The home’s main floor cantilevers out over its basement on the west side. The orange and blue paint colors were specified by Breuer. The cedar was recently restored from a dark brown to its original light color. Roy Inman Special to The Star
The home’s main floor cantilevers out over its basement on the west side. The orange and blue paint colors were specified by Breuer. The cedar was recently restored from a dark brown to its original light color. Roy Inman Special to The Star

House & Home

Marcel Breuer: Clean, modern lines define Snower Residence in Mission Hills

By Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian

cgregorian@kcstar.com

October 18, 2015 3:00 AM

Location: Mission Hills

Details: 1,800 square feet, living room, dining room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, basement is an additional 900 square feet, including a family room, full bath and laundry room

Current owner: Rob Barnes and Karen Bisset

Architectural notes: Robert P. and Marianne Snower hired Marcel Breuer to design a home for them after seeing a magazine article about him. He designed the house for the corner lot in Kansas City area’s toniest neighborhood, site unseen. It was completed in 1954.

Barnes and Bisset bought the house two years ago, after Robert Snower died, and began restoring it.

The exterior is covered in cedar and has deep overhangs, with skylights above windows on the south and east side. The main floor cantilevers over the basement.

The home was well-preserved when Barnes and Bisset bought it and required mostly cosmetic work. It also contained a lot of the original furnishings that Breuer had either custom-designed or specified for the home.

The kitchen cabinets are original, but Barnes and Bisset replaced the wood-look laminate countertops with solid walnut ones, as Breuer intended them to be.

Snower Residence

Homeowner Rob Barnes talks about the Mission Hills

cgregorian@kcstar.com

They also returned several of the interior walls and exterior overhangs to their original blue and orange paint colors based on original paint chips that were in a folder full of Breuer’s plans. The Snowers had saved all the plans and correspondence between them and Breuer. A seamstress used bolts of vintage silk left in the house to re-create the original drapes.

With the exception of the linoleum kitchen floors, the rest of the home has refinished solid walnut flooring.

An original 20  1/2 -foot-long, built-in cabinet floats along a living room wall. It houses a Fisher Stereo with a magic-eye tube for tuning and a hidden bar that contains several vintage liquor bottles left over from the Snowers. Barnes and Bisset had the stereo restored. It now emits perfect sound through an original built-in speaker above the fireplace.

Each of the bedrooms has original built-in cabinets, some featuring drawer fronts angled to look like louvers.

The ceilings throughout the house are covered in solid cedar planks that have darkened slightly over the years and show the fingerprints of the craftsmen who installed them more than 60 years ago. Barnes briefly considered refinishing them to remove the prints but decided not to after learning that other Breuer ceilings have the same prints.

“We just like the patina of the age of the ceiling,” Barnes says.

For advice, Barnes sought out preservationists who worked on a home Breuer designed in 1948 as part of an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.

“It’s really been a fun project. You only get one crack at something like this,” Barnes says. “I find this home very calming, the lines and the angles. But there is also great beauty with the wood and the colors. If you show this house to 100 people, 99 probably won’t like it, but one will love it.”

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.