Prairieside Cottage is located in the rolling Flint Hills of Kansas, surrounded by seven acres of open land in the northwest corner of a small town called Matfield Green. Owned by a creative family who loves exploring nature, collecting and playing together, the cottage is a home away from home and vacation rental property. Laura Berman is an artist and professor at the Kansas City Art Institute, and Chris Akers is a former architect and owner of an artisanal bread bakery who focuses on projects within their various businesses and cares for their home and two sons, Jovian and Alex. Their primary residence is a quick two-and-a-half-hour drive to Kansas City, which makes the cottage a great weekend getaway to unplug and connect as a family, as well as a space to host dear friends and international travelers. Laura and Chris also offer a family-friendly artist residency called the Prairieside Cottage Outpost that provides guests with a private and peaceful retreat for creative discovery. The program supports 2-4 artist residencies each year and has recently hosted; Hilary Lorenz, James Woodfill, April Flanders, Blake and Hannah March Sanders, Yoonmi Nam and Warren Rosser.
Laura and Chris spent a few years looking for a second home that would provide a unique and natural setting for their kids to roam free without the constraints of the city and allow them to unwind from their busy lives. They started their search in Spain, where Laura was born, and went on to look in the Appalachian Mountains, North Carolina coast, eastern Oregon, and Colorado, until they landed on Chase County, located in the center of the Flint Hills region in Kansas. Laura and Chris were married in the Chase County Courthouse and the middle names of their two boys are Chase and Flint, so this part of the country holds a very special place in their hearts and has been a big part of their story as a growing family. Their love for the area has inspired great friendships and participation in the local emerging arts community. Laura co-curated The Bank Artspace last year and was a juror for the Tallgrass Artist Residency and Chris serves on the board of a local nonprofit group, The Center for Living Education.
The 800-square-foot farmhouse was originally located just outside Matfield Green on a neighboring ranch property. The typical Midwestern build with a unique, barn-style ceiling (that Laura and Chris believe originated around 1915) was in poor shape due to itinerant cattle roaming in and around the house. When the previous owner, Emily Hunter Connell found out it was going to be burned down as an exercise by the local fire department, she protested and the rancher offered her the house if she moved it off the property. Laura and Chris share, “He must have been happy for it to have a new life as well, since he personally built the stone foundation at its new location.” She then restored the space, adding a sunroom and two smaller, separate buildings outside. After their purchase in July 2013, Laura and Chris spent a few months fully renovating the interior and opened Prairieside Cottage for visitors and guests in June 2014.
Their very first decision was to paint the floor Sherwin Williams “Bosporus Blue.” Laura and Chris see it as a symbol of the ocean that evokes a deep-sea serenity and enjoy how it ties to the local landscape. “Being in the Flint Hills, where nothing mediates the horizon between sky and land (there are no trees, no power lines, no buildings) it is easy to feel like you are out at sea from a coastal beach instead of within a landlocked Kansas landscape.” Moreover, the home is full of quirky, custom designed trim created by artist and craftsman, Ross MacTaggart that, “flows in waves and scrolls in its own rhythm.” In addition to the blue floor, they painted the whole interior and reimagined the layout of the space, transforming the sunroom den into a dining room and built a staircase to the loft. Laura and Chris hope to renovate the carport next and expand an adjacent storage building into a studio or patio for outdoor gatherings, workshops, presentations and potlucks.
Laura and Chris’ goal was to craft a peaceful space that was airy, bright and cozy and believe the cottage meets all their needs without the clutter of everyday life. “We have original art throughout the cottage, many made by friends or Laura, and hundreds of books. We adore things that are well-designed and previously owned, like this cottage.” The outpost is their dream space for family and friends to create, rest and breathe more deeply together. —Bethany
Photography by Chris Akers
Image Above: The cottage was purchased with the existing toilet, bidet, and an antique tub. The wood siding was reclaimed from the original farmhouse and an exterior door leads onto a small deck that overlooks a beautiful, open field. Laura shares that they enjoy filling the big soaker tub, kicking back and letting the prairie breeze drift through the open door. The walls are painted Sherwin Williams “Marshmallow” and the prints on wood were made by Laura. A vintage pitcher and dish sit beside towels from The Company Store and the water droplet shower curtain is from Target.