In Jan Durwood’s world, anything is possible. There is no mountain too high, no valley too low, no river too wide, no design project too wild.
A Kansas City native, Durwood grew up in the sixties with an inherited appreciation for art, culture and, most importantly, happiness. Traversing a career in marketing, she spent 14 years in Colorado before returning to Kansas City for work.
What came next would prove her finest journeys to date — the love of her life and their home.
“This is my first real expression of my return to Kansas City,” Durwood says of her Leawood residence.
After meeting her future husband, Skip, who also returned to the area for work, they would make the journey together in creating a home that would shelter all their worldly possessions, cherished pieces of art and symbols of their love — old and new.
“It was a labor of love and it was an opportunity for me to fully actualize some of the art and travels that we collect,” Durwood says.
Built in 2003, the home would undergo a design rejuvenation in 2011 after the couple’s wedding in Vail, Colo. Utilizing the assistance of interior designer Carla Rieke of Madden-McFarland, Jan ventured on a series of original projects throughout the home.
“I knew this wasn’t going to be a traditional project but I like traditional bones; I like the character and the hominess of tradition with the whopping craziness of contemporary,” Durwood says.
A Hearth Like No Other
The home’s statement piece welcomes visitors with a large dose of Jan’s personality — the larger-than-life Suze Ford painting.
“I had in my head that we were to commemorate our wedding, so I got to go back to my childhood colors — orange and pink,” Durwood says. “That’s when I met Suze Ford at the Plaza Art Fair. I saw her work and what I loved is that she embedded words. She had ethereal colors that were absolutely fresh, very feminine. I knew she was an old soul.”
Moved by her work, Jan commissioned Ford to commemorate her union with Skip in a piece that would ignite the space in 2010. Honoring their special day, the painting includes lyrics from “Ribbon in the Sky,” by Stevie Wonder (which was played at their wedding), a wedding dress and other sentimental phrases.
From there the great room evolved and, as Durwood put it, became an environment.
“I like creating environments, so when you move from room to room I like to evoke feeling,” she says. “I love people, I love people coming into my home and I love the fact that they enjoy it and feel comfortable here.”
Keeping with a clean black and white palette punctuated by art, the rug was the next custom piece. Durwood and Rieke dreamed up a black and white rug that would feature an asymmetrical pattern on a portion of the full piece. Modern furniture envelops the floor covering, creating a stylish, yet mod space — essential Jan.
The tufted wall, however, may have been Durwood’s wildest idea that resulted in a chic design unlike any other. In an effort to find direction for the fireplace, Durwood returned from a visit to the Grand Street Café that had added an upholstered wall. She loves texture and knew this would be a wild, but “oh so cool” approach.
“Jan finds inspiration in every place that she goes,” Rieke says of the element, which was completed by Rob Wood.
The environments from the great room continue to reflect the Durwoods’ well-curated collection of art, with a heaping dose of Jan’s energetic personality.
Front Door, Back Door
Entering the couple’s home, the curved staircase is the backbone of the entire home.
Architect Trent Carr, formerly of Kansas City, designed the L-shape layout of the home with a curved staircase — the one element that was a must-have for Durwood. The iron railing was then created by another former Kansas City staple, Amir of Forged Design, and features massive tulips in mixed metals.
“This was my big splurge — the staircase,” Durwood says. “It’s how the whole design of the house started. I wanted the staircase and I wanted an artist to do it.”
Meanwhile, quietly hung next to the front door is a unique piece by Chicago artist Guenther Riess, which makes Durwood giggle.
“One of the things that we like to do when we travel is go to local art shows in the cities we’re in to see if we find new emerging artists or established artists,” she says. “I always thought it was very funny because it says ‘back door’ at my front door.”
The powder room is the burst of electric color Jan keeps on hand.
“I had to do it,” laughs Jan. “I told her I was going to do it. It was originally red. I said ‘Carla, I think I have to do a hot pink.’ And she said ‘ok.’”
But the walls are suited for the artwork. Both a Suze Ford and Helen Lea, another artist Durwood cherishes, gather in this vibrant space. Both pieces depict flowers offering a sense of growth — perhaps reflective of Durwood’s growing collection.
