Farm-Fresh Design: A New World Farmhouse in the Midwest

This modern farmhouse can give you the illusion that you may not be in Kansas anymore.


| March/April 2005



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The Leuthardts’ modern farmhouse provides a splash of color on a Missouri hillside.


Photography By Michael Shopenn

Ambling down a back road in Smithville, Missouri, along endless rows of corn, your eye catches a splash of color on the hillside. You see a house—or is it a house?—constructed of yellow, blue, white and red blocks. You blink a few times and think, whoa, Toto, we’re not anywhere near Kansas anymore.

This modern farmhouse—for it is a house on a working farm—belongs to Franz and Annelies Leuthardt. The couple left their native Switzerland twenty-five years ago to farm these 265 acres along the Platte River about half an hour from downtown Kansas City. They eventually developed a successful business in decorative fall crops—mini-pumpkins, ornamental gourds, and Indian corn—bringing a bit of the harvest season into people’s homes.

Seven years ago the Leuthardts decided to build a new house a bit farther from the road with a better view up the hill. They hired architect Kirk Gastinger of the Kansas City-based firm Gastinger Harden Walker and told him in no uncertain terms what they wanted in a house on their working farm. “Franz told me, ‘I know old; I come from the Old Country. We want something new and different,’” says Gastinger.

The result is quite surreal, as if a contemporary art museum had dropped from the sky into a field. The house’s elemental shapes, painted in bright primary colors, pop out from the green hillside. Against a white winter backdrop, the colors are even more vibrant. The Leuthardts’ home is also contemporary in another sense: It uses modern technology to keep the freezing winters—and blazing summers—at bay.

Earth-friendly climate control

Gastinger Harden Walker is best known for its “green” historic preservation of Kansas City’s first skyscraper, the 1888 New York Life building. It updated the city landmark with environmentally sensitive features including recyclable carpet, thermal ice storage for air conditioners, low-VOC paints and finishes, recycled-content steel and hardware, low-energy lighting, a recycling chute, and bicycle racks for commuters. The firm also designed the first speculative office building to obtain the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environ­mental Design certification.





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