Interiorssneak peeks

A Missouri Home With A Storied Past

by Liberty Lausterer

The word Kristen Elise Pickell uses to describe her love of the past is anemoia. It’s an invented word, found in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and it means “a pang of nostalgia for times you’ve never experienced.” Which is why this 28-year-old high school art teacher living in Kansas City, MO teared up when she toured a 1973 home. The previous owners, Bill and Betty, had worked with an architect on a custom collaboration. Kristen took one look at a home nearly unchanged from its original 1970s conception and rooms filled with stunning vintage pieces, and promptly abandoned her search for a starter home. Bill and Betty were who Kristen imagined herself to be in retirement. Kristen sent a letter to Betty, along with her offer, explaining how special the home was and how much she would cherish it. She was surprised to discover another couple had submitted a nearly identical offer, along with a letter of their own. “It was a matter of a few thousand dollars and somehow they ended up choosing me,” Kristen says. And to think Kristen’s anemoia began years earlier, when she heard the story of her mother and a certain member of the Beatles.

Kristen grew up listening to her mother Sandra tell the story of how she won a radio contest to see the Beatles. It was their first performance in Canada. Her mother described in great detail the rust colored corduroy skirt and jacket with a ruffled bell sleeve top she wore, and the moment Ringo kissed Sandra’s hand, calling her “My lady.” Then, as Kristen was about to enter high school, she discovered a trunk filled with her mother’s belongings. In it were an embroidered top Sandra made, sewing notions, and books on macramé and candle making. Kristen was so taken by her mother’s keepsakes she began seeking out vintage fashion magazines, clothes, and knick-knacks. “I wish so badly that I could have experienced all of these amazing things with her.”

Today, one can see Kristen’s love affair with the past in every room of her home. Weaving together her own finds and family heirlooms with items purchased from previous owners Bill and Betty, Kristen’s home is a vintage wonderland. Kristen was also given the original slides which chronicle the house being built (taken each day of the year-and-a-half building process), records of all items purchased (from large appliances to scouring pads), and binders filled with everything from old wallpaper samples to a catalog from the store where the George Nelson Bubble Lamps were purchased. Oh, and it just so happens Bill and Betty had a cat named Ringo. That’s right, they were Beatles fans, too. “I feel very fortunate to know so much about the original homeowners and the construction and life of my home. I cherish each and every photo, object, and piece of paper they left behind. I’ve now combined my memories and family heirlooms with what was left in the house to start a new story.”

As if all of that weren’t enough to prove Kristen found a home tailor-made for her, Kristen’s art studio even used to be Betty’s studio. Next to a hanging mola, purchased by Betty in Panama, Kristen works as a part-time analog collage artist and weaver. She incorporates vintage and vintage-inspired materials into the prints and collages she sells on Etsy and at Dear Society in Kansas City. Besides working in her studio, Kristen’s other favorite pastime is hanging out at home with her boyfriend Darren and her two rescue cats, Duncan and Pablo. Kristen and Darren tried living together but the cats didn’t get along with Darren’s dog, Charlie. Darren bought a home just down the street, though they haven’t given up hope of living together under one roof. I too hope it works out, because it seems to me Kristen has found a way to turn her nostalgia for a past she’s never experienced into a brick-and-mortar reality. —Liberty 

