Pinnacle of Style
Union Hill lures KC creatives to this historic neighborhood with cinematic city views.
florals in Tim Hagan's house by Trapp & Company
Nestled within 16 city blocks overlooking Crown Center, Liberty Memorial and other downtown destinations, Union Hill sits perched like an urban magnet, attracting a mix of singles and couples, urban professionals, creatives (architects, interior designers, etc.) and influential people like public relations guru Travis Joyal and Kansas City mayor Sly James.
This charming, historic neighborhood was established in 1857 and has as its next-door neighbor Union Cemetery, Kansas City’s oldest public cemetery and the final resting place of Civil War soldiers and renowned painter George Caleb Bingham.
Since 1982, the district has undergone a transformation into stylish urban living and is home to more than 1,000 residents. Restored Victorian gems with gingerbread trim coexist side-by-side with new homes, townhomes, lofts and apartments —many built in a classic historical style. Within walking distance are several businesses, a coffee shop and trendy restaurants. The atmosphere is distinctly residential and yet much of the urban city is laid out at the foot of its hills.
The neighborhood boasts spectacular views of downtown Kansas City. After all, Union Hill wasn’t named a hill for nothing. Its developer, architect Bob Frye, calls the location “unparalleled.”
Union Hill also caught the eye of Mike Atkins and Ken Schultz, who bought their elegant Georgian-style, brick townhome with a modern, one-bedroom loft-style interior and wrought iron balcony four years ago. Tim Hagan was also entranced. A little more than two years ago, he bought his charming two-story cottage-style home with a terrace and upper decks overlooking the obelisks and markers that dot the green hills of Union Hill Cemetery.
Here is a look into their chic, art-filled Union Hill escapes.
A deep, regal purple is the hallmark of interior designer/property developer Tim Hagan’s Union Hill home. Subtly woven throughout the main living area, the color creates a contemporary and glamorous vibe when paired with lavender, silver, chrome and shades of black and gray.
“Purple is my favorite color,” Hagan says. “It always has been since I was a child. But I had never really utilized the color purple in the past homes that I’ve lived in. I’m 47 now and it’s like, ‘I like purple and I’m just going to go for it.’”
Always a fan of the neighborhood, Hagan has had his eye on living in Union Hill for years. He shares his home with Daisy and Duke, his two frisky Maltipoos (a cross between a Maltese and a poodle).
“I have some good friends that live in the neighborhood,” Hagan says. “And over the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of time with friends here and really love the proximity to everything. It’s so close to downtown, to Westport, to the Plaza, and it has such a unique family feel to it, a beautiful feel.”
Hagan is the owner of Tim Hagan Design, a property development company that builds and creates contemporary homes. He developed the company after he bought two Union Hill homes about 18 months ago and had no trouble flipping them.
His current home, may read as quaint cottage on the outside with a lush garden of — you guessed it —purple florals, and a quiet and enclosed green back terrace. However, the interior reveals a distinctly modern open floor plan with a seemingly sculptural metal fireplace surround (it’s actually constructed of a cardboard-like paper with a coat of metallic silver paint) and a stunning central staircase leading to two bedrooms and a set of double decks. Hagan’s own abstract paintings adorn many of the walls and the home showcases his way with wallpaper — from the subtle, textured lavender wall covering in the main living room to the playful, overscale floral Marimekko print in the powder room.
“I loved the layout,” Hagan says. “It’s the perfect size for me; it’s about 2,300 square feet, which is as much as I would ever need. I love the openness and how the kitchen opens into the dining room and the living room.
“And the decks. They’re just so beautiful.”
Although he didn’t do much structurally, Hagan did a lot to the interior design of the house, such as redoing the wood floors, repainting and wallpapering the walls and finding furniture with a sophisticated and contemporary feel.
“I prefer contemporary over modern,” he says. “I believe contemporary is very today. It's what is relevant and in-fashion now, compared to modern, which is either retrospective to the 1960s or ‘what's going to be cool tomorrow.’ Contemporary is more current, subtle, sleek and classier.”
“I love nice, large open spaces, nice social or entertaining spaces. I definitely like clean lines — squares and rectangles versus circles. I like more boxy and straight things versus curvy or round things.”
Hagan loves to entertain on his first-floor patio with fire pits and fountain features or on the playfully furnished upper decks with punchy modern furniture, including a red Lucite chair, and a large outdoor canvas that Hagan painted. Exterior landscaping was created by The Greensman, owned by Kristopher Dabner. Floral arrangements are by Trapp and Company.
“I really like living in an environment that’s my style and my taste and can have friends and family over to enjoy it with me,” Hagan says. His plush purple-accented pad is as chic and welcoming as a boutique hotel from which you never want to check out.
Tony Town Home
The wow factor in Mike Atkins and Ken Schultz’s home definitely is the dramatic, double-height, 18-foot windows overlooking downtown. The view even steals the limelight from vibrant modern art, hung floor-to-ceiling in the gallery style.
The view, especially at night with Kansas City’s iconic structures beaconing like Liberty Memorial and Union Station and the distinct Power & Light District, is breathtaking.
“The view is the main artwork,” Atkins says. “It just makes you feel like you are in a whole different world.”
Atkins and Schultz actually use their gracious Union Hill home as a weekend pied-à terre, always bringing along their Soft-coated Wheaton Terrier, Marco. They spend the rest of their time in their French Normandy five-bedroom home in the quiet, woodsy Saddle Ridge neighborhood in eastern Independence that they bought in 2003.
“It’s our weekend getaway from the country,” Atkins, a printing broker, says of their Union Hill loft and reverse weekend commute. “People ask us why we don’t get a lake house. We don’t want a lake house. We want to come into the city and go to plays and restaurants and be part of the activity. Every weekend is a vacation,” says Atkins. Avid diners out and theater lovers, they have assembled some of their favorite playbills beneath a glass-top desk in the master bedroom.
“When you come into the city and you see the stadiums, and you see the skyline, it sort of gives you a little energy to want to go out and do things,” adds Schultz, a podiatrist.
They lived in Union Hill before, from 1996 to 2007, but they sold that condo and moved to the country. Then four years ago they saw their current, one bedroom/two bath Union Hill place come on the market, fell in love with it and bought it.
“Originally, we thought of flipping it, but we loved having it,” Schultz says. “We took it off the market and have been using it as our weekend home.”
Comparing Union Hill to a San Francisco neighborhood, the couple, who have been together for 19 years, enjoy the open layout their home affords for easy entertaining. As befits the urban setting, the townhouse is appointed with sleek modern furnishings in black leather, a festive bar cart, and a focal point sunburst mirror.
“We wanted a place where we could have a more modern feel, with more colorful art and glass and light,” Atkins says, explaining that their Independence home is more traditional.
Modern artwork is everywhere in their Union Hill home, and they try to support local artists by attending various art fairs throughout the city. They unified the space by using a serene dove-gray paint throughout, including the ceilings.
Amenities upstairs include a large walk-in closet by Space By Design off the master bedroom and a master bathroom that features a handsome, dark green marble countertop and subway tile. The downstairs features a modern kitchen off the living room with dramatic, red pendant lighting that overlooks the glorious KC skyline.
As modern and chic as their home is, it’s the excitement of urban living that gives them the most joy from their city digs.
“Go to jazz clubs,” Atkins urges. “Go to restaurants. Go to plays. Go to Power & Light. Go to Sprint Center. It’s just all good.”