An Urban Nest: A Kansas City Prefab Home

This Kansas City prefab, designed by architecture students, proves that green homes can be edgy and affordable.

| September/October 2008

  • Set upon a hill in Kansas City’s historic Strawberry Hill neighborhood, this modern home makes nice with its more traditional neighbors.
    Diane Guthrie
  • A modernist take on the front porch, this space connects to the home through a wall of windows, enhancing the indoor-outdoor connection and naturally shading the interior.
    Diane Guthrie
  • A simple geometric dining table complements the home’s clean, somewhat industrial feel. A piece of hand-painted art, reclaimed-wood stools and a naturally shaped Thai chair lend natural warmth and individuality.
    Diane Guthrie
  • The home’s boxy design is softened by sustainably harvested Douglas fir cladding. Built on stilts, the home barely disturbs its infill site.
    Diane Guthrie
  • Warm-toned furnishings and natural shapes and images tie the home to the natural world. The Thai chair (left) and coconut lamp are from local store Black Bamboo; loveseat, screen and art by Blue Heron Furniture in nearby Lawrence; and reclaimed wood table by Kansas City’s Acronym Designs.
    Diane Guthrie
  • The galley kitchen, with its sleek, modern feel, is Kenny’s favorite part of the house. The layout works well with the home’s open floorplan while providing plenty of counter and storage space.
    Diane Guthrie
  • Kenny enjoys the hilltop view overlooking downtown Kansas City.
    Diane Guthrie
  • A moveable bookshelf, backed with transluscent Polygal, allows Leah and Kenny to manipulate the size of the second bedroom and neighboring office space, plus it provides storage for baby Myles’ clothing, books and family photos.
    Diane Guthrie
  • Large platforms, decorated with pumpkins from a local patch, lead to the kitchen entry.
    Diane Guthrie

Leah Farley and her husband, Kenny Dickens, live in a sleek rectangular box atop a hill in Kansas City, Kansas. Come Christmas, she says, “We’re thinking of trying to configure some kind of giant ribbon to make it look like a wrapped present.”

A gift it is, in many ways.

Designed by architecture students from the University of Kansas (KU) Studio 804 program, which focuses on sustainable and affordable design, this two-bedroom, one-bath home suggests a stylish future for entry-level housing. Perched on stilts, with a panoramic view of the downtown skyline, it’s affordable, edgy and green. “I was thrilled to find something so unique, especially in Kansas City, where you see a lot of great older architecture but not many contemporary houses,” Leah says.

Because the KU program focuses on encouraging redevelopment in economically challenged neighborhoods, Leah knew the home would be reasonably priced. “They want working folks to be able to afford to live in an amazing house,” she says.

Daring design, flexible space

Leah and Kenny’s home was built in six modular units in nearby Lawrence, Kansas, where the Studio 804 program is based, then trucked 40 miles to Kansas City and assembled. Indoors and out, it blends bold design with subtle detail. From the street, concrete stairs sweep up a steep hill to a home that barely touches the ground. Set on exposed concrete piers, this house tiptoes on the earth. River rock nestled below the structure provides both drainage and counterpoint—a natural touch of warmth.



September 12-13, 2019
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