Photography by Kaley Cornett and Kristen Elise Pickell

Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
The home was originally a yellowish tan with brown trim. Last summer, Kristen repainted it and added a modern glass and bright chartreuse door. Kristen's family helped her replace old landscaping with a poodle pine tree, yuccas, Elijah blues, bamboo, sedums, and other drought tolerant plants. She plans to continue the look around the entire house. Her goal, Kristen says, is to have as much pride for the exterior of the home as she does for its interior.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
The print of Picasso's "Camille Claudel" is one of Kristen's favorites. She found it at the Brown Elephant while living in Chicago. The woven tray (behind the cacti) was given to Kristen by her grandfather. "He used to have it hanging up in my grandparents' ultra 70s basement." The bust sculpture was found at the Rivermarket Antique Mall in Kansas City.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
Kristen likes the unique layout of her home. She also adores the color variations of the original Spanish tile seen here in the entryway. The chandelier was purchased by the original homeowners from an artist. "I’m not crazy about the look of it, but it does cast really lovely shadows on the walls at night. I do plan on updating this light fixture to a gold sunburst-style chandelier in the near future." Kristen's dream of owning a George Nelson Platform Bench came true! The painting is called “Looking at Me, Looking at You” by Kit Landwehr.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
The teak bookcase, from House of Denmark, was a huge selling point for Kristen. She's taken great care and attention in filling it with precious objects, books, and artwork. "I love when people come over and take the time to look at the way I have each shelf arranged." The backgammon table belonged to Kristen's mother Sandra and was made for her in the late 70s/early 80s. Kristen learned to play backgammon at a young age and still plays it often with her mother, grandfather, and boyfriend Darren. The woven Souk poufs are from West Elm. They also happen to make perfect cat beds! Behind the teak bookshelf is an opening to Kristen's studio.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
"I spent a lot of time unpacking my belongings, many of which had been in boxes or at my parents' house for several years, and figuring out where everything should go. I started with my artwork, then moved on to the furniture pieces I already had and then starting placing my decorative objects. Once I started placing things, everything [started] falling into place naturally." Some of Kristen's favorite objects on the shelf include the vintage mola and anteater, the tiny loom, and the seashells that were left behind by the original homeowners.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
A favorite nook of Kristen's features an original Jacques Guillon “Cord Chair” (circa 1950) she found at Scout in Chicago. An excerpt from a 1953 Life Magazine ad says this about the chair: "A new solution is the chair designed by a Montreal sports goods manufacturer, Alexis Andreef, and a former Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, Jacques Guillon. Pooling their knowledge of skis, tennis rackets and parachutes, they have devised a chair with the flexible, laminated wood frame of a ski, a seat and back of nylon parachute cord strung tight like a tennis racket. Weighing only seven pounds, the chair supported 3,370 pounds in a weight test, bent but did not break." Now that's craftsmanship! A vintage lamp and framed poster by R.B. Kitaj bring more charm to this corner.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
The back of the house has large glass windows and sliding doors which look out to a yard full of mature trees. Kristen says it's like living in a treehouse. The sofa came from Kristen’s parents. “This was their first ‘nice’ sofa, which they had custom made in the mid-80s. I’ve been pretty lucky that my cats and guests haven’t managed to destroy it yet.” Kristen purchased the woven tapestry hanging in between the living room and dining room from the original owners, Bill and Betty. The artist's initials on the tapestry read M.K.M. "I appreciate the construction of this piece as a weaver myself and also love the combination of line, pattern and color." Bertoia side chairs and David Rowland 40/4 metal chairs sit around the dining table, another one of Kristen's family heirlooms. The coffee table is Noguchi.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
Kristen reclines on the sofa with her two cats, Duncan and Pablo. Behind her, the bird of paradise has ample room to grow. "I've always wanted a plant to reach the windows above my sliding door – there's still five to six feet to go before it touches the ceiling!"
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
The dining room pendant is a George Nelson Bubble Lamp from the 1970s, original to the home. The owners left behind the Howard Miller Lighting catalog which shows the dining room pendant cost $29.50. There are two smaller globes like this one in the basement. Kristen's most prized possession is the buffet. It was built by her grandfather and great-grandfather in 1963. Artist Paul Anthony Smith, a dear friend of Kristen's, made the ceramic vessels on the buffet. A planter made by the original homeowners and Crate and Barrel candlesticks sit on the dining room table.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
"I love the size of my kitchen, the layout, and the light that comes in through my kitchen window and skylight." Kristen recently painted the kitchen and installed the stainless steel backsplash behind the stove, replacing a terra cotta wall color and folky tile backsplash. As for the future, Kristen says, "I’ve always loved the cabinets, cork knobs and flooring in this room but would like to refresh them in the future. I want to keep the overall look of the cabinets but update the doors and maybe use some more textured woods and modern finishes."
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
