family members and friends. “Some things have been handed down from relatives, some things are from flea markets, some things we order online,” Lauren shares. Their attention to detail and lighthearted taste make the space inviting, inspiring and full of quiet moments of a designer’s enchantment. —Bethany Joy Foss

Photography by Lauren Phillips

Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The guest bathroom is a small space that everyone visits, so Lauren wanted a fun point of interest for the brief time guests would spend in the room. She asked Frank to draw a series of nudes and transferred them to the wall with interior house paint. The monotone figures are brought to life with a watery print titled “Skinny Dippers” by Brooklyn artist, Rebecca Clarke.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The opposing wall in the guest bathroom is covered with more nudes from Frank’s sketches and a flirtatious print from designer and maker, Kaye Blegvad, adds a bright pink highlight to the soft white tones used in the space.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Lauren and Frank are thankful to have a space to share with friends and family. The guest bedroom has been a work in progress that the couple has been piecing together over time. “We’ve been trying to add comfortable and interesting details month-by-month to make this room a nice place to stay.” The rug was purchased from a flea market and the dresser and bed are from IKEA.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
A gold unicorn lamp and small toiletries from Muji sit on the guest bedroom dresser and a colorful Mola art piece, inherited from Frank’s great aunt, carries the bright warm colors from the rug and throw onto the wall. Geode pulls from Anthropologie add a magical detail to the simple white dresser.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The spacious master bedroom was a turning point in Lauren and Frank’s decision to buy the house. “The previous owner was an architect and made some smart updates, including this master suite.” They enjoy having the space for a king sized bed and try to keep the room intimate and calm, without any art on the walls.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Lauren and Frank share the home with their two-year-old dog. “Porter does nothing and loves everyone.”
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Lauren and Frank have found lighting to be one of the most challenging aspects of their decorative process — this includes the pendant above the dining room table, which isn’t to their taste. “We don’t like the light fixtures that came with the house, but we haven’t found any we’d love to replace them with either. We would rather put the money towards traveling.”
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
“Frank’s great aunt was an artist. When she passed away, Frank was lucky enough to inherit several pieces from her art collection.” The couple values this portrait in the corner as one of their favorite personal possessions. “She was one of the few adults we knew who bought and collected real, original art purchased from artists. We’ve been inspired by this and have tried to continue her tradition by adding to her collection.”
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The white walls give the home a blank canvas feeling, similar to a gallery space. “We bought and styled our home in order to best display our art,” they tell us. The top left portrait with red-haired, Lizzie Borden is by illustrator, Daniel Zender. The bouquet of french fries was made by Frank and given to Lauren, as well as the self-portrait he painted on their honeymoon. An array of vases in various styles sits on the dining table, leftover from the couple’s wedding.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Lauren and Frank hired a contractor to complete renovations in the kitchen as soon as they closed on the house. They tore down half of the wall to form a bar and completely redid the cabinets, countertops and backsplash using IKEA systems.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The simple kitchen carries the quiet whites seen throughout the home with an added layer of white texture through small-scale sculptures, pottery and appliances.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Lauren and Frank create a handmade card for each other to celebrate every holiday. The loose illustrations and cut paper work always finds a way onto the refrigerator door. “We’ve saved them all and there are probably more than 80 now.”
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
“We love pattern, texture and color, but it can be overwhelming to us, so we’ve combined all-white walls with our art and patterned pillows and rugs.” Above the couch, a salon-style gallery of artwork frames the room, including the yellow portrait of the couple as vampires made by their friend, Daniel Zender, as a wedding gift. “When we asked him, ‘Why vampires?’ he said, ‘because vampires are forever.’”
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
When Frank was eight years old, his great aunt took him to a gallery in Springfield, MO and told him to pick out his favorite piece. He chose this large watercolor shown above the fireplace and it hung in her home for nearly 20 years before Lauren and Frank inherited it. The sculptures on the mantel are Oaxacan wood carvings and a vintage Swedish candleholder on the right balances the display.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Lauren found the fabric piece hanging on the wall on a visit to New Orleans. “We didn’t buy it at first, but couldn’t stop thinking about it. The next day, we took a special cab ride back just to get it.” Since that time, Lauren and Frank have started buying art when traveling, knowing they would regret it if they didn’t. “We love collecting expressive art from around the world.”
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
The botanical silkscreen print above Lauren is by Portland illustrator Carson Ellis, and the yellow vampire portrait is from Daniel Zender. The embroidery piece on the far left was made by Lauren as a gift for Frank.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
Having a studio where both Lauren and Frank could have their own workspace, keep supplies and create their work using digital and analog tools was very important when searching for a house. “We’ve both been making pictures for as long as we can remember and we feel fortunate to finally have a space dedicated to this.” The desks and storage drawers are from IKEA, coupled with chairs purchased on Amazon, and a bright rug from Anthropologie shows off the bright colors seen throughout the house. The fox painting hanging on the right is by artist Danny Gibson.
Lauren and Frank's Home Tour on Design*Sponge
“What we love most about our home is it’s a relaxing place to make art.” Lauren’s paintings are shown on the left and Frank’s drawings are on the right.

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  • Too cute! I love all the bright whites with pops of color and personality.

    I live in the area and would love to know who your contractor was for your kitchen. I love the clean, simple style and am looking for someone for a similar job :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Love, love, love this place! Any info on sources for the sink in the kitchen and the rug in the living room? Thanks!

  • Frank and Lauren,
    Absolutely loved reading this. In fact, some places brought tears to my eyes. So creative. Loved reading the descriptions. Beautiful place and so peaceful.
    Rick and Beverly Duncan Wagner–Frank’s second cousin

    • Rick and Beverly — so good to hear from you both. Thanks for the nice words about our home. We always enjoy sharing our space and stories. Hope you’re both doing well.

  • Any chance the bathroom wallpaper will go into production and be available for purchase by the masses of us who love it so much? :-) A bit of wishful thinking perhaps, but…I’m optimistic!

    • I second that! I would really love to be able to purchase! I have been obsessed with this wallpaper for some time now!