A cherry pencil post bed by Thomas Moser, a wedding present to themselves, is the center of the master bedroom. An Andean cut pile textile hangs above the bed while a Cajamarca hand-woven rug from Peru covers the floor under the bed.

For the Love of Character

ANNIE HURLBUT ZANDER AND RICK ZANDER never dreamed of leaving the Craftsman bungalow where they had lived for 19 years in the Volker neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri. But with a growing child and a neighborhood that hadn’t quite flourished the way they had hoped, the Zanders began the process of looking for a new place to call home. 

The couple had seen more than 50 homes with a realtor, Annie says, but none of them spoke to the couple. “Then, one rainy day in May 2002, we came to see this home tucked away in Sunset Hill and realized it was the first house we had seen with the bones and character we wanted.” 

Situated on a quiet cul-de-sac in the historic Kansas City neighborhood, the 1929 home shows off high peaks in its slate roof. One can’t help but wonder how the spaces inside relate to the dramatic roofline. Annie says the peaks create a more “compact” footprint for the three floors, but they make the spaces all the more compelling. 

In the living room, which is the focal point of the first floor, Annie houses a collection from her travels in the Andes where she did fieldwork for a doctorate in anthropology. Although she got sidetracked from her degree when she started a successful clothing company, Peruvian Connection, with her mother, Annie continues to explore her love for Peru. When she talks about the ancient stone carving collection she amassed or the shells once used to summon villagers, one can relate to her passion for the history and culture of Peru as easily as holding an object in hand. 

A scrap of wallpaper that Annie saved from a 17th-century Colonial residence in Cuzco inspired the color scheme that carries throughout the house. “I came across [it] as we were getting ready to move, and I just knew we needed to use it for the house,” Annie says. She showed it to her interior designer, Bruce Burstert, and painter, Michael Jeran, who turned the scrap into an idea. 

The living room’s painted wood-beam ceiling is one of many elements that work in concert to provide an appeal that is warm and inviting. “The ceiling was inspired by an Irish cottage; real simple imagery and painted to give the impression of time,” says Jeran of Jeran Decorative Painting. “The blue-gray-green came from [the wallpaper] and the oranges in the ceiling design create a freshness because of their complementary properties,” he says. 

Annie, Rick and their daughter, Balie, lived in the house throughout the renovation. The process was exhaustive — every wall was resurfaced — but in the end, the home became exactly what they had envisioned on that first rainy day. “The home was done in a very traditional, classic style when we first looked at,” Annie says. “But we loved the character … it’s such a beautiful old home. So we proceeded to darken, age or paint every wall surface to transform it.” 

In the master bedroom, exposed brick pairs with deep red paint on the other walls. Annie loves the look that was achieved by multiple glaze applications. “Four, to be exact,” says Jeran, “[to] create the depth and richness of color.” 

The Zanders didn’t stop at the walls.The dining room, once a screened-in porch, was transformed into an intimate gallery where the pieces in the room add to its character. Only 28 inches wide, a table from the 1700s — a birthday gift from Annie’s mom — fits perfectly in the narrow room and pairs well with the eBay-find chairs from Italy. 

The fireplace in the parlor room was the brainchild of Jeran and Burstert. They took old sidewalk chunks out of a salvage yard, and Jeran carved them into the needed pieces to redo a more traditional fireplace. Jeran began by selecting the most interesting edge for the mantel and using the remaining pieces for the surround and hearth. “What I was really conscious of was to keep the stones’ organic beauty by limiting my marks,” he says. “I kept [Isamu] Noguchi in mind, trying to let the stone tell its story. We then added the antique top portion and I painted it to unify the piece.” 

This house holds its stories and gives the owners space for their own. From a Peruvian poncho and paintings on the wall to ceramic art topping the antique tables, there is room here for it all. The power of that space, and the feel of it, is what made the Zanders call off the search and embrace this house as their home. 

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