The marbled fabric wall covering in the main floor bathroom reminds Kristen of the Italian fashion house Missoni, or maybe a fancy dessert. The original homeowner, Betty, meticulously put the wall covering up herself and added a hemp rickrack type trim around the edges. Betty also painted the mirror to look like bamboo. "This room has been the location of many bathroom selfies by my friends and family." The artwork on the wall is an intaglio print made by a good friend of Kristen's, Craig DeMoss.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
Kristen shows off some of the photographs, slides, and objects left behind by the previous owners, Bill and Betty. The colored pencils, which were discovered by Kristen perfectly sharpened, sit next to a key to the teak bookcase. Kristen recently opened the art history book and discovered a print from Germany (in the top right corner) and a pencil drawing of a fountain in Kansas City. “I love that I’m still finding little treasures in my home, even after living in it for over two years.”
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
Kristen says she's still in awe of the little details Bill and Betty put into the construction of the home, like the amber glass transoms above her bedroom (and studio) doors. Inspired by Don Draper’s apartment in Mad Men, Kristen decided to paint the doors to her bedroom (shown here) and bathroom with two of her favorite vintage colors. The bedroom door color is Amber Wave by Sherwin Williams.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
Kristen made the pillows for her bed using Nate Berkus and vintage fabrics. “I’ve never been a fan of matching pillows so I thought this variation in size, pattern, and color would be a nice combination.” The Picasso line drawing print is special to Kristen because Picasso is her favorite artist (she even has a Picasso line drawing of an owl on her back). The headboard and sconces are from IKEA.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
The shutters are from Betty’s grandparents' farmhouse in Iowa (circa 1800s). The windows were custom made to fit the shutters. Kristen has several photos of the farmhouse and a newspaper article. “It has become an important ritual to close and open the shutters each day. They make a wonderful sound as they close and latch.” Kristen is also fond of the diagonal oak paneling. She is, however, not a fan of the carpet. It has turned into something of a monster as it ripples and pours out into the hallway and onto the steps leading upstairs. “I got so sick of looking at it I already started to pull it off [in] the entry.” Kristen can’t wait to replace it with a marbled cork floor. The vintage chair was a gift from a friend.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
One of Kristen's first home projects was installing this House of Hackney wallpaper in the master bedroom. She plans to add a mirror and vintage cabinet at some point. In the mirrored tray are a gold necklace from her paternal grandmother, her maternal grandmother’s rings, and a pair of 1960s enamel peacock earrings from Hong Kong.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
“I have the strangest bathtub in here, which is actually a Japanese soaking tub that is very deep, about three feet to be exact. You almost can’t see me when I’m in it.” The tub even came with laminated cleaning instructions passed on from the original owners. “I do plan on updating the shower in this room with a modern glass shower at some point – I really want to be able to see the whole bathroom from the shower and open things up a bit. I will only update the flooring and countertops if I can find something similar to what is in here already – like orange quartz or houndstooth tile.” Kristen covered seashell wallpaper behind the soaking tub with a mirror. The painting,“One Temporal – One Spacial” is by Russell Shoemaker and the shower curtain is from Urban Outfitters.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
The macramé plant hanger in the master bathroom was made by the previous homeowner Betty. It hangs alongside two collages made by Kristen from her "Cosmic Desert" series. It's hard to imagine two more kindred spirits, brought together by the love of this house. Kristen painted the door in Sherwin Williams Refresh.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
Kristen’s studio looks out onto the rest of the home through a long, narrow opening above the bookcase in the living room. The hanging mola was purchased in Panama and assembled by Betty. Kristen has a photograph of the woman in Panama who made the original panels. The dress on the mannequin was hand-dyed and hand-woven by Kristen in college. She considers it her favorite creation.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
Kristen sits at her loom which she named “Wooly” after her grandma Wooly who taught Kristen to knit. “I don’t have as much time as I’d like to weave, but I’m excited to be working on some large-scale wall hangings over the next few months.” Behind the loom are accordion closet doors which run the length of the room.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
"What I love most about my home is its story." Kristen displays objects she's collected from her life and from the previous homeowners Bill and Betty. A photo of Betty in the garden and a clipboard left in the workshop by Bill sit alongside photos of Kristen’s mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. There’s also a photo of Kristen and her boyfriend Darren on her 28th birthday, embroidered patches that belonged to Kristen's mother, and a wooden toy left on a bookshelf in the basement.
Kristen Elise Pickell's Home Tour for Design*Sponge
These are the original plans for Kristen’s house which give a sense of its unique layout. “I love seeing what changed from the original plan and all of the notations the architect and original homeowners made on the plans. I hope to get these framed someday.” The home is approximately 3,500 square feet (including two floors and 14 rooms!). The palatial basement has a wood burning stove, large workshop, guest room, bathroom, sewing room, laundry room, and storage room.