As she moves through her home, noting the origins of art and mementos, she admires her almost 30 years of collecting art and still loving every single piece.
“This house — the things in it — have been collected over time and represent different things to me,” she says.
The master suite is a heavenly space that not only is torn from the pages of a magazine, it holds things near and dear to Jan and Skip. A few heirlooms are sprinkled among the room’s natural hues.
However, it was the framed mirrors on either side of the bed that were Jan’s own attempt at expanding on something simple.
“I finally found a couple of mirrored panels that I liked,” she says. “Went to a framer and selected all the different frames and it became a ‘window’ if you will — architectural windows.”
The crisp, clean white bathroom features a bounty of mirrors and gorgeous porcelain tile that, Durwood says, “had the tradition we were after but also freeform — combines the old with the new.”
A Peter Max sketch hangs in one nook and a small wall sculpture hangs above the soaking tub, which offered a special place for an item Durwood finds significant.
“This is probably the first piece I ever bought at the Plaza Art Fair, and this is actually how I see myself,” she says. “Breathing. Taking a Breath. It’s the eastern version of my very western personality that I have to incorporate in my life or I get very off balance. So this was my expression of that.”
The kitchen’s piece de resistance is the glass tile wall. Durwood toyed and toyed with what to do on this curved wall (which makes up the staircase) when finally it struck her.
“I probably thought of a hundred things on that wall,” she says. “It was just painted the peach color of the room and I didn’t think a piece of art was ever going to make it there. I was thinking freestyle glass and eventually all that beautiful glass tile started to happen. None of that existed in 2003 when I built the house.”
As a result, Rieke brought some samples, a tile guy and they embarked on a glass wall. The effect is magnificent. And the bonus? There were leftovers. Smitten with the tile, Durwood placed small pieces of the glass tile in doorframes amid the porcelain tile for a glamorous effect.
The upstairs loft and sitting area is flanked by the beautiful iron railing, allowing the space to share even more artwork. Here is where Jan keeps her Andy Warhol, a fabulous and striking piece of Jackie O and one of her Peter Max pieces — a poster.
“People who know me understand I am an insomniac. So often I am ‘sleepless in Kansas City,’” says Durwood. “So one night, Skip was gone, I am wide awake and turn on PBS and there’s Peter Max, who’s selling his posters on television. And I am like a Peter Max freak!”
The artist was signing his angel series when Jan called in and asked him to sign a poster with “Best wishes Jan-Max.” He even added a small drawing.
“So my Peter Max turned into truly a cherished item.”
The dining room is possibly one of the home’s most envisioned rooms.
Keeping with the black and white scheme that was created in the great room, the walls were painted a high gloss black, which provide a dramatic backdrop for the dining room’s white chairs. To the trained eye, though, the room was created in layers.
The rug began with Jan in her first townhome in Denver. Its organic primitive print inspired the small French fabric pillows that rest on the side chairs. Inspired by the design in the pillows, Jan wanted to bring that design to the back of the two larger tufted chairs. From above, the stunning chandelier adds light to the space; it was a collaboration with Wilson
Lighting to incorporate fruit designs, amber and crystals. And soon there will be a beaded ceiling inspired by a piece of beaded fruit.
Among it all, the chairs stand out the most, as if an homage to Durwood’s standout style. Commissioning fabric painter Shliegh Pasini of Pasini Design, Jan wanted a pattern from the small pillows on the side chairs to be painted on the back of the two end chairs. Using various templates and fabric for the chair, the pattern was hand-painted onto the fabric before the tufted chairs were even constructed.
“One of the beauties of Jan is that she enjoys the journey,” says Rieke. “Some of the things that happen take a lot longer than most of our clients want it to take. But she could enjoy the journey and realize it’s one more step forward each time we would make a decision and then be patient and be excited and happy when she gets it.”
Worth the wait, Durwood points out that the beautiful custom design is perfectly imperfect — just the way she wanted it.
“I was really careful not to go formal,” Jan says. “It cannot be formal!”
photos: William & Jill DiMartino