Unveiling the KCSA Designer Showhouse Space

The Symphony Designers’ Showhouse is a Kansas City tradition and one of the longest running Showhouses in the country. Sponsored by the Kansas City Symphony Alliance, the project is a benefit for the Kansas City Symphony. Each year, a Kansas City landmark residence is chosen as the Symphony Designers’ Showhouse. The homeowners move out and a public preview of the “undecorated” home is held. Then, local designers are selected to transform each room of the home into a design showplace. The “finished” Showhouse is typically open to the public in the spring. This year, tickets to see the showhouse are sold from April 22 – May 14 (and can be picked up at the shop!)  

We’re excited to announce that Nell Hill’s was selected as the designer for the third floor suite of the home. The suite, affectionately called The Ballroom, as this space would have typically been used as a popular entertaining space at the turn of the century, was imagined and designed into an equestrian lounge. It includes a large open sitting area, two bedrooms – one of which was refashioned into a cozy office, and a bright and airy bathroom. This is our second time as a part of this project, and our team looks forward to it every year.

A sprawling Jacobean house located in the Historic Roanoke Neighborhood was chosen as this years backdrop for the designer showcase. As part of the City Beautiful Movement, Roanoke was platted to maintain the “natural” style of its adjacent Roanoke Park. The stately brick home is surrounded by a lush and verdant landscape, naturally shaded by sentinel trees that have likely been standing guard over the property since the land was originally purchased by James H. Hale in 1906.

The home has passed numerous hands over its lifetime, including ties to fellow furniture connoiseurs – in 1918 passing to the youngest son of the founder of Helmers Manufacturing Co., a high-end furniture company in Leavenworth and Kansas City from the early 1900’s. After a string of owners, Archie and Dessie ( Van Horn) Fox purchased the home in 1950. Like many of the houses in the neighborhood, it had been divided into multiple units. The couple lived on the first floor and basement and rented the second and third floors. By 1973 it fell to Dr. John Goheen and his wife Ellen to bring the house back to single-family occupancy. 

Later, employee benefits lawyer Thomas Brous and his wife Patty owned the home from 1996 until Patty’s death in 1999. They enjoyed collecting arts and crafts furniture and played up the original interior composed of quarter-sawn oak and oak floors throughout. There are nine octagonal pillars on the first floor and a stunning sideboard in the dining room. The Brous family also brought out of storage a lovely copper and stained glass chandelier which continues to be a focal point of the dining room. After Patty’s death Tom continued to live in the house and then with the help of a family friend he was introduced to Mary Lou Kroh and they married in 2001. They enjoyed the house until 2004 when it was sold to the present owners. 

Dr. Thomas Marchioro, a physicist and retired technology executive, and his wife Durene have graciously invited us to share their home for the 53rd Symphony Designers’ Showhouse. They have been grand conservators of the house and its history. In 2009 they remodeled the kitchen using materials consistent with the house such as quarter-sawn oak cabinets and soapstone countertops. The entire home looks truly magnificent, and with all the attention to detail paid to each designer’s room, is well worth the ticket to walk through and see in-person.  

I caught up with Design Manager, Carlie, at the Designer Showcase event leading up to the opening of the Showhouse. “Upon walking into the home, I immediately thought we would want to design the main living room, but by the time I made it to the 3rd floor I knew this space was it!” Carlie said. “Seeing the entire 3rd floor, I knew right away how we would design the space. Right when you walk up the stairs there is a warmth and rusticity that makes this an incredibly special place.”  

I ascended the stairway and Carlie was right, I was immediately blown away. Our team totally knocked it out of the park with an elegant rustic atmosphere. Enter the space and think Ralph Lauren. We drew inspiration from a few equestrian fabrics and art pieces and began to richly layer from there. The goal was for people to walk up the stairs and feel at home. Looking around at the rich textures and colors of the design, it is definitely a space I would have loved to call home – and one I didn’t want to leave!   

From the landing at the top of the stairs, the ball room features transitional furniture, three gorgeous wool rugs, and rich textiles that present casualness yet also exude elegance. A game table with a bottle green leather top is well placed where it can create a room within a room, and plenty of space for a game night with friends. A moody and masculine bar that matches the tone of the table is positioned behind it, adding height to the design and keeping libations well within reach. We opted to paint the entire room Sherwin Williams Creamy, because of the many angles in the third-floor space. This also allowed our beautiful art and furniture to take center stage in this design.  

In the first bedroom we decided to keep the homeowner’s beautiful antique bed and chest and add layers from our beautiful line of textiles, peppering in some fresh accessories to finish the space. Opposite of the bed finds a gallery wall of soft bucolic scenes that is nestled next to a wood rush chair, a cozy spot for a cup of tea or a good book (ideally both).  

We wanted the second bedroom to be utilized as an office with a rich camel colored antelope rug and an antique inspired desk. We generously layered fabrics and textures to make a more masculine inspired workspace. Equestrian details aren’t just found on the walls and in the accessories, but in the furniture itself! The desk features forged horse-head detailing – now that is attention to detail. Notes of red and blue are pulled throughout the design, upon which rich caramels and brown tones are the foundation.  

One of our favorite thing about this project, aside from the ability to support our local Kansas City Symphony of course, is the ability for our designers to work on a project together with a common goal. Although we share a workspace, so often we’re pulled in many different directions throughout the day with our individual clients. This project is a great opportunity for collaboration and teamwork. We wanted our space to represent Nell Hill’s and represent traditions. I hope it inspired you to see your space in a new way. Until next time – happy decorating!