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  • This house just blew my mind. How lovely that someone bought it from the owners who loves it as much as they did. I never would have thought this was my style, but I really enjoyed this tour and have a new found appreciation for this time period!

  • OOOh, loved this home tour! Lots of character, unique objects, history and inspiration. We’re heading to Panama in 10 days and this post has inspired me to hunt for the embroidered panels of the Kuna women…maybe I can assemble my own mola wall hanging!? Terrific wallpaper choice, too. House of Hackney is terrific. Any idea who manufactured or designed that Missoni-esque paper in the bathroom. Well done, Kristen! Enjoy it for many years to come!

    • Hello Batya! I’m thrilled you liked my home so much. You are lucky to be going to Panama…I think it would be great for you to try and make your own large mola or frame them separately but display them together. I wish I knew who made the Missoni-style fabric in my bathroom! It’s one of my favorite things about my house. Thanks again for your comment!

  • This house has LOADS of charm. It is such an inspiration to see a house of its era sympathetically updated – it is being brought into the 21st Century but without sacrificing the architectural features and decorative items that give the house its soul. Love the juxtaposition of those antique shutters in the bedroom on that 70s timber wall and the wallpapers are awesome.

    • Thank you Margot! I’m really glad you feel that way. I’ve really tried to maintain the original 70s feel but still make it a bit modern. Glad you enjoyed it!

  • I love that Kristin admires and respect the wonderful history of this house and the former owners probably do too.

  • Stunning! I have about zero nostalgia for the 70s, but I would live here in a heartbeat and not change a thing. I also love how this tour perfectly encapsulates Grace’s point yesterday about trends. No one would put red laminate countertops in a house today. (Paint it white! Pave it in granite!) But those countertops feel classic in this space. And a perfectly good countertop didn’t end up in a landfill. Beautiful job, all.

    • Thank you Amanda! I’m glad that all of the ultra 70s features in my home were kept in such good condition so I wasn’t forced to remove or update anything. And I agree, the countertops are not something you see nowadays, it’s nice to have something unique. Thanks for your feedback!

    • Stephanie – your comment made my day! I’m so glad you enjoyed my home tour. Thanks for the comment.

  • Just LOVE this home, so many rich stories now woven into your own! Thanks so much for sharing it with us Kristen!!

  • What a lovely, thoughtful update to an architectural gem. It has been modernized with such a light hand – perfect!

  • This is a wonderful story and a fabulous home. I love that Kristen knows and respects the life history of her home. The best possible amalgam of the then and the now.

    • Wendere – Thank you for your comment. I feel lucky to be able to share the story of my home in such detail. I’m glad you enjoyed my home tour!

  • Thank you Design Sponge and everyone who took the time to read my home tour! I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to share my home and story with you all. I appreciate your kind words and comments!

  • I think this is the longest it’s ever taken me to look through a home. So much to see and the captions were well done. I kept stopping to look things up! Your home is fascinating, thanks for sharing.